New Train Hall Opens at Penn Station, Echoing Building’s Former Glory (Published 2020) (2023)

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The Moynihan Train Hall, with glass skylights and 92-foot-high ceilings, will open Jan. 1 as an area for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road riders.

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New Train Hall Opens at Penn Station, Echoing Building’s Former Glory (Published 2020) (1)

By Christina Goldbaum

(Video) NYC's historic Penn Station gets new $1.6 billion hall

For more than half a century, New Yorkers have trudged through the crammed platforms, dark hallways and oppressively low ceilings of Pennsylvania Station, the busiest and perhaps most miserable train hub in North America.

Entombed beneath Madison Square Garden, the station served 650,000 riders each weekday before the pandemic, or three times the number it was built to handle.

But as more commuters return to Penn Station next year, they will be welcomed by a new, $1.6 billion train hall complete with over an acre of glass skylights, art installations and 92-foot-high ceilings that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who championed the project, has likened to the majestic Grand Central Terminal.

After nearly three years of construction, the new Moynihan Train Hall, in the James A. Farley Post Office building across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station, will open to the public on Jan. 1 as a waiting room for Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers.

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For decades, the huge undertaking was considered an absolution of sorts for one of the city’s greatest sins: the demolition in the 1960s of the original Penn Station building, an awe-inspiring structure that was a stately gateway to the country’s economic powerhouse.

The destruction of the station was a turning point in New York’s civic life. It prompted a fierce backlash among defenders of the city’s architectural heritage, the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and renewed efforts to protect Grand Central Terminal.

That the project has been completed during a period when the city was brought to a standstill is a hopeful reminder that the bustle of Midtown Manhattan will return, Mr. Cuomo said.

“This would be an amazing accomplishment at any time, but it is an extraordinary accomplishment today,” the governor said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the new hall on Wednesday. “As dark as 2020 was, to me this hall brings the light, literally and figuratively.”

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The project has its detractors, who fault state officials as not going far enough in reimagining Penn Station. These critics note that the Moynihan Train Hall will serve only some of the passengers who use Penn Station, ignoring the needs of subway riders.

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For nearly 30 years, elected leaders have debated transforming the Farley building from a post office to an extension of Penn Station — an idea first proposed by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was known for his innovative, if not always realistic, solutions to urban ills.

The Farley building, Mr. Moynihan argued, offered an obvious solution to Penn Station’s overcrowding: Commuter train tracks ran beneath the large post office, which was no longer a busy mail hub but still had a grandeur that echoed the original Penn Station’s. That building was demolished starting in 1963 as the Pennsylvania Railroad Company went bankrupt.

At least five versions of Mr. Moynihan’s original plan later, Mr. Cuomo broke ground for the project in 2017. Two major private developers, Related Companies and Vornado, contributed $630 million in exchange for a 99-year lease on much of the century-old Farley building; the other $970 million came from public sources.

The train hall is one of several major infrastructure projects that Mr. Cuomo has spearheaded as he seeks to make such initiatives a hallmark of his tenure.

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Still, the Moynihan hall caters primarily to Amtrak passengers, who account for just 5 percent of Penn Station’s 650,000 weekday riders and will board and exit trains through the new waiting area. Long Island Rail Road commuters will be able to get to trains from the new hall, but officials expect most of them to continue to use the older Penn Station.

The station’s six subway lines run along Eighth and Seventh Avenues and Avenue of the Americas — a good distance from the new train hall. That leaves subway riders, who tend to be less affluent than Amtrak users, and New Jersey Transit commuters to the bowels of Penn Station.

“By opening Moynihan, it’s basically like opening the first-class lounge at the airport,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, who founded Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a New York architecture firm, and proposed a radical plan to move Madison Square Garden and open up Penn Station in 2016.

“Moynihan is a really good Phase One, it’s the appetizer,” Mr. Chakrabarti said. “But the main station in the subbasement of the Garden is the entree.”

