In New York City, the New Year started early on December 30, 2020 with the grand opening of Moynihan Train Hall, a 255,000-square-foot train hall designed for the 21st century in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
It restores a level of connectivity that was lost when an unenlightened mayor and his demolition-happy urban planners wantonly destroyed one of America’s most beautiful buildings: the original Penn Station. It was this catastrophe that helped spawn the historic preservation movement in this country. This movement is vitally important, as lazy mayors, architects and urban planners still often prefer continue to wipe the heritage slate clean and build new “monuments” to themselves.
The $1.6 billion project transformed the more than 100-year-old James A. Farley Building into a world-class transportation hub that increases the existing Penn Station rail complex’s concourse space by 50 percent. The Governor also announced that the East End Gateway to Penn Station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue opens on New Year’s Eve. The hall is named for former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“The completion of this gorgeous new train hall would be a special accomplishment at any time, but it’s an extraordinary accomplishment today because we’re at a place where no one ever envisioned being. This has been a traumatic year, both individually and collectively, and the question facing us has been, how do we respond?” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said.
“Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a man of true vision. He saw the potential in an underutilized post office and knew that if done correctly, this facility could not only give New York the transit hub it has long deserved, but serve as a monument to the public itself. We built this as a statement of who we are, and who we aspire to be. Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York and that is the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children and to future generations. As dark as 2020 has been, this new hall will bring the light, literally and figuratively, for everyone who visits this great city,” Cuomo continued.
The Farley Building was one of the first buildings landmarked under preservation laws established in the wake of the destruction of its sister structure, the original Penn Station. The Farley Building’s 200,000-square-foot stone façade, 700 windows, copper roof and steel trusses are among the many unique details that have been fully restored. New exterior features include street and sidewalk improvements, restoration of the historic ‘dry moats’ and security enhancements. Moynihan Train Hall is pursuing LEED Silver certification for its sustainable design and construction.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said, “After decades of work, today we pop the New Year’s cork early to celebrate the opening of the gorgeous Moynihan Train Hall — a grand, skylit, modern transit portal for LIRR and Amtrak riders that will leave the Penn Station of the past in the dust. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan first declared the need for New York to think big and build a grand transit complex here that would restore architectural glory to the site even as it established the mass transit infrastructure needed to supercharge New York’s growth and preeminence for another century. Senator Moynihan recognized this as a unique opportunity to both correct a historic mistake – the tragic demolition, a half century ago, of McKim, Mead and White’s original Pennsylvania Station – and to create a beautiful, new, user-friendly public space that New Yorkers and all Americans can once again enjoy and be proud of.”
“My great friend Pat was a relentless advocate for that inspired vision. Then he handed that baton to me, and I am proud and pleased to have delivered many millions of dollars in vital support to New York and Amtrak to advance the project. Governor Cuomo, and the partners of Amtrak, Vornado, Skanska, Related, have done a superb job delivering on this project in the face of massive Covid challenges – and it is LIRR, Amtrak, and eventually Metro North riders, as well as all of New York, that will reap the benefits of this 21st century rail hub,” Schumer added.
The train hall’s stunning design is a unique blend of classical and contemporary, and features a one-acre sky-lit atrium, a signature clock, cutting-edge technology, clear wayfinding, full accessibility, and museum-caliber public art. It also provides immediate benefits at this critical time while profoundly enhancing the convenience, health, and daily experience of hundreds of thousands of passengers, neighbors, and visitors. The project first emerged decades ago as the leading strategy to address many of Penn Station’s most notorious issues and overcame countless hurdles and red tape thanks to Governor Cuomo’s persistent and unwavering leadership.
“This significant project transformed a century-old building into a modern gateway that expands Penn Station and significantly enhances the traveler experience,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The Moynihan Train Hall stands as a beacon of progress in memory of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who I was proud to work for and who helped lead our country forward. This world-class development is a testament to our commitment to build back better, improve our infrastructure and strengthen our economy now and in the post-pandemic future.”
Led by Empire State Development (ESD), the $1.6 billion project was accomplished through an innovative public-private partnership between ESD, Vornado Realty Trust, The Related Companies, Skanska, the MTA, the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It used a design-build approach to streamline construction and expedite completion.
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said, “I have long been an advocate for modernized transportation initiatives to propel New York City into the future, and Moynihan Hall is just that. With projects like this, the Second Avenue Subway, and East Side Access, our city is making smart investments in our future and becoming a modern transportation hub. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to complete these projects.”
