Posts tagged with "Penn Station":

BIG’s undulating facade for 2 Penn Plaza may be scrapped

Two years ago, BIG unveiled its proposed redesign of Two Penn Plaza: the complete recladding of the tower in glass, with an undulating ground-floor canopy that flared up and around the base of the building. However, on April 9, Vornado Realty Trust announced that it is considering scrapping those plans in favor of an entirely new tower. The developer has not yet announced whether BIG will be replaced by another firm or remain attached to the proposed project. Located atop Penn Station’s concourses and adjacent to Madison Square Garden, the 32-story glass and concrete tower was constructed in 1968 and contains 1.6-million-square-feet of office space. In lifting the curtain wall at street level, BIG’s design envisioned increased retail possibilities at the building’s base rather than its current status as a lobby for office spaces above. The Real Deal reports that demolishing Two Penn Plaza could allow Vornado to transfer five million square feet of air rights from neighboring Madison Square Garden. This transfer provides Vornado the means to effectively double the site’s footprint from 60,000 to 120,000 square feet, allowing for a large increase in height and square footage. The demolition of Two Penn Plaza would follow Governor Cuomo’s plans to provide New York State with development authority in the blocks surrounding Penn Station, potentially providing tail winds for Vornado's public space and development plans in and around Penn Plaza.

Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development

As New York State’s 2018-2019 budget negotiations come down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has reportedly slipped in a proposal that would give the state virtually unrestricted development authority over the area surrounding Penn Station. According to the anonymous sources who briefed Politico yesterday, if passed, the state would gain the ability to build without restrictions on height or density, the need to conduct any environmental review, or to win community approval. Through the use of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority­–both controlled by the governor’s office–the state would redevelop from 30th to 34th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue. After facing serious blowback from city leaders, especially over how the proposal would exempt the state from local zoning or preservation laws, the governor’s office released the following statement:
“Penn Station is currently untenable. It is congested, chaotic and poses a serious threat to public safety in this time of heightened terrorist threats,” said Dani Lever, press secretary for the governor, in a statement to the New York Times. She emphasized that any potential development would be done in “consultation with community leaders and elected officials, environmental reviews and local government reviews.”
The Cuomo administration has previously played a major role in the redevelopment of the Penn Station area, including backing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall. While the city has reportedly been in talks with the MTA and developers Vornado Realty Trust, who own much of the property surrounding Penn Station, Wednesday was apparently the first time that any party outside of Albany had seen the proposal. When reached for comment by Politico, Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian suggested that their reporting on the day-old plan was already outdated.
"Throughout the budget process, documents are exchanged hundreds of times over to advance solutions for New Yorkers," said Ajemian. "The document you’re basing your story on is outdated, inaccurate and not comprehensive."
The governor’s office has suggested that the original broad outline was simply a starting point, and would likely be narrowed down in the back-and-forth as budget negotiations continued. Still, with Governor Cuomo’s self-imposed March 30th deadline looming, it’s unclear if the plan will make the final cut. The full version of the leaked document can be found here.

Preservation group launches ad campaign to rebuild the old Penn Station

Only a few days before New York City’s Penn Station fills to capacity with Thanksgiving commuters, preservation group Rebuild Penn Station has begun an ad campaign that they hope will build popular support for their plan to reconstruct the original McKim, Mead & White station demolished in 1964. While their proposal is already ambitious in scope, it butts up directly against the $1.6 billion, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)-designed redevelopment that Governor Cuomo unveiled in July. Rebuild Penn Station, a project of the National Civic Art Society, has plastered posters on trains arriving to Penn Station from New Jersey, and has been handing out fliers to Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road commuters there since Monday. Filled with renderings of a “new old” Penn Station, the leaflets offer glimpses of “civilized arrivals” and “the station we deserve”. The group’s $3 to $3.5 billion plan would relocate Madison Square Garden, an action deemed prohibitively expensive by the governor’s office, and faithfully re-create the original Penn Station using modern construction techniques. “[…] Modern panelization technology will allow the station to be built with just one-fifth of the original stone,” according to the frequently asked questions section on Rebuild Penn Station’s website. A complicating factor in this grand vision is that work on SOM’s renovation broke ground earlier this August. Instead of moving Madison Square Garden, the James A. Farley Building on 34th Street and Eighth Avenue also designed by McKim, Mead & White, will be converted from a former post office into a transit hub and extension of Penn Station. The Farley Building’s new Moynihan Train Hall will add retail, restaurants, and nine platforms with 17 tracks. A 92-foot-high skylight will also be built over the Farley Building’s exposed steel trusses, echoing the cavernous glass ceiling of the original Penn Station. Still, Rebuild Penn Station feels that these changes aren’t going far enough. “Today Penn Station is an ugly, cramped, and ineffective transit facility that is an embarrassment to the city and indeed all Americans,” said Sam Turvey, chair of the Rebuild Penn Station Steering Committee. “We propose rebuilding the station to bring back an architectural masterpiece, while simultaneously improving and updating the station’s functionality.” This isn’t the first time an alternative proposal for a new Penn Station has been floated. Last year, the New York Times commissioned Vishaan Chakrabarti to further detail his plan to reclad Madison Square Garden in double-paned glass, creating a multi-level atrium over the station. However, this still remains a proposal. The new Moynihan Hall is on track for completion in 2020.

