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Once upon a time there was an elegant, Beaux-Art train station in Manhattan named after the Pennsylvania Railroad system that built beautiful terminals for its lines across the country. Designed by the legendary architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White, “Old Pennsylvania Station” took nine years to build and opened in 1910.

It was a masterwork of pink granite, marble columns, and arched-glass windows and stretched two city blocks from Seventh to Eighth Avenue between 31st Street and 33rd Street. Part of the building’s iconic ceiling was made from glass and wrought-iron.

Old Pennsylvania Station

Original Pennsylvania Station. Image courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collection

Train travel at Penn Station and throughout the country peaked during WWII. Afterwards though, rail travel declined significantly with the advent of jet air travel and the interstate highway system, and Pennsylvania Railroad failed to maintain the station because of their financial woes.

The above-ground structures were replaced by Madison Square Garden, while the underground portion of the station remained. The current Penn Station has three levels of mostly low-ceilinged passageways and is not exactly a place beloved by most New Yorkers.

It is then with great excitement that we greet the brand new Daniel Patrick Moynihan train hall that just opened on New Years Day. This extension to Penn Station takes over the majority of the massive post office that sits on 8th avenue between 31s and 33rd streets directly across the street from Madison Square Garden.

Old Penn Station eagle

An eagle from “Old Pennsylvania Station” that now stands outside Madison Square Garden

Moynihan Train Hall
Moynihan Train Hall
Moynihan Train Hall

Here are some details of the new train hall provided in a press release by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo:

  • Construction has generated an estimated economic impact of $5 billion, supporting more than 5,000 construction jobs and 11,000 indirect jobs. Additionally, the core project management team was more than 42 percent women
  • Moynihan Train Hall reshapes the travel experience in Penn Station, the busiest passenger transportation facility in the Western Hemisphere that is used by more than 700,000 passengers per day – more than LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark International Airports combined
  • The main hall once served as the Post Office’s mail sorting room and is reminiscent of the original Penn Station’s vaulted concourse. It includes a 92-foot-high skylight that holds an acre of glass
  • All Long Island Railroad and Amtrak trains are now served by the 17 tracks accessible from the train hall. There is also a direct connection to 9th Avenue and the 8th Avenue Subway
  • Suspended from the cent­­­ral truss above the floor, a six-foot by 12-foot clock designed by Pennoyer Architects evokes nostalgia for the golden age of rail travel
  • The floors and walls of the main train hall are made from more than 80,000 square feet of marble  sourced from the same Tennessee quarries that provided the marble for Grand Central Terminal over 100 years ago

New Public Art

Continuing from the Governor’s press release: “In partnership with the Public Art Fund, Moynihan Train Hall features a program of ambitious permanent art installations from three of the world’s leading artists—Stan Douglas, Kehinde Wiley, and artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The landmark artworks created are emblematic of the dynamism and transformation that are quintessential to New York and this new transportation gateway.

Ceiling installations by Kehinde Wiley (the three panels in the images below) and Elmgreen & Dragset­­ (and the single image of the cityscape) define two primary entrances to the train hall.

Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume said, “Reflecting on themes of past, present, and future, three extraordinary new site-specific works of art…which dazzle in their beauty, humanity, ambition, and technical mastery–capture the spirit of this remarkable new transit hub. Elmgreen & Dragset have dreamed into being an imaginary cityscape that descends from the ceiling and radiates the dynamism and energy of a contemporary megacity. Kehinde Wiley’s hand-painted, illuminated stained glass reinvents the classical ceiling fresco. His celestial scenes are filled with young, Black New Yorkers in poses borrowed from breakdance, picturing in this new civic space an exuberant form of expression that originated on the streets of our city. Captivating and powerful, each work is inspired by New York’s rich heritage, its diverse and talented people, and its irrepressible creativity.”

Amtrak

Amtrak owns Penn Station. Their trains will arrive and depart from the new train hall. According to Amtrak, here are a host of benefits for their passengers.

  • A grand and spacious train hall featuring a sky lit atrium
  • Dedicated customer waiting areas
  • A combined ticketing and baggage area
  • Improved passenger comfort and security
  • Accessibility for customers with disabilities
  • Inductive loop system for hearing assistance
  • Complimentary WiFi in all customer spaces
  • Dedicated lactation lounge for nursing mothers

New Metropolitan Lounge

The Moynihan Train Hall will include a Metropolitan Lounge (formerly ClubAcela), a premium lounge space for Amtrak travelers. It will provide the following amenities:

  • Priority boarding
  • Expanded food and beverage offerings
  • Family waiting area
  • Dedicated customer service agents
  • Private restrooms
  • Complimentary WiFi

Here are some photos of the new Metropolitan Lounge.

All images by GothamGuru except for the first one, which is courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collection.

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