NEW YORK – The Moynihan Train Hall, an annex to Manhattan’s Penn Station, will be open to the public on New Years Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday as he cut a ribbon for the news installation.
The $ 1.6 billion lobby, located in the former James A. Farley Post Office building, across Eighth Avenue from the main train station and Madison Square Garden, will serve as a waiting room for passengers Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road.
First proposed decades ago by its namesake, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the project has experienced multiple iterations and series of delays before coming to fruition in its its current form.
The 255,000-square-foot space is designed to be the antidote to Penn Station’s dark, underground experience, with a sprawling open waiting area centered around an Art Deco clock and 92-foot skylights. top made from an acre of glass.
“It’s a work of art in a way that we don’t build anymore. It’s almost too ambitious. It is almost too beautiful. It’s almost too mind-blowing, ”Cuomo said Wednesday. “It’s great public work.”
“For the first time in 50 years, we are restoring the light to a transportation hub at Penn Station,” said Doug Carr, executive director of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation.
However, the project doesn’t add any track or platform capabilities to alleviate Penn’s Crisis, which has led some critics to call it simply an aesthetic improvement.
Cuomo announced a separate proposition to build eight new tracks last January, but the proposal remains in its infancy. And the Gateway project to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River stay in limbo.
While Amtrak and LIRR passengers will be able to board at Moynihan, New Jersey Transit passengers will continue to use the old halls, as will subway passengers.
If ridership – currently a small fraction of normal levels – returns to pre-pandemic levels, Moynihan could serve 225,000 passengers per day. Nine platforms and 17 tracks are accessible from the main hall.
The old historic Penn Station was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a new Madison Square Garden. The destruction of the station has since been lamented, and its cramped replacement, buried under the garden, has long inspired proposals for an overhaul. Some have called for the arena to be moved to make way for a renovated station, although the garden has recently undergone a billion dollar renovation.
The new train room pays homage to the old Penn, with murals by Stan Douglas, one of the building’s three art installations. It also invites comparisons with Grand Central Terminal, which source Tennessee Quaker stone for floors in the same set of quarries that supplied this building. Its open main room is roughly the same size as the Grand Central lobby.
Ticket offices for Amtrak and LIRR will move to the new building, and there are seats with power outlets and USB ports for ticketed passengers, but no seats for the general public. The building will be closed between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when passengers will need to use Penn’s main station. It opens to the public Friday at 5 a.m.
The train hall was built in what was once the post office mail sorting room, with the ceiling trusses from this facility – formerly used by the Postal Police to oversee the sorting operation – maintained and restored. The post office remains open in a smaller space.
Moynihan will also include 700,000 square feet of retail stores and restaurants, but most won’t open for about a year.
President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for transport secretary Pete Buttigieg hailed the opening.
“The Moynihan train hall has been one of the most important passenger rail facilities to open in years, and has been decades in development,” he said. “The newly remodeled hall – in a space that has been largely abandoned for nearly two decades – will be a shining gem in the Northeast Hallway.”
Farley, for whom the post office was named, was Postmaster General and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee during President Franklin Roosevelt’s first two terms. He was originally from Rockland County, a suburb of New York.