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.

U.S Department of Transportation withdraws from $24 billion Gateway Program

Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated commitment to building new infrastructure, the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its cooperation from a massive $24 billion transportation project between New York and New Jersey, as reported by New York Daily News. The Gateway Program Development Corporation planned to bring a new rail bridge, Portal North, to Newark as well as a new tunnel under the Hudson River that was meant to replace the existing, crumbling tunnel that suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy. The program also looked to expand Penn Station and build new bridges to better connect Newark, New Jersey, and New York City. However, the DOT notified the Gateway’s board of trustees of their withdrawal last Friday. "It is not DOT’s standard practice to serve in such a capacity on other local transportation projects," read the letter to the Gateway board of trustees, which also counts Amtrak and board members from the New York and New Jersey Port Authority as members. Plans to build the new tunnel have been in the works since the Obama administration, where a deal was struck so that New York and New Jersey officials would take on half of the costs while the federal government and Amtrak would undertake the other half. Trump had also included the Gateway program in his list of "Emergency & National Security Projects," a list of about 50 national infrastructure projects that was first published in January by the Kansas City Star. The Gateway project has been billed as one of the largest regional transit projects in the Northeast, one that would address the growing number of commuters from New Jersey as well as the region’s deteriorating infrastructure. The current two-tube tunnel linking New Jersey and Penn Station shuttle more than 200,000 riders daily. If one tube fails before new tunnels are built, capacity could be reduced by 75 percent, according to Amtrak. The DOT clarified their withdrawal, saying that “the decision underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring there is no appearance of prejudice or partiality in favor of these projects ahead of hundreds of other projects nationwide,” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

New Penn Station concourse is now open to the public

The West End Concourse of the revamped Moynihan Train Hall is now open to the public. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's (SOM) New York office, the work is the first phase of a wider project that sees Penn Station engulf the James A. Farley Building.
SOM's work gives commuters greater access to 17 of Penn's 21 tracks; it also increases the overall floor area of the station complex. As a result, pedestrian accessibility into the concourse itself has been improved, with people now able to enter from Eighth Avenue—a boost for those looking to live or work at Hudson Yards.
Phase Two of the project will see more extensive work done to the Moynihan Train Hall. This will include a new lavish skylight comprised of the building's original steel trusses. SOM has been spearheading the move to rejuvenate the Penn Station for some time. In 1999 the firm submitted a proposal that saw a parabolic, glass-and-steel canopy cover a multi-level concourse that allowed travelers to view the trains beneath. Eight years later, SOM presented further plans, this time with a higher glass and steel roof structure. In 2010, the practice's New York arm was awarded the commission to design Penn Station's West End Concourse. Now those plans will be moving forward, with a $1.6 billion price tag.
"Our design for Moynihan Train Hall culminates a long-held vision to create a new transportation hub that serves not only as a suitable entry and departure point to our magnificent city, but also a destination unto itself," stated Roger Duffy, design partner at SOM in a press release. "We are honored to have been involved with this project since its inception and look forward to continuing to make Moynihan Train Hall a new landmark for New York City."
According to the same press release, in revealing the plans yesterday, Governor Cuomo said: "The state-of-the-art infrastructure, technology upgrades, and wayfinding improvements of the expanded West End concourse will provide immediate relief for passengers enduring increasing congestion and overcrowding in Penn Station and help New Yorkers get to where they need to go better and faster."

Governor Cuomo announces long-awaited plans for Penn Station and the Farley building

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.

New petition wants to transform New York’s commuter infrastructure

The creation of a new or renovated Pennsylvania Station for New York has become a staple for the local daily news.

It is often presented as an architecture issue: the need for an alternative to the seriously flawed 1968 building on the site, or a quick fix for its 21 aging rail tracks. But ReThink Studio, a transportation think tank, has a well-thought proposal that considers a future for the station as a node in a much larger regional plan. It makes the point that any proposal to transform the station is meaningless unless its relationship to a much larger area is considered and well thought out. It is not just an architectural issue, but a planning issue that needs to be addressed by all levels of government.