Construction of Moynihan Train Hall has generated an estimated economic impact of $5 billion, supporting more than 5,000 construction jobs and 11,000 indirect jobs. Additionally, the core project management team was more than 42 percent women.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “Moynihan Station is a significant addition to our city’s infrastructure and a worthy initiative that helps preserve the legacy of the late Senator Moynihan, who first championed this project. I have long supported funding for this project in Washington, it produces the infrastructure improvements and economic development that New York needs especially as we recover during these tough economic times. It will generate thousands of good jobs, and expand our capacity for passengers and make New York – and, especially, the West Side – more accessible to commuters and visitors.”
Moynihan Train Hall reshapes the travel experience of the busiest passenger transportation facility in the Western Hemisphere, used by more than 700,000 passengers per day; more than LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark International airports combined.
Skanska USA President and CEO Richard Kennedy said, “The opening of the new Moynihan Train Hall brings to life New York’s rich and unique history, transformed into a world-class transportation hub in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. This will provide residents, commuters and visitors with a significantly better experience. Eight years in the making, and in the midst of a global pandemic, we thank our partners and the hundreds of dedicated employees and subcontractors who delivered this project on time and on budget—further reshaping New York’s critical transit infrastructure.”
The main hall that once served as the Post Office’s mail sorting room is reminiscent of the original Penn Station’s vaulted concourse, showcasing a 92-foot-high skylight that holds an acre of glass. Supported by three of the building’s original steel trusses with an intricate lattice framework, the new skylight encloses soars above the train concourse, bathing passengers in natural light.
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler said, “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and vision, Moynihan Train Hall is the embodiment of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together in a partnership. A generation in the making, Moynihan will not only enhance transportation service for commuters and passengers along the entire East Coast, but also be a forceful catalyst for New York State’s economic development for decades to come.”
All LIRR and Amtrak trains are now served by the 17 tracks accessible from the train hall, while providing a direct connection to 9th Avenue and the 8th Avenue Subway. For LIRR, the train hall enhances and expands passenger options by offering world-class facilities and the convenience of full customer services and direct platform access points from 7th Avenue all the way to 9th Avenue. For Amtrak, the train hall becomes its new home in New York City—relocating and replacing all primary passenger operations from the existing station.
In partnership with the Public Art Fund, Moynihan Train Hall features a program of ambitious permanent art installations from three of the world’s leading artists—Stan Douglas, Kehinde Wiley, and artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The landmark artworks created are emblematic of the dynamism and transformation that are quintessential to New York and this new transportation gateway.
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said, “Moynihan Train Hall represents Amtrak’s commitment to offering the best possible travel experience. Between the improved passenger comfort and security, the new amenities and enhanced accessibility features, this is the type of train station that the late Senator Moynihan always envisioned for New York City travelers.”
Ceiling installations by Wiley and Elmgreen & Dragset‘s define two primary entrances to the train hall, while Douglas’s photo series appears in four 22-foot-long sections on the wall that span the passenger waiting area adjacent to the main boarding concourse.
MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said, “The completion of Moynihan Train Hall marks a fresh chapter for Penn Station as we begin 2021 and will usher in new growth and investment as part of the Empire Station Complex. After decades of failed promises and amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was Governor Cuomo who got it done and delivered for New Yorkers. The grand opening of the new East End Gateway will also serve as an iconic entrance to Penn Station while expanding capacity for the future and improving the overall customer experience.”
A testament to the city’s creativity, diversity and heritage, the three monumental commissions embrace the civic character of Moynihan Train Hall and offer a fresh perspective on the history and splendor of the original Penn Station and Farley Post Office.
President of MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng said, “LIRR customers have long awaited a central hub that not only meets their travel needs but goes above and beyond to deliver a world-class experience — and I’m proud that day has finally come. Huge thanks to all the LIRR employees and Empire State Development who helped make this massive effort a success, and to Governor Cuomo for his leadership and vision as we deliver another major infrastructure improvement to our customers that they deserve.”
Suspended from the central truss above the floor, a six-foot by 12-foot clock designed by Pennoyer Architects evokes nostalgia for the golden age of rail travel. More than 80,000 square feet of marble was used for the floors and walls of the main train hall, sourced from the same Tennessee quarries that provided the marble for Grand Central Terminal over 100 years ago.
Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia said, “Amtrak’s Moynihan Train Hall will deliver the world-class rail travel experience our customers deserve when traveling to and from this incredible city. The beautiful vistas, modern design, new amenities and enhanced accessibility features showcase the kinds of improvements Amtrak is undertaking across our network. Amtrak dreamed up this plan 35 years ago and we deeply thank the Governor, Senator Schumer and the New York Congressional delegation, and all our partners for helping to make it a reality.”