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The new hall also does not solve Penn Station’s fundamental problem: a lack of capacity.

In recent years, growing ridership on the commuter rail and subway lines that serve the station has clogged platforms and passageways with bottlenecks.

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While the new hall will relieve some of the strain by moving the designated waiting area for all Amtrak trains out of Penn Station and turning that concourse into a New Jersey Transit boarding area, more trains, tracks and platforms are needed to truly thin the station’s crowds, officials said.

To address the station’s limited capacity, elected officials have proposed two major infrastructure projects — known as Gateway and Penn South — that would require years of construction and many billions of dollars of investment.

The Gateway project, which would fix the deteriorating rail tunnels under the Hudson River and double the rail capacity into and out of Penn Station, needs federal financing and approval. The plans have been mired in a political standoff between President Trump and Democratic leaders for the past four years.

In January 2020, Mr. Cuomo introduced plans for the Penn South project, under which the state would acquire the city block south of Penn Station and build eight new train tracks. The expansion would allow the transit hub to accommodate 175,000 more riders.

Neither project has gotten off the ground, although elected officials are hopeful that they will move forward under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., an enthusiastic supporter of Amtrak and major infrastructure projects.

Even before the projects are complete, the 255,000-square-foot Moynihan hall could help reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhood, which has long been considered a poor cousin to the area near Grand Central Terminal.

Walking into the Moynihan Train Hall is like entering a new world.

Natural light pours into the main concourse from skylights supported by the building’s original steel trusses. A cube-shaped clock, complete with details that mimic those architectural bones, hangs from the center of the atrium. And tucked into three corners of the hall are installations by Kehinde Wiley and other celebrated artists.

“We think this is a fantastic statement in our busiest station of what the future can hold,” said Stephen Gardner, the president of Amtrak, which owns Penn Station. “The volume alone will be breathtaking to people.”

Already, there are signs of revival in the area surrounding the station. Apple, Amazon and Google have all leased office space in the area, turning it into an emerging tech corridor. In August, Facebook joined their ranks and agreed to lease all of the 730,000-square-foot office space in the Farley building.

As some of the tech companies’ employees and other Midtown office workers return to commuting next year, elected officials and transit experts hope the new train hall could help coax them back onto public transit and breathe life back into the heart of the city.

“The timing of this couldn’t possibly be better,” said Tom Wright, the president of the Regional Plan Association, a planning group. “Right now is a time when we need to bring people back to the city and show how transit and public spaces are safe, Moynihan does just that.”

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FAQs

What did Moynihan Train Hall replace? ›

The new Moynihan Train Hall in New York City was designed to restore some of the glamour of train travel lost when much of the original Penn Station was demolished in the 1960s.

What are the new plans for the current Penn Station? ›

The facility will include a train hall about the combined size of Moynihan Train Hall and Grand Central Terminal's main concourses. The new station will also include retail and dining options, improved ticketing and waiting areas, additional elevators and escalators, and more station entrances and exits.

What is the difference between Penn Station and Moynihan Train Hall? ›

Moynihan Train Hall houses the main Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) boarding concourse, while Penn Station houses the NJ TRANSIT concourse. The Moynihan Train Hall / New York Penn Station complex is readily accessible from more than a dozen lines of the New York City subway (MTA).

Why are there no benches in Moynihan Train Hall? ›

The lack of seating, however, is not entirely unprecedented: Some advocates said the design of Moynihan Train Hall was another part of a multipronged effort to remove homeless people from public spaces in New York City.

What is the newest train line in NYC? ›

The Interborough Express is a transformative rapid transit project that would connect currently underserved areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

What is the oldest train station in NYC? ›

The first was Grand Central Depot, built by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt and opened in 1871, which served as a hub for a number of railroad lines entering Manhattan.

What Penn Station's $6 billion makeover means for NYC? ›

It calls for: A single-level modern train hall with wider corridors, a main concourse on each side, and a 460-foot (140-meter) high atrium with a skylight. The new public concourse would be double the height of the current station's and would feature more stairways, escalators and elevators through its 11 platforms.

