If one is of sufficient vintage to remember Penn Station on 7th Avenue in New York, one will recall a remarkable place (click through at the bottom of this brief to see). The Hotel Pennsylvania was across the street (Pensylvania Six, Five Thousand, was the phone number, which we remember thanks to Glen Miller). The neighborhood was vibrant.
In the early '60s, the station was demolished, replaced by the "new" "new" Madison Square Garden, which had years earlier moved to 8th Ave. and 50th St., had not been near Madison Square in many years, and never appeared new. This new Garden was an improvement from 8th Avenue, but it was not an architectural triumph. The Hotel Pennsylvania remained, remnants of its past glory still apparent to those who cared to look. But the neighborhood grew increasingly menacing, particularly at night.
Here, The New York Times proposes a new use for the garden that could save money and transform an eyesore into something quite different.
Train stations are more than just a bunch of platforms for getting places. They’re portals. New York used to have two of the world’s most ennobling entrances, announcing the city in all its ambition and glory, Grand Central Terminal and the old Pennsylvania Station. Half a century ago, it lost the latter to the wrecking ball, getting a shameful rat’s maze instead.
The governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, channeling his inner Robert Moses, has lately been promising to remedy what ails the city’s crumbling transit hubs. And this week he announced a plan to revamp Penn Station. Still entombed beneath Madison Square Garden, it has become the hemisphere’s busiest train station, serving 650,000 riders a day, three times the number it was conceived for — a figure equivalent to the population of Boston. They must stagger through crowded, confusing subterranean passageways to find the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, the subways and Amtrak.
The governor’s initiative prompted editors of The Times’s Op-Ed page to approach Vishaan Chakrabarti, who founded Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a New York architecture firm. Mr. Chakrabarti, who explains his plan in detail below, ran the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and he is a veteran of earlier Penn Station refurbishment proposals. The challenge: Can we go further than what the governor is doing? What would it take to truly transform Penn Station?