Today, New York’s commuter rail infrastructure is a nightmare. Fixing this starts with phase one of Amtrak’s Gateway project for two new Hudson River Tunnels. Former Vice President Joe Biden has said that all of us need to push for this effort.

You can watch a video of ReThink Studio's plans below. If you are convinced by its conclusions, there is now a way to contact our elected officials and ask them to support the plan. By signing this petition, the studio will send a letter to President Donald Trump; Senator Mitch McConnell; Representatives Paul Ryan, Bill Shuster, Rodney Frelinghuysen; and Senators Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe, and Thad Cochran.

Penn Station proposals fail to recognize unique opportunity to improve regional transit

The redesign of Penn Station offers not just a chance to raise the building’s roof, but is also a unique opportunity to unify the region’s disparate rail networks in a way that has not been possible in over a century. Unfortunately, the recent proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Partnership for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) don’t think broadly enough about the underlying transportation problems afflicting the station and, worse yet, they solidify its already dysfunctional setup.

Most of Penn’s issues are founded in its overloaded capacity. When the station opened in 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad was one of eight railroads providing service into New York City. While other railroads terminated at waterfront stations, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the first railroad to cross the Hudson and East Rivers. Its Midtown Manhattan station provided through service for long-distance trains and terminal service for commuter rail from New Jersey and Long Island.

This is how the station still operates today, with one crucial difference: Over the past century, all the waterfront terminals except Hoboken have been closed, and the trains that served them have been largely rerouted into Penn. The resulting congestion has been exacerbated since the 1990s by a shift in preference toward Midtown’s office district and New Jersey Transit’s decision to reroute as many lines as possible into Penn.

Today, Penn Station serves 650,000 commuters each day. That is more than twice as many at its peak in the 1940s, and three times what its initial design accommodated. Furthermore, both New Jersey Transit and Metro-North would like to bring even more trains into Penn—both from existing and proposed routes. Expanded service into Penn Station will not be possible without significantly increasing its capacity—a need that Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals ignore in lieu of retail space and glass ceilings.

Understanding Penn’s capacity limitations (and how to solve them) is critical to a good design. They exist in three forms: passenger crowding, train traffic, and systematic connectivity issues to the rest of the region. On a passenger level, overcrowding is mitigated through staged boarding, or letting passengers onto the tracks only after trains arrive and unload. This produces chaotic lines and rushed transfers, especially in the area of the station that NJ Transit uses. Images of Governor Cuomo and PAU’s proposals suggest that the platform width and vertical access would both remain unchanged in the new Penn Station. Preserving existing stairs to the platform level, as PAU proposes, is not enough; Penn needs more vertical access. Rather than working to preserve inadequate stairwells to the platform level, we should be fighting for more stairs and escalators.

On a track level, the station is also hopelessly congested. Incoming trains often have to wait in tunnels for ten minutes or more as other trains exit the station. This is because the station is operated primarily as a terminal rather than a through station. Trains must cross each other as they enter and leave the station. Through-running avoids this problem by scheduling eastbound traffic on southern tracks and westbound traffic on northern tracks. Each train could enter the station, unload and load passengers, and continue on without ever crossing oncoming traffic.

Penn’s present configuration makes through-running impossible because only two tracks connect to Penn from New Jersey, while four tracks connect to the station from Queens. Amtrak’s current Gateway proposal would remedy this by building two additional tracks between Penn and New Jersey.

Unfortunately, none of the schemes put forward thus far recognize this unprecedented opportunity to expand the station’s capacity.

PAU’s analysis of Penn’s lack of connectivity at the neighborhood scale only tells half of the story. As a transit hub, the most important function of Penn Station is not on foot at street level, but underground at a track level. Furthermore, as one of the two regional rail hubs in New York, a redesign of Penn Station offers a uniquely valuable position to solve numerous problems at just as many scales. The schemes put forward thus far fail to look beyond the neighboring blocks of Midtown Manhattan.

Our ReThinkNYC proposal does. By understanding the regional importance of Penn Station, we are able to use infrastructural opportunities to not just solve present day problems within the station, but to improve connectivity on a regional scale.

We would reduce passenger crowding by extending all platforms to pass below neighboring Moynihan Station, currently the Farley Post Office. Some platforms already extend under Moynihan and other platforms should be extended as well. This would increase stair and escalator access to platforms for every carrier. We would widen the platforms, reducing the current 21 tracks to 12. This potentially counterintuitive move has significant benefits: Wider platforms allow passengers to board safely and quickly at track level, much like New York’s subway service, and this would decrease the amount of time each train would need to sit at its platform. By staging this work, it would be possible to extend and widen the platforms without interrupting service. We would use the new Gateway tunnels to implement through-running at Penn, allowing trains to enter and leave the station efficiently, without crossing each other’s paths. By permitting carriers to bring more trains through the station, Penn will be able to serve a growing New York City for years to come.

