Posts tagged with "Penn Station":

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Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious plans to overhaul New York’s Penn Station

The lead-up to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address feels like a government-backed encore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Instead of lords a-leaping and swans a-swimming, Cuomo brings infrastructure upgrades a-plenty in his 2016 Agenda. The governor promised funds to the Gateway and East Side Access tunnels, the Javits Center, new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, the MTA (wi-fi a-comin'!), and an airport on Long Island. Arguably the biggest proposal is the Empire State Complex, a $3 billion redevelopment of New York City's Penn Station and its surroundings. The plan seeks to make Penn Station, which sits beneath Madison Square Garden, less of a hellhole—nice, even. Built to accommodate 200,000 daily riders, the station now serves 650,000 people per day. Channeling public sentiment, the governor ripped on Penn Station in his announcement. "Penn station is un-New York. It is dark, constrained, ugly, a lost opportunity, a bleak warren of corridors. [It's] a miserable experience and a terrible first impression." The governor's plan calls for enhancing connectivity between the station and the street; providing wi-fi; and reducing congestion by widening existing corridors, creating better wayfinding, and improving ticketing areas. As hinted at in previous proposals, the massive, neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office, at Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, could be converted into the "Moynihan Train Hall," a sun-drenched waiting area for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and MTA passengers. A pedestrian tunnel underneath Eighth Avenue will connect the train hall with the main station. With this 210,000-square-foot addition, the size of the station will increase by 50 percent. The governor reviewed possible redesign scenarios. In one, Madison Square Garden Theater would be demolished to make way for a block-long entrance to Penn Station, facing the post office. In another, a glassy entrance, with skylights, would be constructed on 33rd Street. The street would be closed and converted into a pedestrian plaza. A third, more minimal scenario would add entrances at street corners and mid-block. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) hosted a competition to rethink Penn Station. MAS highlighted designs four firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)—for an improved Penn Station. In addition to improved passenger flow, each proposal imagined the station as a civic hub and neighborhood anchor. The governor said that this would phase of the project would be completed first. The rest of the overhaul could be complete by 2019, an amazing feat in a city where infrastructure improvements can drag on for decades. The Empire State Development Corporation, the MTA, Amtrak and the LIRR will parter with private developers to spearhead the project. $2 billion will go towards the Empire State Complex, while $1 billion will go towards "retail development" on 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million is expected to come from state and federal governments. The rest of the project will be privately funded, in exchange of revenue generated by commercial and retail rents. Cuomo will be issuing invitations to private developers, with an April 2016 due date. Currently, Vornado Realty Trust manages land around Penn Station, though it's unclear whether this relationship will continue.
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Neighbors give mixed feedback on pedestrian plazas near Penn Station

Community Board 5 is experimenting with a temporary pedestrian plaza and sidewalk expansion around Penn Station to manage foot traffic around one of the busiest rail stations in the world. A guiding vision behind these projects is to link Penn Station and Madison Square Garden to the more pleasant Herald Square and Greeley Square area. Snøhetta designed the master plan for the area while Brooklyn's W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue and in partnership with Vornado Realty Trust, designed Plaza33 on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The plaza is intended to create a smoother gradient between the street and the sidewalk to streamline pedestrian flow. The trial period for Plaza33 began July 19th and runs through October 11th. So far, Plaza33 has received positive feedback from Community Board 5's constituents. Street furniture, including hybrid benches and planters, offers a place for pedestrians to relax and socialize. Public art by Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein enlivens the corridor, while community programming, including yoga and film screenings, are planned to activate the space. The West 32nd Street sidewalk expansion transforms the space more minimally but is far more controversial. In principle, residential and commercial stakeholders on the target blocks strongly support the plazas. In practice, however, the re-arrangement of space creates conflicts for users. Loading zones on 32nd Street were reduced by 500 feet. Trash collection, boarding for the M4 bus, and services for residential tenants compete for only 180 feet of loading space. Vornado is working with property owners and renters on the block to mitigate the impact of reduced street space. It remains to be seen whether these problems can be resolved to the satisfaction of all (or most) parties before the end of the trial period.  
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UPDATED: Snøhetta and W Architecture does the impossible: It makes the Penn Station area bearable

