On November 3, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled her vision for a new commuter-first world-class Penn Station and revitalized surrounding neighborhood that reflects the community’s needs and focuses on public transit and public realm improvements.
With a strong focus on better connectivity and flows, it also uses the proven 3Re Strategy (repurpose, renew, reconnect) for revitalization, as documented in the 2020 book RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity
The plan prioritizes the reconstruction of the existing station while the station expansion and the Gateway Project initiatives, both of which the Governor strongly supports, continue on their federally-established timelines. Governor Hochul’s new plan thus allows the expedited reconstruction of the existing Penn Station, 60% of whose users are subway and LIRR riders.
The new neighborhood plan comes after several months of collaboration and more than 100 meetings with community stakeholders, government agencies, and elected officials to improve on past plans and establish a new way forward. The plan announced today will also be subject to further public review and today’s announcement is part of a larger public process that remains ongoing.
“I’m reimagining the New York City commuter experience. New Yorkers do not deserve what they have been subjected to for decades at Penn Station,” Governor Hochul said.
“The era of neglecting our Penn Station commuters and the neighboring community is over. New York leaders are expected to offer visionary ideas and take bold actions, and that’s exactly what my proposed transformation of Penn Station accomplishes. This plan puts New Yorkers first, delivering the rider-focused transit experience and great neighborhood they deserve. Investing in Penn Station means investing in New York’s future as we recover from COVID and build a more sustainable, livable city,” she added.
The relocation of Amtrak’s operations to the new Moynihan Train Hall provides the opportunity to overhaul Penn Station, eliminating the bulk of the first subterranean level to open up the main concourse to natural light, improving retail and other user amenities, increasing safety and security, significantly expanding passenger circulation areas, expanding entrances and exits, and making it easier for passengers to navigate within the station as well as connect to their destinations beyond.
In terms of the surrounding development, which will help fund the project, Governor Hochul’s new proposal still achieves the necessary revenues while notably scaling down the previous plan, and significantly expanding community and public realm benefits.
The new plan takes into account recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee Working Group (CACWG), which worked in consultation with Empire State Development, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak and NJ Transit.
The CACWG will continue to inform the plan through its build-out, and the Governor is directing the MTA to actively engage community stakeholders, transit, sustainability, and planning experts, as well as users of Penn Station from across the region, in the process of finalizing the project.
Reimagining the station is part of the Governor’s commitment to ensuring equitable transit access and achieving economic development. This will be particularly beneficial for users of the forthcoming Metro-North stations in the East Bronx (Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester, and Hunts Point), for whom travel times to and from Midtown will be reduced by up to 50 minutes as a result of Penn Access.
Key features of the new proposal include:
New, World-Class Train Facility
- Creates a single level, double-height train hall that doubles passenger circulation space on the new public level from approximately 123,000 square feet to approximately 250,000 square feet and eliminates the congested, cramped and crowded passageways in existing Penn Station
- Includes a 450-foot long sunlit train hall that is the size of Moynihan’s and Grand Central’s halls combined
- Simplifies navigation
- Creates clear sight lines to exits and entrances
- Adds 18 more escalators or stairs and 11 more elevators to platforms.
- Shaves off 1.4 million square feet of development from the previous plan and decreases heights for proposed buildings
- Provides new design controls to protect views of the Empire State Building along 33rd Street.
Public Realm and Social Services
- Adds ~8 acres of public space, including a 30,000-square foot plaza comparable in size to Rockefeller Plaza and mandates public space set-asides on each building site
- Creates a Public Realm Task Force comprising community leaders and stakeholders, which will develop a plan of prioritized public realm improvements, to be funded by a Public Realm Fund, with initial revenue from redevelopment being dedicated to this fund
- Requires community facility spaces that will prioritize much-needed social services for the neighborhood, with a particular focus on New Yorkers experiencing homelessness
- Creates underground loading/unloading for MSG, taking trucks off the street.
