Put security coordination on list for fixing Penn Station

LIRR commuters at Penn Station in Manhattan watch for platform informaton in August.
LIRR commuters at Penn Station in Manhattan watch for platform informaton in August. Photo Credit: Rajvi Desai

The hubbub created when a group of advocates appeared at the entrance to Penn Station last week and declared the time was ripe to overhaul the busiest rail terminal in North America already has been replaced by the typical day-to-day hubbub.

After all, the time for a remake at Penn was ripe very long ago. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that loud declarations of a new push to fix it didn’t gain immediate significant traction.

Penn is dark, dingy and dangerous, with haphazard corridors, train halls, exits and entrances, and all of that is compounded by a lack of comprehensive management, oversight and security. Last week’s group of advocates followed many others before them who have called for change. But now there’s renewed interest in Penn, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo already has taken steps to build Moynihan Train Hall and plan a new Penn entrance on 33rd Street.

So, it’s vital, but more difficult, for supporters to lay out a larger vision with specific proposals. And that’s what was missing from the new campaign, called Public for Penn Station, a coalition that includes the Regional Plan Association, Riders Alliance and other organizations.

Previous ideas include moving Madison Square Garden, whose operating lease expires in 2023, rethinking Amtrak space and redeveloping the neighborhood around Penn.

Unfortunately, one of Penn’s most serious problems is not a focus of the advocates’ attention: the security problem caused by the station’s many silos of control. This is a problem that could cost lives one day. Amtrak and the MTA each handle their own tracks, platforms and train halls, with state and city police involvement.

This security hodgepodge drew attention a week ago when reports emerged that suggestions were made for Moynihan to have the same bad operating plan. Coordinated security, with a central command center, is necessary for Moynihan, just as it is for Penn.

Thinking big about Penn is welcome. But it’s even more important to get the details right.