MTA leaders unveil shiny new vison for NYC’s cramped, crowded Penn Station

Penn Station would transform into a spacious, light-filled train hall for the first time in 50 years under plans presented Wednesday by MTA leaders.

The agency’s construction chief Janno Lieber unveiled two visions for overhauling Penn Station, the busiest passenger rail station in the country.

Both proposals would raise Penn Station’s low ceilings and make its labyrinth-like space easier to navigate. Lieber said either would fill the station with more sunlight and make it more like the original Penn Station, which was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden and the current cramped station area in the early 1960s.

One option would knock out parts of Penn Station’s upper level that’s used by Amtrak to create an open atrium. The proposal would open up ceiling space in parts of the station’s first floor, and create a balcony area on the second.

Another option would combine all of the station’s passenger areas into a single level and remove 40% of the station’s upper Amtrak level to heighten the entire station’s ceilings.

That would shrink the station’s overall floor space and take areas away from pedestrians, said an Amtrak official with knowledge of the proposal.

A rendering for a new train hall in Penn Station.

But Lieber said the single level proposal would enable the MTA to “blow up” a mid-block taxi stand next to Madison Square Garden between Seventh and Eighth Aves. that closed following the Sept. 11 terror attacks due to security concerns.

The area would be replaced with a shiny new entryway that enables a “glass-filled, amazing, sky-lit train hall,” Lieber said.

MTA officials also plan to expand the east-west underground corridors in the station, and increase the number of escalators, elevators and stairs used to access tracks.

A rendering for a new train hall in Penn Station.

The plan builds on a proposal from Gov. Cuomo for the state to buy and raze a block south of 31st St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves. to expand Penn Station to the south.

The project got a kick start in this year’s state budget, which provides $1.3 billion to acquire the land, build the new station and rehabilitate the current Penn Station. Cuomo has also proposed the development of several new skyscrapers in the area, but Cuomo’s pitch to to use some of the $1.3 billion to help build them was shot down last month during budget negotiations.

Cuomo has presented no plans to revoke Madison Square Garden’s lease on the air rights above Penn Station, which expires in 2023. The venue’s owner, James Dolan, has not been required to pay taxes on the venue’s real estate since 1982.

The expanded station proposed by the MTA would pave the way for at least eight new tracks that would service NJ Transit trains running through two Hudson River tunnels that have not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Officials say those tunnels, part of New York and New Jersey’s “Gateway Program,” are necessary in order to close and repair two current Hudson River rail tunnels damaged in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy.

“This is our chance,” said Lieber. “The [Hudson River] tunnel project is obviously getting a lot of great attention… but we know we need to have a Penn Station that’s ready to receive that addition capacity when the tunnels are completed.”

It would also open up track space for some Metro-North trains to roll into Penn Station, which will be possible in the coming years as the MTA is allowed to run its own trains over Amtrak’s Hell Gate Bridge between the Bronx and Queens.

The MTA plan presented Wednesday would also slightly expand the north-south corridors within Penn Station, into the new station and rebrand the whole project as the “Empire Station Complex.”

Source (Ny Daily news)

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