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The Tally Ho

Monday, May 31, 2004

Next Stop, Moynihan Station

Perhaps my favorite thing about living in New York is walking everywhere I go. You can walk miles and miles everyday and not think anything of it, which is very liberating. Owning a car involves parking, fixing wear and tear, insurance, and sitting on your butt in traffic – all things I would rather never do again. $70 a month and you have unlimited subway and bus rides. So I have been trying to follow public transit issues.

Amtrak was set to move into their new Manhattan station, Moynihan Station, in the James A. Farley post office between 8th & 9th Avenue and 31st and 33rd Streets. The idea for the move is to relieve the pressures at Pennsylvania Station not only on Amtrak, but also on New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad – as all three have seen steady increases in ridership. One of the hold ups is that Amtrak currently owns their space in Penn. Station, thus no rent. If Amtrak were to move into the Farley building, Amtrak could end up paying $3.9 million for the space. While the Northeast Corridor line runs in the black, that is still a hefty sum of money - especially when they already own a space. One possibility has Amtrak staying in Penn, with NJ Transit moving to Farley. While the Times article on Friday by Michael Luo and Charles V. Bagli wrote that some think Amtrak is really just positioning for a better deal, someone will take that space. The fact that there are plans to build a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson means this is a prime location for decades.

Besides the purely practical aspect, there is also the aesthetic aspect. There are two things I believe are essential for dense urban living. First, an ample amount of public space – like Central Park and Riverside Park. Second, I think there is a need to pay tribute to our cultural and architectural pasts. Seeing how unimpressive much of post WWII construction is, the Farley post office building is an impressive piece of architecture complete with a row of Corinthian columns. If it were not for Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grand Central Terminal would be a cheesy ugly thing with a bowling ally. Penn. Station was knocked down… one of Manhattan’s lost beauties. If the post office needs to leave the Farley building, NJ Transit or Amtrak needs to move in so there is no repeat of the disaster that knocking down Pennsylvania Station was.

"It’s a chance to redeem ourselves after tearing down one of the most beautiful stations ever built, the original Penn Station," said Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. "You ask any of the current passengers whether they want to come up in the current drab building or into a new Moynihan station.”

Update: Picture of the Farley Building


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