New York City

Hochul Penn Station Reno Plan Hopes to Remind Us of Heavens ‘Despite Feeling You May Be Living in Hell'

Gov. Kathy Hochul described the plan, which would feature natural light, with a unique word choice: “A skylight that reminds you 'yes, the heavens are out there still -- despite the feeling you may be living in hell"

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It is full steam ahead for the multi-billion plan to revamp New York Penn Station.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gave the green light to the first phase of the transit hub's makeover, which includes building new tracks to ease the current overload.

The commuters who use Penn Station have been asking for improvements for decades. Hochul announced on Thursday that her plan for the revamp includes a lot of natural light. While the overall plan seems to be moving forward, a lot of neighbors in the community say they are not sure they are getting a fair deal.

The dark labyrinth inside Penn Station is famous for commuter complaints, including those from Dorothea Simmons, who calls the transit hub "chaotic and dirty."

Meanwhile, the sunlight inside the new Moynihan Train Hall across the street is a glimpse of the future. 

That same glass-ceilinged look a key part of the new Penn Station plan, with Hochul describing the plan with a unique word choice.

“A skylight that reminds you 'yes, the heavens are out there still -- despite the feeling you may be living in hell," she said.

Hochul's plan calls for revamping Penn Station and changing it into a modern, light-filled facility easy to navigate, while also revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood to prioritize the public realm, invest in affordable housing, increase transit access, and create a pedestrian-friendly streetscape, among other points. 

Hochul said she’s got key partners on board for a $6 to $7 billon dollar project  opening by 2028 if construction starts next year. The surrounding neighborhood would be rebuilt by 2044. 

"Today I'm very proud to announce a significant milestone in our progress," Hochul said. "We are officially moving into the design phase of the new Penn Station we're going to continue working in partnership with our friends from New Jersey and Amtrak to design a beautiful, majestic transit hub worthy of being the epicenter of this vibrant - the most - vibrant city on the planet."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the transformation will be a positive change for the Big Apple.

“We are going to turn an embarrassment into a symbol of what’s great about our city," Adams said.

However, critics — including the local community board -- are not happy with the plan that allows real estate giant Vornado to build up to 10 new skyscrapers around penn station without paying property taxes. 

"It would destroy six city blocks and cause displacement of hundreds of residents and thousands of businesses," Maki Livesay, of Community Board 5, said.

"The simple math of this plan, does not add up," Sam Turvey, another protestor, said.

When News 4 New York asked Hochul if she could demand that Vornado and other private entities pay property taxes, the governor said the state has listened to concerns and have made changes.

"They've already had to deal with major adjustments that I put in place after hearing the public about their dissatisfaction. We brought down the height. We cut off 1.4 million square feet. We require more public space," Hochul said.

There is also political pressure from New Jersey as the long awaited Gateway Tunnel across the Hudson creeps forward. 

“Having a brand new Penn Station doesn’t mean much if we can’t ensure that the trains heading here can get here on time," Murphy said.

Hochul says she wants designs from architects or builders to be submitted by the end of next month. However, there is still the issue of final state approval -- which is expected to come to a vote some time this summer.

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