- Allows up to 1,800 residential units, of which 540 would be permanently affordable
- Mandates one building as residential, which will include 162 permanently affordable units – more than the entire number of residences that would be displaced if the southern expansion of Penn Station occurs.
Public Transit Access and Shared Streets
- Expands new underground corridors to the Sixth Avenue IND line, allowing users of the 34th Street Herald Square Station (B, F, M, N, R, W lines) seamless access to Penn Station
- Nearly doubles the existing entrances to Penn Station from 12 to 20, and requires developers to add additional subway entrances and exits directly to and from buildings, ultimately reducing density and congestion at over-crowded entrances
- Widens sidewalks throughout the neighborhood and recommends that 31st, 32nd and 33rd Streets become shared streets that prioritize pedestrians
- Adds protected bike lanes and greatly expands bike parking while reducing vehicular parking.
- Limits the size of new building commercial lobbies
- Requires that 40% of every building frontage is an “active use” such as retail and community facilities.
Local public and private leaders lined up to praise the initiative:
- Janno Lieber, MTA Acting Chair and CEO, said, “Penn Station is the busiest transportation facility in the City, with six subway lines, countless bus routes, and soon four railroads, and we’ve been waiting generations for Penn Station to be upgraded. I am thrilled the Governor had decided to put an end to decades of delay and is insisting that we fix Penn Station now.“
- Empire State Development Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner Kevin Younis said, “Governor Hochul’s vision for a world-class Penn Station and revitalized surrounding neighborhood will not only enhance the commuter experience for passengers in New York City and the Northeast Corridor, but it will also be a forceful catalyst for New York State’s economic development. The integration of commercial growth and public transportation is a model of sustainable growth for the future, and I applaud our partners in government and the private sector for this plan that will spur a revitalization of the business district surrounding the station for decades to come.“
- Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “I applaud Governor Hochul for understanding how vital Penn Station and Gateway are to the region, and providing clear direction that the transportation aspects of this project must come first. I look forward to working with the MTA, Amtrak & New Jersey Transit on how to turn this new momentum into a consensus-driven Penn Station design and shovels in the ground.“
- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, “Governor Hochul is working hard to address the mass transit needs of New Yorkers and regional commuters alike. I will continue to work with her, community members, and my colleagues in government to ensure the best possible design for the new Penn Station.“
- Congressman Ritchie Torres said, “It is long past time for Penn Station to be brought into the 21st century and I applaud Governor Hochul’s work to make this project a reality. A modernized Penn Station with access to and from the Bronx will bring working families shorter commute times as well as much needed access to jobs, healthcare, and education. New Yorkers deserve quality and reliable mass transit and I look forward to working with Governor Hochul to ensure Penn Station is equipped to bring our city into the future.“
- Senator Brad Hoylman said, “I’m extremely pleased to see the long overdue reconstruction of Penn Station as the central focus of Governor Hochul’s revised Empire Station plans. I especially appreciate the Governor’s commitment to community and stakeholder engagement and am hopeful that this project will help address the neighborhood’s urgent need for supportive housing and services for people struggling with addiction and mental illness.“
- Senator Liz Krueger, Chair, New York State Senate Finance Committee said, “I am glad to see that Governor Hochul has taken a hard look at the previous plan for the Penn Station area, and listened to the concerns of the community and local officials. Her new plan is much more appropriate, and focuses first on the needs of the New York commuters who have to navigate Penn Station every day, ensuring improved access to and from the station as well as between trains and subways. I look forward to continuing to work with the governor, her administration, and community stakeholders to deliver the best plan for the future of this community, our city, and our region.”