[Update: While Snøhetta is drawing up the master plan for the area around Penn Station, Brooklyn-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, working with Production Glue, designed the new Plaza33.] Turning the truly miserable blocks around New York City’s Penn Station into a pleasant and calming retreat would appear to be an impossible undertaking. But Vornado Realty Trust—the primary property owner around the station—believes it can do it with the help of some experienced, Norwegian architects. Enter: Snøhetta. In June, it was reported that Vornado tapped the Oslo- and New York–based firm, which is also sprucing up the pedestrian environment around Times Square, to revamp its building stock in the area and generally improve the street-level experience around the station. This undertaking would kick off with a temporary public plaza on a stretch of West 33rd Street, designed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture. That plaza, called Plaza33, is now open, and to the designers' credit, people seem to be really enjoying it. (Again, remember that it is right next to Penn Station, a notoriously overcrowded and people-unfriendly part of New York City). "Long talked about as a vital yet underutilized and underdeveloped part of Manhattan, Plaza 33 reinvorgates the area around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden with public activities and a new food hall," said W Architecture in a statement. "The architectural and landscape interventions in the plaza are temporary, so the design and construction of the plaza employed very innovative techniques to both accommodate thousands of people per day and provide a respite in one of the busiest ares of Manhattan." The plaza features a stepped, wooden amphitheater with overflowing planters. These materials are repeated with benches that also function as flower boxes. The roadway has been painted blue with diagonal stripes cutting across it. The plaza also features sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. The move is part of the popular Tactical Urbanism movement that encourages experimenting with public space—in this case temporarily shutting down a street—to figure out new ways to interact with cities. The concept holds up short-term actions as a generator of long-term change. Times Square, years ago, underwent similar temporary transformations leading up to its ongoing permanent redesign. Plaza33 will be used to host concerts, fitness workshops, movie screenings, and games. (A full lineup of events is here.) But all good things apparently must come to an end. The plaza will be disassembled on October 11th. But could we see a more permanent solution in coming years? New Yorkers will likely vote with their feet. [h/t StreetsBlog]
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Norwegian Invasion: Norsk design and architecture is having a moment

When the words “Scandinavian Design” come up, most people quickly think about Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. But Norway is no slouch, either. Recently, the nation's designers have been drumming up noise in the worlds of furniture, product design, and architecture. A string of exhibitions, a master plan for New York’s Times Square, and a robust program of roadside pavilions and viewing platforms highlight this Norsk moment. Leading the way are architects Snøhetta, who have been on quite the streak in the last year, most recently gaining commissions to master plan Penn Station and Times Square, just ten blocks from each other in New York. While their Times Square design isn’t the firm's most dramatic work—indeed, it's intended to be a subtle backdrop to the chaotic public space—but it should be a welcome, nuanced addition to the commercial free-for-all that includes Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar. Just a few blocks to the west—towards the Hudson River—the Royal Norwegian Consulate General showed off the country’s design prowess at a recent series of events. At Wanted Design, Calm, Cool and Collected: New Designs from Norway, a booth full of Norsk people and treasures, showcased the subtle use of wood characteristic of Scandinavian design. The up-and-coming studios on display included A-Form, Stokke Austad, Anderssen & Voll, Lars Beller Fjetland, Everything Elevated, Kristine Five Melvær, and Sverre Uhnger. Also sponsored by the Norwegian government was Insidenorway at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which hosted a group of classic Norwegian brands: Figgjo, Mandal Veveri, Røros Tweed, and VAD. Plates by Figgjo were offered in three styles and featured an elegant flat base and flared edge. Røros Tweed showed off textiles by other famous Norwegians—Anderssen & Voll, Snøhetta, and Bjarne Melgaard. At Collective Design, Oslo- and Tokyo-based Fuglen Gallery showcased an assortment of objects both new and old, alongside work by Norwegian artist Arne Lindaas. The eclectic assortment showed the thematic extension of Norwegian modernism into the 21st century, encompassing much of the iconic work with new, up-and-coming designers. In 2014, Norwegian Icons was curated by Fuglen and Blomqvist at Openhouse Gallery in New York, and showcased the Midcentury design that peaked in Norway around 1950–1970. This exhibition actually continued the tradition of Norway’s promotional shows on the international stage, while also setting up some context for the other shows. It is not just international exhibitions and commissions that have drawn attention to Norway’s strong design culture. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration famously commissions its infrastructure to architects. Across the country, there are points of architectural interest, many of which are located in scenic areas. Most famously, the Trollstigen National Tourist Route has six stunning overlooks. Besides Snøhetta’s iconic designs such as the Oslo Opera House, there are architects like Fantastic Norway and Reiulf Ramstad who are consistently producing top work. At institutions like Fuglen, 0047, and the Oslo School of Architecture & Design, intellectual communities thrive, fostering a strong community of young designers like MMW and Atelier Oslo. The city will get an additional cultural boost during the 2016 Oslo Triennale, curated by New York–based team at After Belonging Agency, a group of five Spanish architects, curators and scholars. Take a look at some of Norway's top new design in the gallery below.    
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After redesigning Times Square, Snøhetta takes on crowded blocks around Penn Station

