Hochul wants to rename Penn Station as part of revised renovation plan

Posted On Thu, November 4, 2021 By

Posted On Thu, November 4, 2021 By In Policy, Transportation

All renderings courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office

Would Penn Station still be as much fun to mock if it wasn’t named after the commonwealth of Pennslyvania? Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled a revised redevelopment plan of the cramped transit hub, a pet project of her predecessor. In addition to redesigning and upgrading the existing facility and adding public space to the surrounding area, Hochul is also calling for the notorious train hall to be renamed.

“I believe that a new station for New York should be named for a New Yorker or something to do with how iconic New York State is and how amazing it is,” Hochul said during a press conference on Wednesday.

“There’ll come a time when people will say, ‘I never even heard of Penn Station.'”

The original Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by McKim, Mead, & White in 1910, featured a facade of huge Corinthian columns and a waiting room with soaring ceilings and a steel and glass roof. It was named for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which built the station and ran trains from the state. The original building was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with today’s dark and overcrowded maze of a station.

As Yale architectural historian Vincent J. Scully once famously said about the replacement Penn Station: “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan called for the construction of 10 new office buildings, containing office, retail, and maybe hotel and residential space, across eight sites in the area surrounding Penn. Funds raised through these developments would be used to build a new train terminal south of the existing site, increasing train capacity, while also paying for much-needed upgrades.

On Wednesday, Hochul revealed her own take on Cuomo’s plan, calling for a scaled-down version, first reported by the New York Times ahead of the announcement. The governor wants to make the renovation of Penn Station and the construction of the 10 towers a priority ahead of the station expansion and connection to Moynihan Train Hall and the Gateway Project, which involves the construction of two new Hudson River rail tunnels and the renovation of two existing tunnels.

The governor’s renovation proposal, which could cost up to $7 billion and take four to five years to complete, is very similar to the previous plan but calls for more public amenities and an affordable housing component.

The new proposal includes creating a single-level train hall that doubles the amount of square footage for passengers to 250,000 square feet, building higher ceilings (which are only seven feet in some places now), and adding a 450-foot long train hall that would be larger than the halls of Grand Central and Moynihan combined.

Hochul’s plan adds eight acres of public space, including a 30,000-square-foot plaza, and expands underground corridors to subways on Sixth Avenue, which would connect commuters at Herald Square to Penn Station. The governor also emphasized the need for widened sidewalks, streets that prioritize pedestrians over cars, and protected bike lanes.

“It’s a new day, my friends and it’s time for a new Penn Station,” Hochul said Wednesday. “New Yorkers riding the Long Island Railroad, our subway, and our soon to be finished, Metro-North, deserve to have world-class transportation, just like Moynihan, just like Grand Central. It’s time for a Penn Station worthy of New Yorkers.”

For the new towers, Hochul said she wants to lower the building heights and reduce the density, taking off 1.4 million square feet of development from the old plan. There would be “new design controls to protect views of the Empire State Building” on 33rd Street. Hochul is also calling for 1,800 new residential units to be constructed, with 540 of them permanently affordable housing.

“Penn Station is the busiest transportation facility in the City, with six subway lines, countless bus routes, and soon four railroads, and we’ve been waiting generations for Penn Station to be upgraded,” Janno Lieber, MTA Acting Chair and CEO, said in a statement. “I am thrilled the Governor had decided to put an end to decades of delay and is insisting that we fix Penn Station now.”

Cuomo’s Empire Station Complex was just one piece of his plan to transform Midtown West. The former governor earlier this year unveiled a $51 billion plan to redevelop over 100 acres of the neighborhood with a proposal to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal and extend the High Line, in addition to the Penn Station overhaul.

The plan announced on Wednesday will be subject to public review, part of a larger process that is ongoing.

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All renderings courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office

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