- Senator Leroy Comrie, Chair, New York State Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions said, “I want to thank Governor Hochul and her team for making the correct decision to pivot on the Penn Station project, focusing on what’s really important which is improving existing Penn to meet the needs of the riders and the community. I appreciate that she’s going to enhance the ability of the community to have input with immediate public hearings to ensure that the proper density, the maximum amount of affordable housing, and that maximum access can be achieved in and around the new Penn Station.“
- Senator Kevin Thomas said, “Penn Station has long provided a vital economic and social connection between Long Island and New York City. Upgrading and revitalizing this essential transportation center is a commonsense step that will bring huge economic benefits to our region and improve the lives of thousands of Long Islanders who rely on Penn Station every day. I look forward to working alongside Governor Hochul on this and other critical infrastructure projects that will help New York come back even stronger in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.“
- Senator Anna M. Kaplan said, “Long Islanders have suffered with atrocious conditions at Penn Station for decades now, and the problems are far too great to be addressed by simple renovations alone. The vision for an entirely new Penn Station that will dramatically improve the daily commute for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers is a game changer for our region, and something that must move forward expeditiously as we work to build back better from the pandemic era. I applaud Governor Hochul for her vision to fix the mistakes of prior generations through this transformative investment in world-class mass transit infrastructure, and I look forward to working with all the stakeholders involved to see this project through its successful completion.“
- Senator John Brooks said, “The commuter traffic that flows through Penn Station is an essential aspect of Long Island’s economy and our way of life. What has always been needed is strong, competent, and cooperative leadership to realize the vision of a 21st century Penn Station that meets the standards of the infrastructure capital of the nation. I can’t thank Governor Hochul enough for her commitment and vision to reimagining a transit hub worthy of the communities it serves.“
- Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “I welcome Governor Hochul’s decision to make the re-doing of the existing Penn Station a priority, and her commitment to work with the local community and stakeholders to make sure it is done right.“
- Assemblymember Judy Griffin said, “I am grateful that Governor Kathy Hochul is putting Long Island riders first and is prioritizing Penn Station with the announcement of this new Penn Station Proposal. I hear from the many LIRR commuters, residing in Assembly District 21 regularly, that they need to be prioritized at Penn Station. For the expensive cost of commuting, riders need to be provided with a safe and reliable commute and enhancing Penn Station to provide more light, more space, and accessibility will be a welcome relief to commuters. Although we have the impressive Gateway and Penn Expansion projects, it is essential that we have a proposal that focuses on making Penn Station and the surrounding area up to par for our commuters, with the community’s input included for a collaborative approach between MTA, ESD, riders, and the community involved. “
- Assemblymember Fred Thiele said, “I commend Governor Hochul for taking bold decisive action to create a reimagined Penn Station that welcomes Long Island commuters and continues to serve as an important transportation hub for commuters from all areas, including Long Island’s East End.“
- Assemblymember Michael Benedetto said, “With the approaching advent of Penn Station Access and my Bronx constituents having direct access to mid-town Manhattan using Metro-North, I can only hope they’d arrive at a facility that is appropriate for the number one city in the world. I applaud Governor Hochul for her vision to create a modern day train hall where the existing Penn Station is today. This will be a benefit for all constituents, befitting the greatness of New York.“
- Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair, New York State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions said, “Public transportation is essential to the lives and livelihoods of our region’s residents and economy. A renovation of Penn Station would give a significant quality-of-life benefit to the over 500,000 commuters to New York City including Metro-North riders when Penn Station Access is completed. It would also support reverse commuters, benefitting New York’s job market and economy. The way to build up and maintain ridership is to transform major hubs like Penn Station to serve customer needs beyond catching the train.“
- Assemblymember Taylor Darling said, “Constituents from my community and the whole of Long Island commute to Penn State on a daily basis. It is great news to hear that all commuters who use Penn Station will be welcomed in the future, to the city by a brand new state of the art station. This is a great announcement for the State of New York!“