The frustratingly congested, obnoxiously loud, and aggressively dirty area around Penn Station is easily the worst part of Manhattan. It is the reason why tourists qualify their vacation stories about New York with "but I could never live there." Turning the dreadful area around the station (let's leave the hated station out of it for now) into a pleasant place where people want to spend time and not just push and shove their way through is a Herculean task, but one that Snøhetta has agreed to take on. Crain’s reported that Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the property around Penn Station, has tapped the high-profile firm to come up with a master plan to spruce up its adjacent buildings and street-level areas. Once that plan is finalized, Vornado may bring in other architecture firms to take on specific projects. But bottom line is that Vornado understands how miserable the area is right now. Mark Ricks, the company's senior vice president of development, called it the "collision of humanity." He gets it. To see how a more pedestrian-friendly transformation would shakeout, Vornado will be turning a one-block stretch of West 33rd Street into a public plaza from mid-July to mid-October. The new space could include tables and chairs, performances, and even yoga classes. StreetsBlog reported that other changes could be coming to 32nd Street as well including a sidewalk extension, planters, and eliminating one lane of traffic. Vornado will pay for all of the improvements, which should make the area a little less terrible and its property a little more marketable.
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Moynihan Station Moves One (Possible) Step Closer to Reality

After years of delays and dashed hopes of development, the plan to extend Penn Station into the Farley Post Office across the street might finally—possibly—be on track. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Empire State Development Corp., the state economic-development agency, is looking for a broker to sell 1.5 million square feet of unused real-estate-development rights attached to the property.” The hundreds of millions that this could generate would go towards transforming the Post Office into Moynihan Station. The new space would include a grand waiting area for Amtrak inside the building's main hall. While no concrete plan or timeline is in place, the state’s request could provide significant funds to kick-start construction. Key word: Could.
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Final Decision: City Council Votes for 10-Year Permit for MSG

MadisonSqGarden This afternoon City Council voted 47-1 to limit Madison Square Garden's permit to 10 years. The arena, sitting atop Penn Station, had requested a permit in perpetuity, but a coalition of government officials, preservationists, and transportation advocates protested and pushed for a truncated 10-year renewal. Critics hope this term limit will ultimately encourage the re-location of the Garden to allow for a complete overhaul of the train station and an improved arena. According to DNA Info, the station is "North America's busiest rail station," and many have argued that it is beyond capacity and poses a safety risk for commuters. (Photo: doriandsp/Flickr)      
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An Alternative Site for Madison Square Garden: Sorkin Studios’ Late Submission

The Municipal Art Society recently commissioned and released four versions of a re-imagined Penn Station. It commissioned Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to prepare drawings of what a new terminal would like for the busiest train station in the country. It has now come to light that actually a fifth concept was prepared but not presented at MAS's "press conference." The design by the firm Michael Sorkin Studio builds on MAS's legendary 1970s protest against the destruction of Grand Central Station. In that protest Jacqueline Onassis famously joined forces with other powerful Manhattanites to stop a proposed Marcel Breuer high rise slated to be built above and across the southern front of Grand Central. Sorkin's proposal would build on Breuer legacy and move the Current Madison Square Garden from 33rd Street and place it atop Mr. Vanderbilt's Grand Central that he claims would give the Dolan family—owners of the Garden—a "highly accessible new site for MSG." Hugh Hardy (H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture) in a widely circulated email has called for a wider discussion of his and the other proposals so that "informed public discussion and analysis will lead to recognition that the large scale problems presented by Penn Station require large scale thinking and funding." If this does not happen he warns, "these ideas could easily be dismissed as “pie in the sky.” In reality we have at least fifteen years until a new station can even begin construction and Mr. Sorkin's garden in the sky has as much to offer as the other four designs. Let the informed public discussion begin.
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Speaker Quinn Backs Ten-Year Term Limit for Madison Square Garden