Where is the new entrance to Penn Station? ›

December 2020: Grand opening of the state-of-the-art East End Gateway entrance at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue. "An entrance to a train station with a large glass structure.

When was Penn Station last renovated? ›

The project will remove an upper level to transform Penn Station, which was last rebuilt in 1968, into a single-level, 450-ft-long train hall with higher ceilings, wider passageways and natural light.

Can you walk through Penn Station to Moynihan Train Hall? ›

Customers can exit New York Penn Station onto 8th Avenue, cross 8th Avenue and enter Moynihan Train Hall at any entryway. Or, customers can walk between Moynihan Train Hall and New York Penn Station on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) concourse level through the Moynihan Lower Concourse.

Will Moynihan Train Hall replace Penn Station? ›

Daniel Patrick Moynihan. NEW YORK (WABC) -- The $1.6 billion project replacing Manhattan's cramped and dark Penn Station with a light-filled train hall is set for completion this week, with the first trains rolling out on New Year's Day. The new 255,000-square-foot station is named after U.S. Sen.

What is the point of Moynihan Train Hall? ›

Moynihan Train Hall provides access to all LIRR and Amtrak service, with customer service facilities for both railroads. The existing station house continues to provide alternate access to the LIRR and Amtrak, particularly at night, when Moynihan Train Hall is closed.

Why can't you use the toilet on a train in a station? ›

As a general rule, people travelling on trains are warned not to flush the on board toilet while it's not moving. That's because most trains don't have sewage tanks, meaning anything in the toilet is dumped straight onto the tracks. So as you can imagine, if the train is stationary, it can cause huge problems.

Can you sit in Moynihan Train Hall? ›

Moynihan Train Hall, the home of Amtrak across the street from Penn Station, also has no public seating.

Why did NYC tear down Penn Station? ›

Pennsylvania Railroad executives searched for alternate means of income, and in 1961 they decided to dismantle their magnificent terminal and rent its air space. The three-year demolition of Penn Station began on October 28, 1963.

What is the most popular train line in NYC? ›

The L train reigns supreme. An absolute necessity and yet the object of everyone's scorn, the New York City subway system is an emblem of the town we call ours. It should come as no surprise, then, that New Yorkers have very strong opinions about the infrastructure.

What is the most famous train in New York? ›

The 20th Century Limited was the flagship train of the New York Central and was advertised as "The Most Famous Train in the World". It was described in The New York Times as having been "[...]

What is the slowest subway line in NYC? ›

MTA launches express service on F train, New York City's slowest subway line. The MTA will bring back limited rush-hour express service to the F train in Brooklyn on Monday, a move agency officials hope will offer some relief to riders on the chronically unreliable subway line.

What is the oldest city in NYC? ›

NEW YORK: Albany, est.

The capital of New York is also its oldest city. Originally founded as Fort Orange by Dutch settlers in 1624, the city was officially chartered by the British government as Albany in 1686.

What is the longest train ride in New York? ›

The A train is the longest line in the system — 31 miles, from northern Manhattan through Brooklyn to Far Rockaway in Queens.

What is the deepest train station in NYC? ›

Located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and 191st Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, it is served by the 1 train at all times. It is the deepest station in the New York City Subway system at about 173 feet (53 m) below street level.
...
191st Street station.
191 Street
Rank201 out of 424
28 more rows

What is the building with a 1 on it in NYC? ›

One Penn Plaza
Penn 1
Alternative namesOne Penn Plaza
General information
StatusCompleted
TypeCommercial and office
18 more rows

How long will Penn Station be under construction? ›

Hochul has said the project would take four to five years and cost $6 billion to $7 billion. But documents released by the state's economic development agency put the cost of Hochul's overall plan at about $22 billion including transit improvements and a station expansion plan.

