Penn Station’s transformation takes next steps with removal of low-hanging beams

March 9, 2022

All images courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA

A major step in the transformation of Penn Station has begun. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Tuesday announced they would begin the removal of seven massive low-hanging beams known as “head knockers,” dated structural beams that have limited the height of passageways in Penn Station’s Long Island Rail Road Concourse to under 7 feet. The removal of these beams will help project crews reach their goal of increasing the ceiling height to 18 feet across the entire concourse, doubling the width of the 33rd Street corridor to 57 feet, and improving lighting.

This project is one step in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s major reconstruction of Penn Station into a modernized, 250,000 square foot facility. Other pieces of the project which have already been completed include the station’s new entrance at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue and the new “East End Gateway” which opened in December of 2020.

The rebuilding of Penn Station is part of the Gateway Project, a massive construction project that includes the creation of two new Hudson River rail tunnels, the renovation of two existing tunnels, and the redevelopment of Midtown West known as the General Project Plan.

Hochul’s plan hit an obstacle in February when the NYC Planning Commission said it would be withholding its support for the project due to uncertainties over funding and a lack of improvement to the public realm.

Penn Station’s low ceiling height was due to the low height of its original structural support beams. To raise the height of the ceilings and remove the beams, the MTA has removed the original structural roof and replaced it with a structure to bear the load.

“New Yorkers deserve a grand entrance to New York City and the removal of these low-hanging beams is another step towards that goal,” Janno Lieber, MTA Chair and CEO, said.

“A new Penn Station, filled with sunlight, accessible to all and more like the original Penn Station will replace the cramped, dimly lit labyrinth that we’ve had since the 1960s. It will also be ready to receive the additional train capacity when the Penn Access and Gateway Tunnel projects are completed.”

The MTA began its work to increase the LIRR Concourse’s space within Penn Station in June of 2019. Work is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2023.


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