With the health, safety and accessibility of travelers in mind, the project dramatically expands the concourse space and platform access capacity, and improves sanitation and air flow to support a healthier environment. These improvements reduce congestion and ease boarding, allowing for appropriate social distancing and facilitating safe and healthy travel.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton said, “With the magnificent architectural conversion of the historic Farley Post Office into a 21st century train station, Moynihan Train Hall will become a New York icon and a destination in itself. After decades of efforts that did not bear fruit, it took a public official with Governor Cuomo’s drive and vision to bring together three federal agencies, two city agencies, three major transportation agencies, and two of New York’s premier developers and drive the project forward to such an extraordinarily successful conclusion.”
All platforms served have access to elevators, which expands the station’s total elevator capacity by more than 50 percent and supports travelers with accessibility needs. Additionally, the redesign of the LIRR Concourse nearly triples the width of the former corridor, significantly decreasing congestion with notably higher ceilings and enhanced lighting.
MTA Construction & Development President Janno Lieber said, “The Moynihan Train Hall provides Long Island Rail Road customers with better access to platforms and dramatically improved amenities. It also highlights the need to transform existing Penn Station, and that work has already begun. This week we will open a world class entrance to the complex at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue, and work is underway to double the width of the LIRR 33rd Street corridor, a key spine for LIRR, NJ TRANSIT and subway customers. With Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we can deliver New Yorkers the 21st Century transportation hub they deserve.”
Moynihan Train Hall integrates clear, consistent, state-of-the-art wayfinding and messaging, including dozens of high-res LED and LCD displays throughout the facility that provide up-to-the-minute transit information. The upgraded commuter experience also features designated customer service locations for both railroads, a free public Wi-Fi network utilizing next-generation Wi-Fi 6, and a dedicated lounge for nursing mothers.
Vornado Realty Trust Chairman and CEO Steven Roth said, “Vornado is pleased to join the Governor and the State of New York in completing this transformative civic project. The Moynihan Train Hall will not only be a grand addition to the existing Penn Station complex, but also the gateway to Manhattan’s thriving west side and a catalyst for future development. With a world-class retail and dining offering set in a stunning, reimagined historic building, it will be the destination that New Yorkers and visitors to our great city deserve. We thank all who contributed to this monumental effort for their extraordinary work, especially the thousands of construction workers, during this challenging time.”
The new East End Gateway effectively doubles the ingress and egress between the street level and the existing Penn Station’s LIRR Concourse and includes three new state-of-the-art escalators and a staircase. The escalators are equipped with smart features including heaters to ensure operation during cold weather and a “sleep mode” that will save energy and increase their longevity. The new entrance provides direct and easy access to the LIRR Concourse as well as New York City Transit’s 1/2/3 and A/C/E subway lines.
Garry E. Nunes, Senior Vice President and Northeast Director of WSP USA said, “It has been an honor for WSP to serve ESD as Program Managers for the Farley Penn Station/ Moynihan Train Hall iconic project. This magnificent new Train Hall located in the historic James A. Farley Post Office has been a dream envisioned for more than 20 years. But it took the leadership and tenacity of our Governor Andrew Cuomo to make this day a reality. Moynihan Train Hall is ready to greet rail travelers to New York City in the way the greatest city on the planet should. Congratulations to all.”
As part of the Governor’s initiative at the existing Penn Station, construction is underway to triple the width of the current LIRR corridor, further decreasing congestion while adding higher ceilings, better ventilation and first-rate passenger amenities to enhance health, convenience and comfort.
Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume said, “Reflecting on themes of past, present, and future, three extraordinary new site-specific works of art by Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley welcome visitors to the new Moynihan Train Hall. In a global city synonymous with art and culture it is fitting that these works–which dazzle in their beauty, humanity, ambition, and technical mastery–capture the spirit of this remarkable new transit hub. Using today’s most advanced digital technologies, Stan Douglas’s epic photographic series recreates the original Penn Station and brings to life in uncanny detail nine historical moments. Elmgreen & Dragset have dreamed into being an imaginary cityscape that descends from the ceiling and radiates the dynamism and energy of a contemporary megacity. Kehinde Wiley’s hand-painted, illuminated stained glass reinvents the classical ceiling fresco. His celestial scenes are filled with young, Black New Yorkers in poses borrowed from breakdance, picturing in this new civic space an exuberant form of expression that originated on the streets of our city. Captivating and powerful, each work is inspired by New York’s rich heritage, its diverse and talented people, and its irrepressible creativity.”
Retired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Design Partner Roger Duffy concluded, “One of the most remarkable things about this project is the way that it transforms an under-utilized and under-appreciated building into a new, inviting front door for this city. We’ve designed a place that evokes the majesty of the original Penn Station, all while serving as a practical solution to the issues that commuters in, to and from New York have endured for too long. By connecting to our architectural past through the adaptive reuse of the Farley Post office building, we are breathing new life into New York, and recreating an experience no one has had here in decades.”
All photos courtesy of the Office of Governor Cuomo.