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OpinionEditorial

No piecemeal renovation of Penn Station

An opportunity for the MTA and Amtrak to work together, bring in private partners and find innovative solutions to transform Penn into the modern transportation hub it must become.

Pedestrians walk near Penn Station in Manhattan.

Pedestrians walk near Penn Station in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Getty Images / John Moore

Well, at least everyone agrees that Penn Station needs a makeover.

That’s perhaps the only good thing to have come from the recent bizarre back-and-forth between New York State officials and Amtrak over the future of the station, the busiest rail hub in North America.

Officials with the MTA and Empire State Development criticized Amtrak in May for getting ready to redevelop its section of Penn Station “unilaterally” — without input from its fellow Penn Station occupants, including New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. In its response, Amtrak said it would work with its partners, but is “advancing improvements” only its portion of Penn.

But that’s not helpful to anyone, except, perhaps, Amtrak, which owns Penn Station and desperately needs the money that would come from leasing out its space to a private developer as the national railroad plans to move its operations across the street to the new Moynihan Train Hall when it’s completed in 2020.

Here’s the problem: A move by Amtrak to remake its own space would unravel any attempts at a comprehensive, coordinated redevelopment plan for all of Penn. And major change, not just new retail stores, is what the 600,000 people who use the station each day need.

Penn is dark and decrepit, and it poses a significant safety hazard every time there’s overcrowding or a security risk. It is embarrassing as a gateway to the city.

Over and over, we’ve heard talk and seen renderings of a massive Penn Station overhaul, with changes to exits and entrances, upgrades to shops, lighting, connections between transit halls — and even possibly significant changes to Madison Square Garden and the theater that sit above the station.

Now that construction on the Moynihan piece of the puzzle — located in the old Farley Post Office — is underway, the focus can turn to Penn. This should represent an opportunity for the MTA and Amtrak to work together, bring in private partners and find innovative solutions to transform Penn into the modern transportation hub it must become.

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