Is Rebuilding NYC’s Penn Station A ‘Point Of Pride’ Or Misguided Nostalgia?

FILE PHOTO - Morning commuters are seen outside the New York Stock Exchange, July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File PhotoFILE PHOTO - Morning commuters are seen outside the New York Stock Exchange, July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

A major push is underway in New York City to rebuild the old Penn Station and modernize transportation, while relieving commuter congestion.

A group called “Rebuild Penn Station” is lobbying for rebuilding the original design, along with structural innovations that would accommodate a higher volume of riders. The old station was torn down in 1963.

“President Trump talked about wanting to spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure and we think rebuilding the original Penn Station could be the capstone in his national infrastructure project,” Justin Shubow, executive director of Rebuild Penn Station, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The original Penn Station, was not just a magnificent work of architecture, but it was an important public space. It made visitors feel like equals in a democratic society. There is a moral and political element to the building. It’s an absolute point of pride in what New York can accomplish, and what America can accomplish.”

Rebuild Penn Station is backing a plan that calls for Madison Square Garden to be moved to 28th Street when its lease is up in 2023. It would be replaced with a new train station similar to Grand Central, and the underground foundation of Penn would be improved.

Sam Turvey, who heads the steering committee to rebuild Penn Station, told TheDCNF that their group is backing this plan because the layout works well for commuter stations.

“If you look throughout the country, that style of architecture is tremendously successful in a railroad station. This really works,” Turvey said. “We put the cost at about $3.5 billion. They’re spending billions of dollars on other things that frankly we think should have been spent on this first.”

“There’s no place for smoke to go, and heaven forbid if there was a terrorist attack — given how difficult it is to navigate, it would be a total nightmare,” Turvey added.

However, not everyone agrees with doubling down on the old design. Duo Dickinson has been an architect for 30 years, and has designed more than 700 buildings. He believes the proposed plan would focus too much on style and not enough on innovation.

“Penn Station as it stands now is just a reprehensible, dark act of meanness. It’s a mean building made for profit at the expense of human dignity and hope and usefulness,” Dickinson told The DCNF. “It just doesn’t work. We’re all agreed it’s terrible. But that doesn’t make the beauty of Penn Station the thing that we should opt for.”

Dickinson said the emotional connection to the old design is interfering with the practical applications of the project, and thinks the quality would diminish if the proposal went forward.

“The rules of the site and the rules of transportation have changed,” he said. “If you simply say we love this building so much that we are literally going to Xerox a building and put up the new amenities into it, you are essentially replicating change. You are not innovating.”

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