LIRR line may end at new Penn Station by 2009

By Philip Newman

By decade’s end, Queens commuters could begin arriving at a new Penn Station in the fruition of a long-delayed plan to restore some measure of the elegance of the original station torn down nearly 40 years ago.

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who originated the idea for a new Penn Station, was among those who announced the deal to move the station from beneath Madison Square Garden across Eighth Avenue to the main post office.

“In the old time, you arrived at Pennsylvania Station at the train platform, you went up the stairs to heaven, make that Manhattan,” said Moynihan last week. “And we shall have it again.”

The project to transform the James A. Farley Post Office into a new Penn Station is expected to cost nearly $1 billion and could be completed by 2009.

Photos of the original station show a concourse sunlit by enormous windows and the new station is to have a partial ceiling of glass to provide a similarly bright environment for commuters and travelers.

The present Penn Station, with a dark, underground setting, has long been criticized as a poor successor to the original terminal, which was considered an architectural jewel undeserving of the demolition carried out in 1963.

More than 500,000 people pass through Penn Station daily and the new station has been designed to accommodate 30 percent more than today’s passengers in the usually cramped terminal.

For the thousands of commuters from Queens and Long Island who arrive and depart in the Long Island Rail Road terminal a level below that of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, conditions until recent years were even more dismal with peeling paint, glaring lights and a temporary look.

Under terms of the agreement, New York state is to buy the post office for $230 million and transfer it to the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corp.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is to provide $145 million toward the purchase with the rest will come from Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York State bonds and private financial sources.

Officials said plans for the new station would preserve the two-block-long motto across the façade of the Farley post office: “Neither Rain Nor Snow Nor Gloom of Night Stays These Couriers from the Swift Completion of Their Appointed Rounds.”

The two-block-long row of Tuscan columns facing Eighth Avenue are also to remain.

The Postal Service is to retain in the new station a lobby offering mail services and nearly half of the new facility is to be retail space.

The project to renovate the Farley Post Office is expected to provide 7,000 jobs, more than 1,000 of them permanent.

The proposal to transform the post office to a new Penn Station goes back nearly a decade, but negotiations had stalled several times.

The original station, built by the Pennsylvania Railroad at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and opened in 1910. The station, with 150-foot high ceilings, was modeled in part on the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The Farley Post Office was designed by the same firm.

Moynihan, recently appointed by Bloomberg to the committee overseeing the project, was one of many who had long denounced the destruction of the original Penn Station. Razing the building led to the establishment of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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