By Dusica Sue Malesevic
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER GROUP
In these dark transit times punctuated by canceled and delayed trains, there is a bright spot: Two new entrances opened last week at the corners of West 31st and West 33rd streets and Eighth Avenue across from Penn Station.
The bookend entrances at the landmarked James A. Farley Post Office Building are part of a newly expanded West End concourse. The sleek white concourse accented with canary yellow and royal blue is the underground link between Penn Station and what will become the Moynihan Train Hall. Riders will have access to 17 of the station’s 21 tracks for New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak trains as well as the A, C, and E subway lines.
The opening of the concourse completes the first phase of transforming the Farley building into the 255,000-square-foot Moynihan Train Hall, which will house ticketing and waiting areas for the LIRR and Amtrak, This is part of the larger $1.6 billion redevelopment of what is being dubbed the Pennsylvania Station-Farley Complex.
Jennifer Pynn, 35, commutes daily from Huntington, L.I., to the city and frequently uses the tracks in the concourse, calling the area before “dirty” and “disgusting.” She said it was under construction for a long time.
“I think it’s nice — it’s wide open now,” she told Chelsea Now. “It’s bright, which is good. It’s very sweet and endearing to have all these murals up.”
Throughout the concourse and at its entrances, there are murals depicting different parts and boroughs of the city, highlighting landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge, 1 World Trade Center, the Roosevelt Island tram, the Bronx Zoo, and the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, among others. Huge, wall-length screens feature areas and attractions in New York City, such as Soho, Chinatown and the Statue of Liberty, and New York state, such as the Catskill Mountains.
Pynn said a clear effort was put into the color scheme and making the space lighter.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Lisa Mayers, 50, who noted she would come into the area depending on whether or not she caught a C train and liked the fact that Track 12 was now easily accessible. At one point, she explained, one used to have to go all the way around to get to it.
For 10 years, Brittany Evans, 30, has been traveling between Amityville, L.I., and the city, and said she has endured delayed, canceled, and packed trains recently.
“It’s really nice. But in my honest opinion it would be nicer if they put the money into new signals,” she said, given that she only spends a short amount of time in the concourse waiting, but rides the train for an hour and a half.
Penn Station — the nation’s largest rail hub serving over 600,000 passengers a day — has been plagued with frequent track problems and two derailments, and will undergo repair work during the “Summer of Hell,” a much-repeated phrase popularized by none other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the necessary but disruptive project set to begin in July.
The new West End concourse “increases passenger circulation and streamlines train operations” and takes “pressure off of the overcrowded Penn Station complex,” according to the governor’s office. It is double in length and width of the original concourse and has new stairways to connect with nine of Penn Station’s 11 platforms.
The project cost $315 million, Amy Varghese, press secretary for Empire State Development, said in an email.
In a Dec. 4, 2014 article (“A Late Arrival, Yes, But Moynihan Station Construction Is On Track”), Chelsea Now reported that the concourse and entrances were slated to open in 2016. When asked about the delay, Varghese said the project was designed six years ago and since then the MTA “has undertaken several ambitious station redesigns to renew, modernize and expand our transit systems into the 21st century.”
Enhancements — digital media screens for train information, way-finding graphics to improve navigation for commuters and tourists, upgraded lighting and more energy-efficient LEDs — for the concourse “ensure that this project is consistent with those broader station improvement efforts,” she said.
Financing for the $1.6 billion redevelopment of the Penn-Farley Complex was recently finalized, Cuomo announced last Friday. Empire State Development and private partners Related Companies, Vornado Realty LP, and Skanska USA inked the final financial agreement, according to the release.
The project is being funded with $550 million from the state, $420 million from Amtrak, the MTA, the Port Authority and federal grants, and $630 million from the joint venture developers.
The hall will have access to nine platforms and 17 tracks, and also provide direct access to the train station from Ninth Avenue for the first time — a nod to burgeoning Hudson Yards and the far West Side.
With the financing in place, construction will begin and the Moynihan Train Hall is expected to be completed at the end of 2020.