- Assemblymember Charles Lavine said, “I salute Governor Hochul and her team for their visionary improvements to Penn Station and its surrounding area. Long Islanders have for too long been inconvenienced by the aging and cramped current rendition of Penn Station, when completed, this new transit hub will make traveling to and from the city a far greater experience.“
- Assemblymember Nader Sayegh said, “A Metro-North line going right to Penn Station will give Westchester commuters more ways to get to their destination in New York City, while at the same time, boosting both the Westchester and New York City economies. Our residents will take advantage of greatly improved reverse commute opportunities. Our gratitude to Governor Hochul and our fellow State Legislators who together with the M.T.A. worked tirelessly to promote this initiative which will impact our region for the next 100 years.“
- Assemblymember Phil Ramos said, “Penn Station is the essential juncture connecting Long Islanders and all we have to offer to New York City, but has over the years offered less than adequate service to the thousands of commuters it serves every day. Governor Hochul’s plan for expanded rail capacity and a rider-focused experience is everything we could have asked for and I commend her administration for its responsiveness and service to my district.“
- Assemblymember Gina L. Sillitti said, “I am grateful to Governor Hochul for her review of the Penn Station project and the surrounding development. Having such a focused and thoughtful approach to improving access to the hub of transportation is essential. This will greatly improve the commuters experience to visit out great city.“
- Assemblymember Dan Quart said, “A complete renovation of Penn Station has been long overdue. Governor Hochul’s revised plan prioritizes that need while also taking into account real community concerns over a lack of public space. New Yorkers deserve a modern, welcoming, and accessible transit hub designed for them, and I look forward to working with the Governor to realize that vision.“
- Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, “I commend Governor Hochul for announcing that critical Penn Station improvements are moving ahead and will be will be taking precedence in the state’s plan for the neighborhood. Penn Station improvements are long overdue and will improve our region’s transit infrastructure. I look forward to working with the state on the plan’s financing, open space, collaboration, and engagement with the community.”
- Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “I applaud Governor Hochul’s vision for a new commuter-first world-class Penn Station. With the needs of the modern economy in mind, this plan includes innovative solutions to everyday problems facing commuters and will help us as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the coming of Penn Station Access, which will bring four new Metro-North stations to the East Bronx, this plan will allow Bronxites access to a train hall that’s navigable, safe, and user-friendly.“
- Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I thank Governor Hochul for making this project a priority for the tens of thousands of Long Islanders who will benefit from a reimagined Penn Station. I believe renovations at Penn Station are long overdue and these design changes can help speed up the building process.“
- Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “Long Islanders and all New Yorkers deserve a Penn Station that is a first class transportation facility. This plan hits the right note by focusing on transportation improvements and smart growth.“
- Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “We have been eagerly waiting for Penn Station Access, and now the announcement of Penn Station Reconstruction is further adding to our enthusiasm. For Westchester’s residents who live along the Sound Shore this is a game changer when it comes to commuting- and one a long time in the making. The Governor’s plan is taking Penn Station Access a step further by giving these commuters a well-deserved world-class modern train hall. I am thankful to the Governor and to the MTA and for their hard work on this important project.“
- Councilmember Kevin Riley said, “The announcement today from Governor Hochul reaffirms her administration’s commitment to improving transportation options and access for my community in the 12th District. I applaud her vision to redevelop Penn Station, bringing an open and easy to navigate train hall. When Penn Station Access comes online, it will provide some necessary investments to the subway infrastructure, which will help provide the improved service that our constituents deserve and rely on daily. I look forward to working with the Governor and the MTA to make this a reality.”
- REBNY President James Whelan said, “Improving the experience in and around Penn Station will benefit millions of City residents and transit riders. Governor Hochul is to be applauded for moving ahead on that front as well as pursuing smart, transit-oriented development around one of the world’s most important transportation hubs.”
- Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City said, “The redevelopment of this major transit hub and the surrounding area is badly needed and long overdue. We thank Governor Hochul for her prompt action to move forward with a project that is critical to the future of our city and region.“
- Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO of the New York Building Congress said, “New York will never reach its full potential unless we rebuild Penn Station. New York commuters deserve a world-class train hub that welcomes them into the heart of the city, with the capacity to handle more riders from the Metro-North expansion and the Gateway Program. The New York Building Congress applauds Governor Hochul’s commitment to rebuilding Penn Station, with a focus on a vibrant surrounding community, the creation of affordable housing, increased open public space and reduced sidewalk congestion with a connection to Herald Square to ensure that New Yorkers from outside of Manhattan have a seamless commute. Building is one of the best ways to get out of a crisis, and the new Penn Station will be a main stop on our journey to recovery.“
- Elizabeth Goldstein, President, The Municipal Art Society of New York said, “We are delighted that Governor Hochul is driving the Empire Station Complex project forward with existing Penn Station prioritized and other public benefits at the forefront. New York City deserves a train station that is elegant, coherent and efficient, supported by a strong, thoughtfully designed public realm and a multi-faceted neighborhood born out of deep collaboration with the public.“
- Tom Wright, President and CEO, Regional Plan Association said, “Governor Hochul’s decision to move forward to renovate and expand Penn Station demonstrates her leadership and commitment to achieving a once-in-a-generation opportunity. RPA has supported building the Gateway project and fixing Penn Station for decades – and recent poll results show the public supports this as well. Now is the time to move ahead; we need all the components of this vital project to proceed as quickly as possible. Working together, it is possible to deliver an attractive, safe, modern, accessible and unified Penn Station for all New Yorkers and the entire metropolitan region.“
- Renae Reynolds, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign said, “We commend Governor Hochul for advancing her vision of a user-friendly and welcoming Penn Station with better accessibility and improved circulation. Governor Hochul has shown she is open to the engagement and input of stakeholders and the public. We look forward to working with the governors of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and New Jersey Transit, to implement a comprehensive plan and vision for Penn Station that meets the entire region’s transit and mobility needs.“
- Lisa Daglian, Executive Director, Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC) said, “A more inviting and user-friendly Penn Station is good for riders and good for the region, and we’re glad that Governor Hochul is moving improvements to the top of the list. Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuters deserve a world class train hall – including West-of-Hudson riders who now come in via NJTransit and the new riders who will soon come in when Penn Access is complete. As more people return to offices, their first choice should be to ride transit. Ensuring commuters have a welcoming and safe space to land – with plenty of amenities while they’re waiting for their trains – will help get them back onboard. They, along with subway riders who stream into and out of Penn Station will benefit from the new entrances and pedestrian spaces that will be developed from input from all involved stakeholders. The first place commuters see when they pull into New York City should be inviting, and we see that in plans for the new Penn Station. We’re looking forward to these timely improvements that have riders in mind and will indeed be a treat to behold.“
- Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York said, “This plan to transform Penn Station into a 21st century hub of transportation and opportunity will generate countless middle-class careers with benefits for our hardworking tradesmen and tradeswomen and spur investment that not only puts New York’s economy on the path to recovery but builds for our future,” said Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “We thank Governor Hochul for her effective leadership in moving this ambitious plan forward and are prepared to get to work to build this New York City gateway.“
- Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ said, “Our 32BJ members support the Empire Station complex proposal, which we believe will rebuild confidence in New York City by investing in our commercial core and transportation infrastructure. We are pleased that the State is moving forward with a plan we expect will yield hundreds of good prevailing wage jobs for building service workers and much-needed affordable housing, and we look forward to continuing to partner to make these important benefits a reality.”
- Lowell Kern, Manhattan Community Board 4 Chair said, “Manhattan Community Board 4 is very encouraged by the Governor’s prioritization of the improvements needed to make Penn Station a world-class facility over the other aspects of this plan as previously proposed. There are still a number of issues that will require a thorough discussion between the various entities and the local community, and we look forward to being a part of those discussions.“
All images courtesy of the office of Governor Hochul.