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A Contrarian View on New York's Penn Station

When it comes to New York's two rail stations, there's the iconic Grand Central Terminal that just celebrated its centennial, and then there's Penn Station - which all mourn because the original was razed in 1963 - except the NY Post's Bob McManus.
April 2, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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McManus's contrarian view has some merit. He is not totally callous - he admits that razing the glorious, 1910 train station was a "mistake", but...

Penn Station — like its East Side analogue, Grand Central Terminal — couldn’t stand on its own economically after the passing of America’s railroading era. Even now, Grand Central requires massive direct and indirect public subsidies to keep its architecturally inspiring nose above water.

McManus wrote the column to express several key points, among them:

  • To oppose the plan by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and "the Municipal Art Society, the Regional Plan Association and others, who think they have a better idea: (to fashion a replica) using the Farley Post Office building on Eighth Avenue as an anchor."  He points out that with the new Moynihan Station, as it is known , "the scheme would force Amtrak passengers (to) walk roughly an extra mile to get to their trains".
  • To point out that Penn Station, in its current, much-criticized form, works:  "It is the busiest railroad station in America. Yes, it squats with Madison Square Garden plopped down on it like some grotesque cupcake, and so the structure is never going to inspire poets. But it does deliver the fiscal freight."

And that brings out one of his main points - the renewal of Madison Square Garden's lease:

  • "To build on the status quo. The Madison Square Garden Co. is in the final stages of investing at least $1 billion into what is essentially a gut-rehab of the Garden, one of the most successful, and famous, entertainment venues in the world.  In return, the company is seeking an open-ended extension of its now-50-year-old operating permit — essentially, into perpetuity."

Alas, as the Regional Plan Association's press release points out, MSG did not get what they wanted.

The pursuit of a new Penn Station for New York took a significant step forward today following a recommendation by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to grant Madison Square Garden a permit to operate an arena at its current location for 10 years, rather than in perpetuity.

No doubt that decision left Bob McManus quite disappointed. Moynihan Station beat the threat from Madison Square Gardens. But will it remain the "pipe dream" that McManus calls it?

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Published on Thursday, March 28, 2013 in New York Post
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