The Moynihan’s new train hallUnveiled on Wednesday by Governor Como, it is a sight to see – a huge waiting room for Amtrak and LIRR riders who might blink twice. Headed by a 92-foot skylight, it’s a view from the sky for passengers who used to get to the Pennsylvania Underground Station, the most hated place in the Western world to catch a train.
The hall is an airy circular pit inside the James A. Farley Post Office Building, and is the hub of a larger, $ 1.6 billion complex inside the Farley Building between 8th and 9th Streets and West 31st and 33rd Streets. It will eventually include a set of entrances and corridors between roads, subway connections, and areas Waiting, lounges, stores and restaurants. The hall and Penn Station one block east, collectively called the Pennsylvania Station – Farley Complex, will have 50 percent more concourse space than the Penn segment alone.
It comes after three decades of ever-changing plans since late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1980s first dreamed of a fabulous replacement for the original Penn Station, which was shamefully demolished in the 1960s. Cuomo deserves the credit for starting it and seeing construction work this year, despite COVID-19.
The The train hall, which opens on Friday, Supposed to reduce the crowding of rat nests at the Penn Hog station below Madison Square Park, where 650,000 souls congregate in a space built in the 1960s versus just 250,000. LIRR passengers can now board and exit trains at either facility while Amtrak users will only use the new train hall.
How well it works is not yet clear until the first crush of vulnerable riders descends the Pandemic next week. But the great ceiling of the hall is sure to impress the audience.
The hall appears, at first glance, smaller than the proposed offers. It’s also relatively plain, though with plenty of expensive marble and wood – except for the large roof.
Three massive steel trusses, the remnants of the post office mail sorting room, divide an acre of glass roof into four “parabolic” vaults, each of 500 glass and steel panels with a web-like design.
It lets in more light than the Oculus World Trade Center and Fulton Transit Center rooftops. It’s mesmerizing when the sun rises and adds a golden glow to the entire hall.
But the unfinished hall extensions are a tantalizing maze of escalators, stairs, galleries and walkways. The fastest route to Eighth Street is difficult to find, although there is a sea of signs. If the old Pennsylvania station bore the “sound of time,” as devoted writers call it, Moynihan might reserve the voices of people trying to figure out the right direction.
SOM engineers and politicians are damaging Moynihan by constantly likening him to the original, impossible-to-duplicate Penn Station. Sorry guys, it’s not even close, despite a superficial similarity. Moynihan Hall is to be enjoyed for what it is – less of a masterpiece, but a great example of “adaptive reuse” architecture and a major improvement over the Benn Station we all love to hate.