BY GABE HERMAN | Penn Station redevelopment plans continue to move forward, including a new main entrance for the Long Island Rail Road that may make the cramped and dingy station a bit more agreeable to commuters.
Final designs for the new entrance — at 33rd St. and Seventh Ave. — were unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo on May 16. The entrance will connect directly to the LIRR main concourse, and include three escalators, an elevator and a stairway.
Currently, the only direct entrance to the LIRR level is on 34th St., and the goal of the new portal is to relieve congestion and safety issues stemming form high congestion.
The LIRR 33rd St. concourse will be widened under the new project, from 30 feet to 57 feet. And the ceiling height will increase to 18 feet, from its current heights of 7 and 8 feet, which adds to the place’s cramped feeling. The project will also improve the station’s lighting.
Construction for the new entrance is set to start in June, and finish by December 2020.
Costs are budgeted at around $600 million. That includes $170 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s current 2015-19 capital program, with the rest coming from New York State.
About 250,000 people take the LIRR daily, and another 235,000 use trains from New Jersey Transit. In addition, 115,000 people use the subway at Penn Station station or visit its retail stores.
This project is part of a larger Penn Station reconstruction that includes turning the Farley Post Office, at Eighth Ave. between W. 31st and 33rd Sts., into the new Moynihan Train Hall. Named for the late Senator Patrick Moynihan, the hall is also scheduled to open in December 2020. It will boast nine platforms and 17 tracks to service LIRR and Amtrak trains.
“Penn Station was one of the great railroad stations of the world, but now it’s not fit for the greatest city in the nation,” Cuomo said when the main entrance’s final design was unveiled. “That’s why we are creating a world-class train hall at Moynihan and today we are announcing a new East End Gateway to bring more access, safety and light. Passengers will be able to come in that [33rd St.] entrance and avoid the front of Penn Station, there will be less traffic and you’ll have access to the subway and the LIRR. It will be a gateway to a world-class facility. This is not a proposal — we are getting to work now.”
Praising the station’s upcoming changes and giving credit to the governor were local leaders, including state Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and Vikki Barbero, chairperson of Community Board 5.
“This new iconic entrance, along with widened corridors, heightened ceilings and new retail, will dramatically improve the experience for the 600,000-plus people who use Penn Station daily,” said Janno Lieber, M.T.A. chief development officer. Lieber thanked Cuomo for his leadership on the project.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has famously sparred with Cuomo on transportation issues, also touted the project as a much-needed improvement.
“Penn Station opens New York City up to hundreds of thousands of people each day,” de Blasio said. “Those who use it deserve a station as vibrant as the city itself. We look forward to working closely with the governor, the M.T.A., local officials and the community to make the vision a reality.”