Consensus among the city's political players is growing in favor of the relocation of Madison Square Garden from its home atop Penn Station. Yesterday, City Council held a public hearing to discuss the future of the Garden and the overcrowded train terminal. Filmmaker Spike Lee, surrounded by an entourage of former Knicks players, testified on behalf of the Garden. According to the Wall Street Journal, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn expressed her support of a ten-year term limit for the arena in a letter addressed to the Garden's President and CEO, Hank Ratner, on Wednesday. The owners of the arena have requested a permit in perpetuity, however, several government officials and advocacy groups—including Borough President Scott Stringer, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), and the Regional Plan Association—have called for limiting the permit to 10 years. This comes after the City Planning Commission voted unanimously for a 15-year permit extension.
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Four Firms Radically Re-Envision a New Penn Station and Madison Square Garden

When Madison Square Garden’s 50-year special permit expired last year, it launched a fiery debate over the future of the arena atop Penn Station.  Critics, urban planners, and government officials have called for a 10-year term limit to encourage the relocation of MSG allowing for an overhaul of the crowded station. Today the Municipal Art Society of New York unveiled four different visions for a re-imagined Penn Station and MSG from firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Each firm offered up its own rendition—some focused more on expanding infrastructure, while others honed in on opportunities for cultural and educational programming and new amenities within the station. But all the firms decided to relocate the arena, make room for green space, and create a new light-filled and spacious train terminal. And on the more far-reaching side, they envisioned and described this new station as a civic hub that will anchor and reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhood and serve as a “gateway” (a buzz word liberally used at the unveiling) for the city. The presentations were a fantastical exercise in design if all variables—funding, political might, and private interests—miraculously came together. H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture was the first to take the stage. The firm recommends re-locating Madison Square Garden to a 16-acre site on the waterfront by the Javits Center, which would then pave the way for a new Penn Station to be built with an eight-track high-speed rail, a three-acre park, retail space, and a roof garden. The Farley Post Office would then be transformed into a Center for Education and the four corners of the station would be privately developed  “hybrid buildings.” SOM has concentrated on providing a robust infrastructure with a network of high-speed rail lines for the North East Corridor, better commuter rail service, and rail lines linking to the major airports in the area. The station will have a ticketing hall in center of building and then two concourses below with retail spaces. The firm would move Madison Square Garden to an adjacent location and imagines private development will crop up around the station. Charles Renfro of Diller Scofidio + Renfro described their “Penn Station 3.0” as a “grand civic space founded on growth and innovation.” The transit node would become “both a front door and living room” that would be “alive 24/7” and organized by “fast, transit-oriented programs” and “slower” activities including retail, cultural space, and restaurants. MSG would then be moved to the west end of the Farley building. “In closing, we basically would put a wrecking ball to the site,” said Elizabeth Diller. SHoP Architecture’s Vishaan Chakrabarti started off talking about safety as a critical challenge to the current Penn Station aggravated by a “lack of air” and “disorientation”  caused by MSG. The firm envisions an open, light-filled station that would be at the heart of a new district they’ve dubbed “Gotham Gateway.” They would relocate MSG to the Morgan site and create “a link from east to west and north to south” connecting the station, a new park, and the arena. While the other presenters focused on design, SHoP dipped its toe in public policy side of the equation. The firm is calling for the creation of a “Gateway Task Force” consisting of the Vice President, US Transportation Secretary, the governor, and the mayor, which would serve to facilitate a relocation of MSG, spearhead the Gateway Project (including funds for new tunnel, track and station), and provide necessary amenities.
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Lights, Camera, Demolition: New Play Honors Old Penn Station

