The long, maddening process of converting the old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue into a world-class rail station may yet have a happy ending. Amtrak announced earlier this week that it will move into the proposed new station rather than remain in that hellish pit known as Penn Station.
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who first proposed the new station 15 years ago, believed that New York deserved a gorgeous, inspiring rail gateway to take the place of the old Penn Station, wrecked in an act of civic vandalism in the early 1960s to make way for a new Madison Square Garden. Senator Moynihan saw the station not as a commuter hub but as a memorable public space designed to thrill rail passengers from all points north, south and west.
That bold vision, however, appeared to be foiled several years ago when Amtrak decided to remain in the pit below Madison Square Garden rather than move across Eighth Avenue. That disappointing decision left New Jersey Transit as the new station’s only client, meaning that only metropolitan-area commuters, not (for the most part) tourists and other longer-distance travelers, would have enjoyed the retro-ambience and romance of the old post office building—if, that is, the thing was actually built.
Now, however, Amtrak is back, which means that the station—actually more of an annex to Penn than a stand-alone station—may yet fulfill Senator Moynihan’s vision. New leaders at Amtrak are friendlier to the project than the old regime, and Amtrak has negotiated a favorable deal involving revenue from retail outlets in the new station. That’s all good. The new station should be more than a place for commuters, although they surely deserve first-rate facilities. It should be a place by which visitors who come to New York are impressed, inspired, awed.
Give credit to Senator Charles Schumer, who served with Senator Moynihan for two years before the latter’s retirement in 2000, for never giving up on the project. It isn’t a done deal yet, but thanks in part to Mr. Schumer’s determination, the future Moynihan Station is closer to reality now than it was a month ago.
The late senator would not have been surprised by the delays and red tape that have marred this project. With any luck, however, all of that may be history.