“The one thing that unites all New Yorkers is our collective disdain for the derelict old Penn Station. That’s why it makes no sense why some would come out against a plan to actually make it and the surrounding district better.”
The one thing that unites all New Yorkers is our collective disdain for the derelict old Penn Station. That’s why it makes no sense why some would come out against a plan to actually make it and the surrounding district better.
Those attacking Gov. Kathy Hochul’s General Project Plan for Penn Station are ignoring evidence right in front of their eyes of the brilliant effect that renovation of older structures, and the construction of new office buildings, can have on the daily experience of train riders, as well as the street life of a neighborhood.
Moynihan Train Hall, which is the work of Amtrak, MTA and Vornado Realty Trust, is the result of a General Project Plan with the State’s Economic Development Corp and is now clearly the best station on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, with the abrupt recent decline of Union Station in Washington. Passengers are flocking to it, and the streets surrounding it are much more orderly than they were until its opening in 2020.
Read The Opposing View: We Need a Real Penn Station Plan, Not a Neighborhood Replacement Scheme
The same kind of train professionals and architects who worked with the railroads and Vornado have exciting rebuild plans for the “old” Penn Station, east of Eighth Avenue—plans that are being held up by an influx of NIMBYs, many from outside the neighborhood, who never previously showed much interest in our street conditions.
At the same time, we have a model of how well-designed office projects on formerly empty sites can have the same positive effect: Brookfield’s Manhattan West. The project is not even finished, and yet Ninth and Tenth avenues are immensely more pleasant to walk through. When Vornado’s comprehensive renovation of Penn 1 and Penn 2 is completed in a year or two, the effect on both 34th Street and Seventh Avenue will be the same.
What are the arguments against the General Project Plan by its opponents? First, they insist that Madison Square Garden be moved. The time to consider this was before MSG spent $1 billion on a spectacular renovation. And moving the Garden won’t improve train or passenger capacity at Penn Station.
Next, they say anything short of rebuilding the original Penn Station can never approximate the glory of historic, traditionally-styled European train hubs. The fact is that there are several modern stations in Europe that are a pleasure to travel though.
And a secret I’ve never disclosed: the great urbanist William H. Whyte Jr., who certainly had superb preservation credentials, confided to me in the mid-1980s that the great McKim, Mead & White architecture of the original was not all that great a pedestrian experience. That won’t be an issue with the new Penn Station, which will incorporate dozens of new entrances, elevators, escalators and critical accessibility improvements.
Last, the opponents of the GPP have suddenly become seers of future real estate markets. They extrapolate a two-year blip in leasing due to COVID into the 15-20 year period that GPP will cover. All those who make their living buying and leasing office space know that such trends can’t be foreseen that far out.
The GPP wisely plans for the future—not tomorrow, not next week, but decades from now.
The public debate on this plan, in the form of 18 marathon “working group” sessions, many public hearings, and the spilling of much ink on Op Ed pages, has gone on long enough, far longer than a conventional ULURP review would have lasted.
It’s time for legislators to recognize the good work and good intentions of those of us who have been investing and working in the neighborhood for decades by approving the General Project Plan for Penn Station’s revitalization.
Dan Biederman is the president of the 34th Street Partnership.
9 thoughts on “Opinion: The Penn Station Plan is a Job Well Done. It’s Time We Acknowledge That”
Dan the Farley Post Office, MSG area is more dangerous than ever who are you kidding ….lol
Any analysis of this project that makes no mention of its cost, or how it fits into the larger transit needs of the city, is not credible. You don’t have to pine for the old Penn Station, or be against redevelopment of the area, to suspect this is a bad deal for the city.
Also, not disclosing that a top Vornado official is your boss is a serious ethical lapse, on your part and CityLimits both.
Agreed. Why weren’t his ties to Vornado disclosed? Shame on City Limits!
I agree — Dan Biederman makes some good points but absolutely should have revealed his ties to Vornado. And an uncharacteristic lapse by City Limits not to reveal the connection.
Excellent editorial. It’s amazing that NIMBYs fight even the most obviously 100% win-win situations. Who would be against a rebuilt, expanded Penn, and a revitalized surrounding neighborhood? NIMBYs.
It’s not not perfect, but surely anything is better than kicking the can down the road another generation or two. The time is now. I think adding so much office space is probably short sighted. What we need is housing.
The last thing Manhattanites need are more ugly, glass skyscrapers that will cause more irreproachable environmental harm and add nothing to quality of life — and all of this on the taxpayer’s dime. Don’t do us any favors. We do not want these skyscrapers! Hudson Yards is ugly and failure enough!
The various ad hominem attacks in Dan’s article and from like commentators are off point. The opponents of the project are not NIMBY. Rather, they want a real transit plan first(through running the modern standard will cost $8 billion dollars less than the Governor’s dated operating proposal). Is it NIMBY to oppose an $8 billion dollar misallocation of resources? Many also favor a great above ground station(and yes I favor the original) which can also likely be done more cheaply than the basement makeover the Governor has in mind. Moving MSG will have a cost but Penn will never function properly or to its optimum with MSG there. Dolan was supposed to be exploring relocating MSG, not investing “poison pill” style in a billion dollar makeover so folks like Dan could run interference for him. The Governor’s plan is 50’s style urban renewal and a bad example of it. Dan, who has worked on bona fide public improvements at GCT and Bryant Park should not be trying to sell us on this corrupt, compromised and destructive vanity project for Vornado. “Holly” Whyte would turn in his grave at this proposal and Dan should know that. Sam Turvey, Chairperson, RethinkNYC, Co-Coordinator Empire Station Coalition
Well written Dan, was it ghost written by Gaston?