Not only will these track-level changes increase passenger and train capacity, but by bringing more trains through the station, we can dramatically improve the city’s connectivity as a whole. This includes NJ Transit trains that currently only go to Hoboken, LIRR lines that need more service but have no track space at Penn, and some Metro-North cars, that would be diverted from Grand Central. Furthermore, bringing Metro-North into Penn would have the added benefit of unifying the region’s three commuter rail lines into one station.

Redesigning Penn Station is about understanding its role within the New York region as a whole. The Gateway tunnels and Moynihan Station present a once-in-a-century opportunity to make Penn a transportation hub that both serves and stimulates the entire New York region. Proposals for vaulted ceilings and inspiring spaces would certainly make the station more beautiful, but are incomplete gestures if they fail to also address the more serious issues on a track and capacity level. In Penn Station, we have a rare opportunity to create a world-class station with the capacity and connectivity that New York needs. To give the city anything less would be a detriment not just to the station, but the region as a whole.

For more on ReThinkNYC, visit their website.

New renderings lay giant plaza over Penn Station pandemonium

Vornado Realty Trust, one of New York City's biggest landlords, has just released renderings from New York–based Kenneth Park Architects (KPA) that reimagine the streets surrounding Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. While Snøhetta was tapped last year to master-plan the area, other firms have been hired to supplement Snøhetta's work. Vornado commissioned KPA to master plan the 1,270,000-square-foot area, which is now a chaotic blast of commuters, ambling tourists, vehicle traffic, and dense street-level retail that sees some of the heaviest pedestrian traffic in the city. Renderings suggest that redevelopment will reposition retail, bring the plaza improvements to-grade, and funnel foot traffic to and from Madison Square Garden at a diagonal midblock. The plaza is intended to compliment Vornado's One and Two Penn Plaza, the conjoined 4.2 million-square-foot office complex. Two Penn Plaza, with its frilly glass-and-steel petticoat, will be designed by BIG. Along with the city and the 34th Street Partnership, VNO is working to revamp public spaces. Last year, the developer brought in W Architecture & Landscape Architecture to design Plaza33 on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The pilot was extended this year with new landscaping and a colorful painted street.

Jim Venturi and ReThinkNYC want to revolutionize how NYC handles train infrastructure

