Penn State over­haul plan met with ap­proval, skep­ti­cism

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Deepti Ha­jela

Hor­ri­ble. Dirty. A dump.

Com­muters go­ing through the city’s Penn Sta­tion have choice words for it, none of them good. So plans an­nounced this week that would widen con­courses, raise ceil­ings and cre­ate a sparkling, light­filled wait­ing area across the street were greeted with cau­tious ap­proval — and skep­ti­cism about whether the long-talked-about ef­fort at the na­tion’s busiest train sta­tion would come to fruition.

“I think any­thing would be an im­prove­ment,” said at­tor­ney Brigit Zahler, who splits her time be­tween Red Bank, New Jersey, and West Is­lip, on Long Is­land, east of New York.

She said she’s been go­ing through Penn Sta­tion daily for more than a decade.

“It’s hor­ri­ble. I lit­er­ally hate com­ing here,” she said Wednes­day, as she sat on her back­pack be­cause there was nowhere else to sit. “It’s ev­ery­thing that’s bad about the city: It’s too crowded, there’s not enough ex­its ... and it’s ugly.”

Gov. An­drew Cuomo shared that sen­ti­ment when he an­nounced the plan and its con­trac­tors on Tues­day.

“It is dirty, it is dingy, it is dark, and that is not what New York is all about,” said Cuomo, a Demo­crat.

The plans call for the con­struc­tion of a new train hall in the his­toric James A. Far­ley Post Of­fice across the street. The hall, to be named the Daniel Pa­trick Moyni­han Train Hall in honor of the late U.S. sen­a­tor, would have din­ing and re­tail op­tions and of­fice space. The un­der­ground maze of con­courses that is the cur­rent Penn Sta­tion would be re­built, ac­cord­ing to the plans. While it won’t be pos­si­ble to bring in nat­u­ral light, Cuomo said, the ceil­ings would be raised to 18 feet, and LED screens look­ing like a cloud-filled blue sky would be in­stalled. The con­course, which com­muter An­thony Lee likened to the run­ning of the bulls in Pam­plona, Spain, dur­ing rush hour, would be widened.

The project is priced at $1.6 bil­lion, with a planned

2020 open­ing date.

Lee said he was skep­ti­cal of the project get­ting done, since it’s been talked about for years.

“For the vol­ume of peo­ple that ac­tu­ally comes through here, I think some­thing should have been done a very long time ago,” he said.

Penn Sta­tion has 650,000 daily pas­sen­gers, three times the num­ber it was de­signed for, on Am­trak, Long Is­land Rail Road and New Jersey Tran­sit train lines.

The Moyni­han hall plan had been con­tracted to de­vel­op­ers Re­lated Cos. and Vor­nado Realty Trust for more than a decade. That agree­ment was cut, but Re­lated and Vor­nado were se­lected again for the lat­est it­er­a­tion of the project, along with Skan­ska AB.

Yolanda Flores, of Baby­lon, on Long Is­land, has no in­ten­tion of still liv­ing in the area by the time of the sta­tion project’s ex­pected open­ing.

And, af­ter 39 years liv­ing in New York, she still didn’t en­tirely be­lieve it would hap­pen. But it would be a good thing, the pay­roll

man­ager said.

“For fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” she said, “that will be nice to come to New York City and be proud of Penn Sta­tion.”

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