If Governor Eliot Spitzer would like to shore up his rocky standing with the public, one master stroke would be to pull the feuding and unraveling forces that surround the plans for Moynihan Station together and get work started on what would turn out to be one of the city’s most enduring and impressive public work projects.
As it stands, the vision of Moynihan Station—which currently involves building a new Penn Station within the magnificent Beaux-Arts Farley Post Office building, as well as relocating Madison Square Garden there and building two soaring office towers—is in danger of being dismissed by New Yorkers as another terrific idea that will never see daylight because it is so mired in political, financial and personal turf squabbles. And indeed, the number of players in this game makes consensus about as likely as a bear hug between John McCain and Rush Limbaugh: In addition to the governor and the Empire State Development Corporation, there are the developers, Stephen Ross and Steven Roth; the railroads (New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority); the preservationists (the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Municipal Art Society); the Dolans, owners of Madison Square Garden; and the Bloomberg administration.
But overcoming such obstacles is precisely what greatness is made of. It’s worth noting that the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan would instantly recognize the delays and red tape that have prevented his gift to New York from being realized. During his last term as senator, Moynihan was a constant critic of the slow, unwieldy and discouraging way in which New York approached public-works projects. He would talk about the short amount of time it took to build the George Washington Bridge, just four years from breaking ground until the first car drove across. The senator couldn’t understand why his home state seemed unable to grasp golden opportunities to accomplish large, worthy projects.
Both Moynihan Station and ground zero prove that his analysis remains relevant. And the clock is ticking.
The current Penn Station is, needless to say, an unsightly, slovenly embarrassment. It is the nation’s busiest commuter rail terminal, the gateway to New York City for 500,000 riders each day, and yet there is nothing memorable or even agreeable about its dingy, claustrophobic corridors.
Federal money for the multibillion-dollar Moynihan Station project depends on the city, state and the interested parties to get their act together. Governor Spitzer has an opportunity to create a new landmark for the city, and a new legacy for himself.