Yesterday, a whole cadre of public officials came to Penn Station to break ground on the first phase of Moynihan Station, the decades-delayed, dreams-deferred plan to return Penn Station to its former glory. As the Times notes, it was a symbolic gesture, since the $83 million in stimulus money that will help spur the $276 million first phase of the project was already announced in February. But hey, it’s the (much diminished) station’s 100th anniversary, so why not throw a party with the mayor, the governor, and Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood?
Not that there’s much to celebrate just yet: the $1.5 billion reconstruction of the station within the defunct James Farley post office is still years, if not many more decades, away. For now, we get a new concourse, extended platforms, and some glorified subway entrances. Meanwhile, the other major project for the station, the ARC Tunnel, which would have also expanded the station, is still very much off the tracks.
Still, who doesn’t love some good political theater? A cinderblock wall was even erected and subsequently demolished with sledgehammers, a nice twist on the usual officials-moving-around-dirt-with-golden-shovels routine. Tom Scocca took in the scene:
Schumer spoke for a while. A fire engine drove by, with its sirens wailing, and Schumer kept talking over it. Not long after, a Beth Israel ambulance went by, again with sirens, and Schumer kept talking over the ambulance. The Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression, Schumer said, and Moynihan Station can be built in an economic downturn too—”smartly and with good focus.”
Schumer introduced his junior Senate colleague, Kirsten Gillibrand, who spoke briefly, then yielded again to Schumer, who introduced Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation. “You cannot stop Charles Schumer,” LaHood said. “I don’t care if you’re a fire truck or an ambulance.”