Grand Central Terminal Lobby via Wikipedia
On June 26th, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision that wouldn’t just save a cherished New York landmark, it would establish the NYC Landmarks Law for years to come. This drawn-out court battle was the result of a plan, introduced in the late 1960s, to demolish a significant portion of Grand Central Terminal and erect a 50-story office tower.
Though the proposal may seem unthinkable now, it wasn’t at the time. Pennsylvania Station had been demolished a few years earlier, with the owners citing rising costs to upkeep the building as train ridership sharply declined. The NYC Landmarks Law was only established in 1965, the idea of preservation still novel in a city practicing wide-scale urban renewal. Finally, Grand Central wasn’t in good shape itself, falling apart, covered in grime, and home to one of the highest homeless populations in New York City. But a dedicated group of preservationists–aided by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis–took the fight to the highest levels of the court. Keep reading to find out how, as well as learn about the celebrations planned by the MTA surrounding the anniversary.
Here’s how Grand Central was saved
While visiting the major, most popular attractions of New York City can be fun, it can also be stressful, overwhelming and full of selfie-taking tourists. However, the great thing about the Big Apple is that plenty of other attractions exist that are far less known or even hidden in plain sight. To go beyond the tourist-filled sites and tour the city like you’re seeing it for the very first time, check out 6sqft’s list ahead of the 20 best underground, secret spots in New York City.
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Workers at East Side Access project in 2016 via MTA’s Flickr
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved on Wednesday an amendment to its capital plan that allows for more than $400 million to be invested in the East Side Access, a project that began more than a decade ago. In addition to exceptional construction delays, the project’s price tag has jumped dramatically, from early estimates of roughly $2.2 billion to now over $11 billion (h/t NY Times). As a way to reduce crowds at Penn Station, East Side Access will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.
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Grand Central Terminal; image via Wikimedia
Last year, when Amtrak first announced eight weeks of infrastructure repairs at Penn Station, all hell broke loose. Gov. Andrew Cuomo predicted the planned work would cause a “summer of hell” for commuters and even asked President Donald Trump for emergency federal funds. But, to the surprise of many, the disruption proved to be mild and the repairs even finished ahead of schedule. Promising another painless process, Amtrak announced on Tuesday plans for track work at Penn Station again this summer. From May 26 to Sept. 4, trains that run along the Hudson River will be routed from Penn Station to Grand Central. Schedules for Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains will remain unaffected.
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Photo courtesy of Max Touhey
After beginning its vertical construction last June, One Vanderbilt’s progress shows no signs of slowing. According to SL Green, the supertall is currently rising two floors per month and after the 13th floor is completed, three floors will be installed every month. The planned 1,401-foot tower, which will become the city’s second tallest skyscraper when completed, will measure over one million square feet. In addition to the above-ground construction, the project includes $220 million in public transit improvements as well as a passageway for direct access to the subway.
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Image © Emily Nonko for 6sqft
The iconic Grand Central Terminal is a building with more than a few secrets. Constructed in 1913 with the wealth of the Vanderbilt family, there was a lavish private office (now known as The Campbell Apartment), glass catwalks, a hidden spiral staircase, and even artists’ studios on an upper floor. One of the most infamous secrets of the terminal, however, was a secret track used specifically for a president to access one of the most famous hotels in the world. Known as Track 61, it leads to a special platform that was never used or intended to be used in regular passenger service—it just happened to be in the right place.
Keep reading about Grand Central’s secret track
The holidays turn New York City into a bright, illuminated wonderland that even the biggest Scrooge among us can enjoy. While there are plenty of events to choose from, like alternative holiday markets and glittering art installations, many of these activities can be jampacked with tourists. For those looking to learn more about their own holiday traditions, or understand others, there are lots of low-key, educational events perfect for history buffs looking for a quieter holiday experience. Ahead, check out 6sqft’s guide to the best holiday events in New York City that come with a historical twist, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa.
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The Times Square shuttle platform, via Wikimedia
At the platform of the Times Square-Grand Central shuttle, a train track is hidden in plain sight. At both ends of the two-station line, tracks are numbered 1, 3 and 4, with no Track 2 to be found. As the New York Times explained, Track 2 once ran in its appropriate spot, between Tracks 1 and 3, but was taken out of operation nearly 100 years ago. After an attempt to expand the original 1904 line turned to major confusion for commuters, transit officials covered Track 2 with wooden flooring to make it easier for New Yorkers to walk to the new tracks.
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial featuring Fala, via Wikimedia
While the subway can always be a bit creepy, there might be more behind those spooky feelings when standing underground than just frighteningly bad service. Allegedly, a ghost haunts Track 61, the secret track hidden under Grand Central Terminal, according to Phil Schoenberg, a New York City historian and founder of Ghost Walks NYC. And not just any ghost, but the spirit of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Scottish Terrier, Fala, who apparently roams the shuttered train track. The president famously used the private track as a way to escape the public eye, keeping his paralysis a secret (h/t WNYC).
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Grand Central Terminal, photo via NYC & Company
At Grand Central Terminal, it’s in with the new, out with the old. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it will replace stores that have served the busy terminal’s commuters for over two decades–Junior’s, Two Boots Pizza, Grand Harvest Wines–with more upscale shops. As the New York Post reported, new stores include Art Bird & Whiskey Bar, run by Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef, Art Smith, and Tartinery, an open-face sandwich vendor. The restaurant refashioning process is expected to run through 2018.
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