As AN has reported extensively, the controversy around Vornado’s involvement in the development around Penn Station, numerous proposals for the station design itself, conflicting views on transit infrastructure (most prominently through-running), and aesthetic disagreements over the new station have marred the public-private partnership project. At a press conference today, Governor Kathy Hochul formally announced that the state would be taking a stronger direction in leading the project away from contingencies on private development on surrounding blocks, and with an open mind to how the station will be designed as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a Notice to Proceed on design proposals.
At the press conference, Governor Hochul said that the state will no longer formally link the Vornado redevelopment, which she had received criticism for being partial to, to the development of the station, though that does not mean that surrounding blocks will not see redevelopment at some point. The state has already approved $1.3 billion for the station’s reconstruction, with additional funding “anticipated via cost-sharing among the railroads that use the station and federal grant programs being aggressively pursued,” according to the Governor’s office. The Governor’s office also noted that Penn Station’s redevelopment has already been listed on the Northeast Corridor Project Inventory priority list, which opens it up to additional federal funding sources.
Architecturally critical, Governor Hochul also suggested that station redevelopment may proceed without the existing design team. FXCollaborative, WSP, and John McAslan + Partners had been awarded a one-year, $58 million contract for preliminary design, though the Governor has now said that there may be multiple design schemes considered moving forward, and described today as the “beginning” of the design process. This news comes as the ASTM-fronted consortium plan is set to be released on June 28.
Newly-released renderings from the Governor’s office show an airier, brighter Penn Station, that is aesthetically contiguous with the recent renovations to the Long Island Rail Road section of the station. Renderings depict a mid-block train hall framed under an undulating glass ceiling and multilevel concourse colored with white paneling. The designs depict ample shopping opportunities, though not seating—the common, and warranted, gripe about Moynihan Train Hall. Any potential upgrades to platforms themselves are not shown, and it is not hard to imagine pedestrian bottlenecks similar to the ones at Moynihan given the platform-access and concourse circulation shown.
MTA CEO Janno Lieber said that “The project will dramatically upgrade passengers’ experience by increasing ceiling heights, bringing in natural daylight, and creating better wayfinding and access to platforms. This Notice to Proceed begins the process in which we will rebuild Penn Station responsibly and—most important—getting going before Metro-North service begins in just a few years.”
On the exterior, renderings depict Penn Station’s entrance with large, floor-to-ceiling glass spans, and a swooping roof (think Eero Saarinen’s Yale Whale, but brighter and less playful). Large glass spans may feel at home next to nearby office tower entrances, though it does have the appearance of an Apple store. It does deliver on the state’s goals of letting more daylight into the station, and prevents Madison Square Garden from moving.
The Governor’s office said that in addition to the station itself, design improvements to surrounding areas will be part of the yet-to-be-finalized design. This could include “wider sidewalks, public spaces for events and special occasions, improved wayfinding, and specialized street lighting,” all of which would be integrated into not only Penn Station, but for fans and concertgoers entering the Garden as well.
AN will continue to report as proposals for Penn Station continue to be announced and as public officials continue to provide direction on public-sector involvement.
Update: At an MTA Board Meeting on June 27, Lieber clarified Governor Hochul’s comments on June 26 about the future of the station’s design plans, saying that they are still looking forward to working with the FXCollaborative, WSP, and John McAslan + Partners team. In a statement on June 27, the Authority said that the existing team “will be analyzing and exploring alternatives to inform that design.”