While the future of the current Penn Station will be up in the air for some time, a theater group plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original Penn Station's destruction, which takes place on October 28. Taking place this fall, playwright Justin Rivers and director Barika Edwards will present The Eternal Space, a play that chronicles the demolition of the architectural monument and acts out debates over historic preservation that are still relevant today. According to the play's website, the set will transport the audience back in time: "Using the latest in projection technology, the photographs will speak for themselves making the audience feel as though they are sitting in the station itself." Present photographs are also used to create the station in its current form and to show the passing of time. Architecture and urban planning have taken center stage before in performances such as In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards, Murder, Love, and Insanity: Stanford White and the Gilded Age, an opera about Robert Moses, and a series of plays by Moshe Safdie's son Oren.
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Opposition to Madison Square Gardens Heating Up

Madison Square Garden has been on the move since its inception in 1879 as a 10,000-square-foot boxing, bike racing, and ice hockey venue in an old railroad depot at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. The facility later moved into an ornate Moorish-style building designed by famed Stanford White, architect of the Penn Station, which the arena notoriously replaced at its fourth and current home on 33rd Street in Midtown (after a brief stop on 50th Street). Now, if community boards, civic and planning groups, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer get their way, the venue will be sent packing once again. With MSG's special use permit to operate at its current site—originally issued in 1963 with a 50-year term—up for review, opposition is now mounting to relocate the arena, increase the capacity of one of the city's biggest transportation hubs, and restore some sense of "civic dignity" to the site of New York's most famous demolished train station. Last month, Community Boards 4 and 5 unanimously voted to deny the arena's owners request for a permanent extension of the permit, which would have guaranteed the arena's site for eternity. Seconding that decision, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, who has supported moving the arena for over a year, penned a scathing screed on why the arena must go:
The last thing New York needs is to enshrine the aging and oppressive Garden, which may be the world’s most famous arena but is also one of the ugliest and, for millions of commuters using the station trapped beneath it, a daily blight.
On March 21, the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Planning Association joined forces to push for reconsidering MSG's current site. According to a joint statement, the groups want "to overhaul Penn Station and reconsider the location of Madison Square Garden atop our busiest and most vital transportation hub." The two groups issued a statement:
Penn Station’s problems aren’t only aesthetic. The station is so space-constrained that it struggles to accommodate passenger traffic from the rail systems that currently use it or absorb future passenger growth and new services such as high-speed rail. While large cities around the world—and New York’s own Grand Central Terminal—have built and transformed rail stations into appealing destinations for residents and visitors, Penn Station has never been a magnet for west Midtown.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued his own opinion this week on the matter, proposing a limited ten-year extension to MSG's special use permit, noting that the arena "stifles" Penn Station's ability to grow, which could bring negative long-term consequences to the city and region. Stringer noted in his press release that Penn Station already operates at well over 100 percent of its capacity, handling more than 640,000 people daily, triple the 200,000 capacity the station carried 50 years ago. With expansion on Manhattan's West Side and proposed tunnels to New Jersey, estimates show that use will increase some 40 percent over the next two decades. “It is time to build a more spacious, attractive and efficient station that will further encourage transit use, reduce driving into the city, and spur economic growth throughout our city and our region,” Stringer said in a statement. “While we need to ensure the Garden always has a vibrant and accessible home in Manhattan, moving the arena is an important first step to improving Penn Station.” Among the challenges to updating Penn Station are the support beams for the arena, which land between tracks leading into the station. According to the New York Times, the station also fails to meet current fire codes and other safety regulations MSG's current site, Stringer continued in his press release, will ensure that Penn Station "remains a confusing, subterranean, three-level maze with indiscernible entrances, low ceilings, and exit points that are severely limited. It is simply unacceptable to continue to subject existing and future users to the current Penn Station. Failing to account for Penn Station’s current and future needs could have devastating effects and enervate New York’s ability to compete with world cities.” His proposal called for a comprehensive study of the Moynihan-Penn Station area to create a master plan that could guide growth. During the ten-year extension, an alternative site for MSG could be found. While there has been no official proposal for a relocation site, several observers have issued their own recommendations. In another New York Times piece, Kimmelman suggested another site on the West Side such as the giant Morgan General Mail Facility that covers two entire blocks. Kimmelman conceded, however, "The point isn’t deciding which possible site is best right now. It’s knowing there are paths worth pursuing, and focusing the next decade on exploring them." The Dolan family, owners of MSG, will appear before the New York City Planning Commission and eventually the full City Council this summer to make their case for renewing the permit and keeping the arena at its current site. A public hearing at the Planning Commission is scheduled for April 10 and the RPA will be hosting a forum on the arena on April 19.