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But It's Farley From Over
New renderings revealed as Moynihan Train Hall reaches major construction milestone
Moynihan Station today, 10:45 a.m. – Dramatic stage lighting in New York colors illuminates bare steel trusses, a backdrop to the podium where the governor will talk up the new train hall, any minute now. Tables in the far back of the room, behind a crowd of hundreds of construction workers and sweaty guys in suits, are loaded with Penn-Farley coasters and free cider donuts. It's humid, dark, and a little dusty, but despite the large gathering, there was just a little news at the former post office today: The project's about to start full-on construction.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was in the city to announce a construction milestone at the Penn-Farley complex, the soon-to-be bigger and (hopefully) better train station on Manhattan's West Side. This was the last time the James A. Farley Post Office, re-christened as the Moynihan Train Hall, will be open to the public before it's transformed into a transit hub by SOM. Contractors had just knocked out the McKim Meade and White–designed hall's second-floor mezzanine, a move that allows the major interior build-out to begin.
In June, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) inked a $1.6 billion deal with a developer-builder team to transform the structure into a retail-office complex and train station. The three companies—Related Companies, Skanska, and Vornado Realty Trust—will contribute the largest share ($630 million) towards the project, with New York State kicking in $550 million. Money from Amtrak, the MTA, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and federal grants round out the project costs.
The 255,000-square-foot station will serve Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak riders. Like the World Trade Center Oculus, or its slightly older cousin at Fulton Center, Moynihan's skylit concourse will be ringed by retail, more than 700,000 square feet of it. To make transfers easier, the just-completed West End Concourse will connect Moynihan to Penn Station, just across 8th Avenue. Construction began in September and the train hall is expected to be complete in 2021.
“LaGuardia is a pillar of New York's transportation network and a key driver of economic growth, but for too long the airport has been unworthy of New York State," Cuomo, said in a press release. "The groundbreaking at Delta's facilities represents another step forward as we build an entirely new airport at LaGuardia.”Meanwhile, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz added, "Today's groundbreaking is a significant milestone in the transformation underway at LaGuardia Airport into a state-of-the-art, unified entry portal befitting of the international capital of the world."
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The James A. Farley Building on 34th Street and Eighth Avenue will be given a $1.6 billion overhaul as it is repurposed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) from being a former post office to a rail hub.
Governor Cuomo announced the plans last Friday, but he had originally floated the idea back in September. The Farley Building sits to the west of Penn Station and under Cuomo's scheme, it will go from once holding letters to instead accommodating 700,000 square feet of retail, commercial, and dining areas with the Moynihan Hall serving as a train hall for Amtrak and LIRR services.
"Fifty years after the loss of the original Penn Station structure, passengers will once again experience a world-class rail hub worthy of New York," Cuomo said in a press release. "The Farley Building’s Moynihan Train Hall is two decades in the making, and we are proud that this project is finally a reality. With better access to trains and subways and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the Moynihan Train Hall seamlessly joins history, architectural design, and function, bringing the nation’s busiest rail station into the 21st century."
McKim, Mead and White designed both the Farley Building and the original Penn Station. The latter was lost in 1963 but now the New York architecture firm's work will once again be used for the station, serving as a grand entrance. Inside Moynihan Hall, where nine platforms and 17 tracks will be accessible, a 92-foot high skylight will be built above the hall's iconic steel trusses. The hall will also facilitate access to the Eighth Avenue Subway as well as provide an entrance to the station from 9th Avenue.
In addition to the work being done at Moynihan Hall, the width of the 33rd Street Corridor will be almost tripled as part of a "comprehensive redesign" of the LIRR concourse. Cuomo's office also stated plans for "extensive renovation" to the adjacent Seventh and Eighth Avenue subway stations. Furthermore, additional changes to Penn Station include upgraded lighting and signage, new digital screens, and adding LED panels that projecting blue skies.
According to Crain's New York, Cuomo's plans will only aid around a fifth of Penn Station's 600,000 daily commuters. The work is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020. That, however, might not be soon enough for those in line for what Cuomo has described as an upcoming "summer of hell" with track shutdowns for repairs set to cause commuter despair. "You'll see… breakdowns for the foreseeable future," said Cuomo. "We need major renovations at Penn and… an organization that can actually do them."
"We would be crazy to do something without Vornado," Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, who was named Cuomo's committee for the Penn Station project, told Crain's. "They have shown themselves willing to put skin in the game, and they see what's good for the public is also good for them. An improved station boosts the value of so much of Vornado's real estate."
The plan is being carried out and financed by Empire State Development and Related Companies, Vornado Realty LP, and construction firm Skanska's U.S. arm. Divided up, $550 million will be state supplied and $420 million will come from Amtrak, the MTA, the Port Authority and federal grants. The remaining $630 will be provided by Vornado and Skanska who in return for building it will have the right to run the new commercial concourse.