BY TAYLOR TIAMOYO HARRIS | Standing behind a podium and symbolically riding the track opposite his dire “Summer of Hell” prediction, Governor Andrew Cuomo confidently assured New Yorkers that a transit hub free of Penn Station’s notorious congestion and reflective of the city’s scale and sprawl is only three years away.
“For decades, passengers were promised a world-class train hall worthy of New York — today, we are delivering on that promise and turning that dream into a reality,” Cuomo said, at an Aug. 17 press conference announcing the start of major construction that will transform the James A. Farley Post Office Building into Moynihan Train Hall by the end of 2020.
“The best infrastructure,” Cuomo noted, “has the best economy. The challenge is in the doing. … New York, we’re all about getting it done.”
A press release accompanying the announcement heralded the progress so far, including the installation of 100 tons of new steel and the demolition of 6,000 tons of concrete and 400 tons of hazardous materials.
The Moynihan Train Hall building, just a few blocks north of the massive Hudson Yards project, will feature a towering 92-foot skylight. Passengers in the newly designed 255,000-square-foot transit hub will have access to nine platforms and 17 tracks, 11 escalators, and seven elevators.
“We are transforming the Farley Post Office into a state-of-the-art transit hub to get travelers where they need to go faster and more comfortably,” Cuomo said. “With better access to trains and subways, vibrant retail and business opportunities and stunning architectural design, we are bringing Penn Station into the 21st century.”
The $1.6 billion dollar project also emphasizes having better communication with passengers by installing multiple digital informational screens at the busy intersection on Manhattan’s Far West side.
The transit hub project is being spearheaded by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) project, and is expected to create over 12,000 temporary construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs.
The state will supply $550 million to the project, and $630 million will come from joint venture developers Related Companies, Skanska, and Vornado Realty Trust.
Amtrak, MTA, Port Authority and a federal grant will contribute a combined $420 million. In addition to being a train station, the Moynihan building will feature commercial, retail and dining venues.
“If you think that Governor Cuomo was going to put over a half a billion dollars into this facility solely for the use of Amtrak and not improve the experience for Long Island Railroad commuters, then you know someone very different than I know,” ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said.
“The thing to know is the naming is the easy part it’s the fun part and celebratory part. It’s the doing that’s the hard part.”
In June, bookended entrances at the Farley building allowed riders access to 17 of Penn Station’s 21 tracks for New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), as well as the A, C, and E subway lines.
Across the street at Penn Station, which serves over 600,000 passengers a day, repairs have been going on since July, causing customers to be rerouted on NJ Transit and the LIRR.
Sometime after the repairs are done, the governor would like to merge the Penn Station repairs with the new Moynihan Train Hall and Gateway projects.
The Gateway project will repair two run-down tunnels underneath the Hudson River, doubling the space of the tunnel between New Jersey and New York. According to report earlier this month by the Regional Plan Association, by 2040 over 500,000 commuters will travel over the Hudson River to the city, which the city is not currently able to support.
The report also stated the number of people commuting to the city from New Jersey in the last 25 years grew from 250,000 to 320,000 (28 percent).
A former ambassador to India and the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who the building will be named for, championed the project. He was a Democrat who served in the US Senate for 24 years after serving as an advisor to President Richard M. Nixon.
His daughter, Maura, also attended the press conference earlier this month thanking Cuomo and expressing excitement for the project’s progression.
“On my father’s deathbed in 2003, I vowed to him I would try and get the station built and after trying for years and years and years and being told ‘No you can’t’ and ‘No it won’t,’ I gave up. I thought I won’t believe it until I see some people walking about with hard hats in the Farley building,” she said.
“What is that over there?” Moynihan asked, pointing to a construction worker as the audience applauded.