Jim Venturi has a habit of being a rogue planner with his team at ReThinkNYC. Last year, he suggested using Riker's Island to expand La Guardia airport and now he is taking on New York and New Jersey's suburban rail network. His plan counters the current federal Gateway Project which proposes a high-speed rail link into Manhattan and the creation of a new terminus at Penn Station. Due to open in 2024, the plan aims to alleviate bottlenecking by adding 25 new train slots for use at peak times by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJT) along the North East Corridor (NEC) between Newark and New York City. Currently, those tracks are at full capacity. https://vimeo.com/161951825 If realized, the project would see the demolition of  Napoleon Le Brun's St. John the Baptist Church which dates back to 1871, a historic piece of French-Gothic architecture that is a well established part of Manhattan's urban fabric. Of greater importance for Venturi, however, lies with the continual use of Penn station as a terminus and not a through station. From an infrastructure perspective, capacity problems arise with terminuses: trains have to enter and leave, creating more traffic, while passengers often have to alight to catch their connections, which leads to overcrowding. This happens to the extent that trains often wait up to ten minutes before entering the station and passengers queue at platform escalators, something that train schedules have since incorporated as status quo. Penn Station is already the busiest station in the country. It's platforms, in comparison to other regional stations, are very narrow. Since the addition of escalators and the advent of other modern day needs, available space has further decreased. To counter this, ReThinkNYC has devised a system whereby tracks are surrounded on either side by platforms. In this scenario, people can alight on one side and embark on the other, thus potentially improving circulation with people no longer getting in each others way.   ReThinkNYC also proposes that Penn Station becomes a through-station. This is nothing new. Indeed, the station is already a through-station for Amtrak services though is not for the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and NJT. Speaking to AN, Venturi spoke of how terminuses are all too commonplace in a region which currently holds three, run by four operators—MetroNorth, NJT, LIRR, and Amtrak. Efficiency and connectivity are the crux of ReThinkNYC's plan, with services being more accessible for passengers. "We need to think bigger," Venturi says. The current proposed plan, Venturi explained, is a "quick fix" bereft of longterm foresight and the result of of a system that is seldom fed any infrastructural ideas. He said this situation stems from a growing disparity between revenue and power centers between Washington D.C. and New York. "Our plan is very boring" he adds, going on to say that in "any other country, our idea is completely normal." And he's not wrong. Across Europe, through-stations in cities have become commonplace, with Berlin's Hauptbahnhof leading by example, running tracks through the station on three levels in different directions. "As far as I can tell we're the only city in the developed world that is building new terminals," as opposed to through-stations, he said. Paris and London are two notable beneficiaries of modern day through-service plans, and even closer to home, Philadelphia has done the same. If the Gateway project were to be a through-station, Venturi explained, Amtrak services could continue up to Queens and the Bronx. A "trunk" line where all four operators overlap running through Penn Station would be established between Secaucus Junction (NJ) and Sunnyside in Queens. At either side of these stations, services would then diverge; most on the Queens side would go to Port Morris in the Bronx where a new rail yard would be located. This would then prevent Amtrak from reaching capacity at the Sunnyside rail yard and allow NJT services to run through Penn Station. This system, which is very much like the Paris, London and Philadelphia examples above, would allow sidings (i.e. freight stored in a train yard) to sit on the periphery while allowing the "core" to be a place where passengers can transfer onto the subway system and other suburban rail services For this to happen, though, NJT would have to move their terminus eastward to Port Morris while LIRR would have to follow suit in the opposite direction to Secaucus. https://vimeo.com/163764271 While Venturi's scheme calls for the construction of three tunnels and a new viaduct (see video above) to essentially connect the Hudson and Harlem lines and the NEC, the plan also utilizes much unused infrastructure. Track beds that were never filled would be electrified and the Hell Gate bridge, which was originally built to hold four tracks would finally be used as such. For ReThinkNYC's plan to be realized, Venturi has broken it up into five phases as can be seen below. Electrification however, is another issue. Metro North and LIRR use two variations of the "3rd rail" electric connections to power their trains (one is a high contact platform, the other is low). To make things more complicated, 3 different catenary (overhead electrification) standards are used, so in the cases of lines that use overhead contact, 3 variations of voltage/Frequency output (Voltz/Hertz) are also used. This, of course, can all be changed, accommodating all these systems takes up valuable space in carriages and is generally seen as impractical. In comparison to Europe, two forms of electrification dominate the rail networks. Known as Electric multiple units (EMU's), trains make use of a 3rd rail/overhead hybrid contact system which has become commonplace, thus allowing freight and passenger rail services to cross borders without hassle. In the US, however, a lack of standardization appears to be halting progress in this respect. https://vimeo.com/161960566 Though a major overhaul, the practice of setting such standards in the UK was achieved after WWII when the railways were nationalized and the 25 kV 50 Hz overhead system was installed and the 3rd rail system developed in the South East with the exception of the Eurostar service. In light of all this, there is still room for improvement. Venturi explains how a connection between Trenton and New Haven could be easily realized. "It seems obvious," he says. "Just draw a straight line between Trenton and New Haven." In this case, similar types of rolling stock could be used due to the way these lines are electrified. Despite the ominous outlook of the East coast's rail network in comparison to the rest of the developed world, Venturi is adamant that a "rail revival" is happening, or at least underway.

BIG’s just-revealed proposal for Two Penn Plaza includes an undulating frilly facade

New York's affinity for Bjarke Ingels' work looks set to continue as images have appeared online by the Danes' firm, BIG, for Two Penn Plaza. The project, in collaboration with developer Vornado, appears to reclad the tower with an all-glass facade that fans out at ground level. Prior to this, Two Penn Plaza has had a stale existence, seen by some as all too willing to fade into the urban background and be forgotten. New York Yimby even went so far as to describe it as an "architectural failure," considering its proximity to Penn Station, on which it makes a "particularly negative impact." This isn't the first time Vornado has attempted to mix things up in the area, either. According to The Real Deal, the developer initially set out to combine One and Two Penn Plaza, merging them into one 4.2-million-square-foot complex. This scheme too involved re-cladding the facade. A plan to redress One Penn Plaza is also in the pipeline. BIG, it turns out, has come up with two proposals—albeit not drastically different—that both make use of a glass facade. The most significant changes, however, concern the retail aspect of Two Penn Plaza. In the lower levels, floorplates have been realigned to make way for more space. Aesthetic alterations affect the street level the most, allowing for increased visibility to passersby. In terms of structure, BIG has chosen to fan the glass facade out over the sidewalk, enabling the building to act as a threshold to the space while also providing cover for pedestrians.