A State-created task force announced proposals last week to spruce up the blocks around Penn. The goal is to make the area “worthy of Penn Station.” Not long ago, the State’s goal was a “Penn Station worthy of New York.”
What happened to that? Did we miss it? Or are we settling for a piecemeal approach? Would the new multi-million dollar Seventh Avenue entrance courtesy of Amtrak and Vornado be compatible if another proposal is ever chosen, or would it have to be replaced?
The State Economic Development Corporation assumes that it will continue control over six blocks of Midtown around Penn and that the area is fair game for its Public Realm Task Force. Improvements would include new pavement, wayfinding signage, benches, package delivery by bicycles, and zero-carbon development projects. The State still considers the block south of Penn a development site, so people who live and work there continue to be left in limbo.
The Task Force includes elected officials who represent the area, Community Boards 4 and 5, and Vornado. Community Board 5 recently announced that it is creating its own plan for the area.
The Task Force announcement follows the recent news that Federal money is available to build two new tunnels under the Hudson. They are scheduled to end deep under the block south of Penn in a new station.
The State, and the railroads, have yet to answer the legitimate questions about Penn and the tunnels.
Why has the State never commented on the other plans for Penn? Some would move Madison Square Garden, one would eliminate the Garden’s Hulu Theater and create a large, light-filled entrance on Eighth Avenue, another calls for “through-running”–a practice common in major cities in Europe. That would have trains continue beyond Penn to other destinations.
The railroads say “through-running” would be more expensive and wouldn’t solve their capacity problems. But they haven’t produced studies backing that up. Some transit experts say the new tunnels could end under Penn. They question the need and cost of a new, underground station south of Penn and the need to destroy the entire above block and parts of adjacent blocks.
This was supposed to be the opportunity to develop a modern transit station to be proud of. It could be done without leveling blocks of Midtown. And it should be the main focus.
Where are the answers? Are we getting a Penn Station worthy of New York?
Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy