A transformed Penn Station would replace windowless concourses and dingy, cramped corridors with light-filled spaces and easier access to an improved streetscape, under plans revealed Wednesday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the area’s major transit agencies.
The station, situated underneath Madison Square Garden, is the nation’s busiest and operates — at full capacity during normal times — with roughly 600,000 passengers passing through daily on regional rail lines, Amtrak and the New York subway system.
The two alternatives revealed Wednesday are the culmination of a yearlong process involving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, architectural firm FXCollaborative and engineering firm WSP.
Both envision the use of atriums to create natural light, similar to that used in the new, $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall across Eighth Avenue, which opened in January and serves Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road.
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Photos: Windowless Concourses Out, Bright Atriums In: Plans to Redo NYC's Penn Station Unveiled
One alternative would retain the station’s two-level boarding configuration but would add a central atrium and a new entrance on Eighth Avenue, as well as widened concourses and more access points to train platforms. The new entrance would require the purchase of Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
The second alternative would create an open, single-level concourse larger than the iconic Great Hall of Grand Central Terminal, with two new entrances on the Seventh Avenue side and a multi-story atrium in a former taxiway between the station and adjacent 2 Penn Plaza that has been closed since 9/11.
"The Empire Station Complex is a transformative project that will support and deliver on the long-delayed Gateway vision for the entire East Coast and enhance the passenger experience in North America's busiest transportation hub," Gov. Cuomo said. "These reconstruction alternatives provide a framework for a new and improved Penn Station that serves as an appropriate doorway to a world-class city. Every single day, we get closer to the end of COVID-19 and the beginning of a new post-pandemic economy, and this project will be a cornerstone of the revitalized New York City that we must build together."
Wednesday’s announcement didn’t put a price tag on the project, but it is expected to cost billions and require federal funding. The plans didn’t mention the proposed expansion of Penn Station to the south to add new train tracks, another multibillion-dollar endeavor considered crucial to expanding capacity once a new rail tunnel is built between New York and New Jersey.
The tunnel, the centerpiece of the Gateway rail project, currently is seeking federal approval and dollars to begin construction, and is expected to take six to seven years to complete once those hurdles are surmounted.