A Look Back: Amtrak, the Postal Service, and the Hatching of Moynihan Station

slide1 A Look Back: Amtrak, the Postal Service, and the Hatching of Moynihan Station

An addendum to our article earlier this week on the never-ending Moynihan Station saga: The concept of converting the Farley Post Office into a rail station is widely viewed as belonging to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, its most persistent advocate from the early 1990s until his death in 2003. But the history goes back a bit further, and started as a partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak, both of which stood to gain from a redevelopment of Farley.

Two of the major forces behind the plan’s genesis: Donald Pross, who served as Amtrak’s director of real estate and development until 1995, and Dennis Wamsley, who ran the Postal Service’s asset management division.

Amtrak, eager to have a more presentable flagship station, was looking at options of how to improve Penn Station in the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to Mr. Pross.

Around the same time, a postal service executive was heading up a program known as asset management for the agency, finding ways to take existing properties, add other uses, and bring in some new money.

With the giant Farley building sitting across the street from Penn Station, and many platforms running underneath, it seemed the marriage could work. Moynihan’s office eventually found out about the studies under way, formed an interest, and took the lead in securing funding on the project and (trying) to bring all the parties together.

“I do remember him coming to our offices—our board room, where we had a model, and I was kind of tickled because he comes up, he puts his arm on my shoulder, and he says, ‘Don, turn the lights on,’ meaning light the model,” Mr. Pross said.

Of course, to this day, the sprawling set of involved parties haven’t been able to come together to reach a deal, or at least not one that stays intact long enough to get started.

“Once you started mixing politics into it, there were too many players, and there were too many moving pieces,” said Mr. Wamsley.