What to Know
- A funding agreement has been reached for the multibillion-dollar redevelopment of New York’s aging Penn Station, the country’s busiest rail hub.
- The reconstruction of the station and the first phase of the improvements to public spaces is expected to cost roughly $8 billion.
- The plan calls for a large, single-level train hall with higher ceilings and a 450-foot-long skylight to replace the current cramped, windowless interior; more escalators, stairs and elevators to platforms, and more street entrances to reduce sidewalk crowding.
A funding agreement has been reached for the multibillion-dollar redevelopment of New York’s aging Penn Station, the country’s busiest rail hub.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams announced details of the deal Monday.
The plan would create new commercial and residential buildings around the station, with those building’s developers getting to make payments in lieu of taxes for a period of 40 to 45 years. The amount collected in excess of existing property taxes would be applied to the project.
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That money would contribute more than $1 billion to pay for improvements to streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, as well as 50% of the improvements to transit infrastructure including underground concourses and subway entrances.
“This agreement brings us one step closer to a beautiful, modern station worthy of New York with vibrant open space, lively streetscapes, and better, more seamless connections to local transit,” Hochul said in a statement.
The reconstruction of the station and the first phase of the improvements to public spaces is expected to cost roughly $8 billion.
As part of the agreement, the city and state have committed to establishing a shared city-state governance entity to oversee public realm improvements and ensure comprehensive and coordinated planning and implementation.
A recent study commissioned by Reinvent Albany, a state government watchdog group, estimated that the payments in lieu of taxes would amount to about $4 billion, a number that assumed a southern expansion of the station to accommodate more tracks when a new Hudson River tunnel is built several years from now. That expansion, which is in initial discussions, is projected to cost an additional $13 billion.
“The new vision for Penn Station is to our generation what the Empire State Building was to previous generations: a symbol of our resiliency and a project that will define our city for decades to come,” Adams said in an email.
The state has committed $1.3 billion for the initial reconstruction of the station. The rest of the cost is expected to be filled by federal dollars and contributions from New York, New Jersey and other public sources.
The funding agreement still needs final approval from the state’s Public Authorities Control Board, which oversees project-related financing for the state’s public authorities.
PENN STATION RENOVATION PLANS
Last fall, Hochul announced a plan to transform the crowded, dingy 54-year-old station that sits underneath the Madison Square Garden arena into a modern, traveler-friendly facility. In pre-pandemic times, Penn Station served roughly 600,000 passengers per day on regional rail lines from New Jersey and Long Island, Amtrak and the New York subway system.
The plan calls for a large, single-level train hall with higher ceilings and a 450-foot-long skylight to replace the current cramped, windowless interior; more escalators, stairs and elevators to platforms, and more street entrances to reduce sidewalk crowding.
Hochul’s vision, a scaled-down version of earlier plans announced by her predecessor, fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo, would create new residential and office space around the station and has provoked criticism from neighborhood groups who contend it will destroy a vibrant area and displace residents and businesses.
While the expansion of the station to add tracks is years away, the memorandum of agreement released Monday sounded a potentially ominous note: A study is underway to determine whether two additional tunnels would need to be built to connect the Hudson River tunnels to an expanded Penn Station, it said.
The commuters who use Penn Station have been asking for improvements for decades. Hochul initially announced last month 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.
The surrounding neighborhood would be rebuilt by 2044.
Adams has said on multiple occasions that 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 last month when Hochul announced her initial plans.
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, previously said.
"The simple math of this plan, does not add up," Sam Turvey, another protestor, said.
Samuel Turvey, chairperson of RethinkNYC, a transportation and land use advocacy group, said the plan is misguided because it fails to turn Penn Station into a through-running facility where trains would pass through to other areas of the city, rather than turning around and returning to their origin or sitting in rail yards.
Turvey called the plan “a very ugly replacement theory where local residents, small businesses and historic structures are being cast to the winds with the help of the state and city.”
When News 4 New York previously 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," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy previously said.