What is Penn Station now called? ›

Though Amtrak maintains a presence at Penn Station, Moynihan Train Hall is our new home in New York City. Where is Moynihan Train Hall? 8th Avenue between W 31st and W 33rd Street, directly across from Penn Station.

Will original Penn Station be rebuilt? ›

$7 Billion Penn Station Rebuild Is Officially Approved by New York - Thrillist.

Why are there 3 Penn Stations? ›

The Penn Stations in New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and Baltimore are remnants of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's network, says Travis Harry, director of museum operations at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, a Smithsonian Affiliate.

What replaced the old Penn Station? ›

In 1963, however, Penn Station was razed, and was replaced by Madison Square Garden.

What is the oldest train station still in use? ›

Broad Green station, Liverpool, England, shown in 1962, opened in 1830, is the oldest station site in the world still in use as a passenger station.

Where is the oldest surviving train station? ›

The Liverpool Road railway station in Manchester, dating from 1830, is the oldest surviving mainline station in the world.

Are there any abandoned train stations in New York? ›

Many stations of the New York City subway system have fallen into disuse or have been abandoned, no longer used by the Transit Authority for their original purpose: serving passengers. Some stations are fully abandoned, rotting away and seen only from passing trains. Others are in use as storage facilities.

What was there before Moynihan train hall? ›

The extraordinary civic project to convert the 1913 Beaux-Arts Farley Building into a 21 st Century train station has been decades in the making, with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill leading the architectural redesign as the initiative evolved. “You don't get a second chance like this often. We must do it.”

What was Moynihan before? ›

Moynihan Train Hall is an expansion of Pennsylvania Station, the main intercity and commuter rail station in New York City, into the city's former main post office building, the James A. Farley Building.

What happened to the original Penn Station? ›

The first girders for Madison Square Garden were placed in late 1965, and, by mid-1966, much of the station had been demolished except for the Seventh Avenue entrance.

Is LIRR in Penn Station or Moynihan? ›

Moynihan Train Hall provides a new way to access both Amtrak and Long Island Railroad services, connecting directly with the existing platforms beneath Penn Station.

Can you walk from Moynihan Train Hall to Penn Station? ›

Or, customers can walk between Moynihan Train Hall and New York Penn Station on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) concourse level through the Moynihan Lower Concourse. Amtrak's main entrance to the Moynihan Train Hall is located mid-block on 31st Street.

What is the oldest train station in the US? ›

The Baltimore and Ohio Ellicott City Station Museum in Ellicott City, Maryland, is the oldest remaining passenger railway station in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world.

What was Amtrak called before? ›

1970. October 30 – President Richard Nixon signs the Rail Passenger Service Act (RPSA), creating the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, later known as Amtrak, to take over the intercity passenger rail obligations belonging to private railroads.

What was it called before Amtrak? ›

The original working brand name for NRPC was Railpax, but less than two weeks before operations began, the official marketing name was changed to Amtrak. There were several key provisions: Any railroad operating intercity passenger service could contract with the NRPC, thereby joining the national system.

Are Moynihan and Penn the same? ›

No. Moynihan Train Hall and New York Penn Station operate as one complex. Though Amtrak maintains a presence at Penn Station, Moynihan Train Hall is our new home in New York City.

Which is bigger Grand Central or Penn Station? ›

PLATFORMS: Grand Central has 44 platforms, making it the largest train station in the world. Penn Station has 11.

Are there bathrooms on Amtrak trains? ›

If you want to get up and stretch your legs, there's plenty of room to walk around, with restrooms conveniently located in every car. On shorter train journeys, Amtrak's Coach Class seats provide a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the view.

How early to get to Penn Station for Amtrak? ›

Arriving at the Station

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

How do you board Amtrak at Penn Station? ›

To get to the Amtrak station inside Penn Station enter at 8th Avenue between West 31st and West 33rd streets. Easily readable signs will lead you to the Amtrak Hall. There is a 24-hour waiting room where those with a ticket can relax while waiting for their train.

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