Cuomo Unveils New Penn Station Renovation Plans and 33rd Street Entrance


Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who fancies himself an infrastructure builder on par with Robert Moses, today announced plans for a new entrance to Pennsylvania Station and a pedestrian plaza that would involve permanently closing West 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

The new entrance on West 33rd Street would offer access to the Long Island Railroad and the subway and make it easier and safer for commuters to get in and out of the building, the governor said during a press conference at Penn Station this morning. The existing pedestrian plaza on that block, which sits in front of The Pennsy food hall on the east side of West 33rd Street, would be formalized and get some additional landscaping and seating.

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“Right now you have several entrances into Penn,” he said. “They’re small, not convenient and from a security point of view not enough to allow quick evacuation of the facility.”

The governor also laid out more concrete renovation plans for Penn Station, which he said should be tied to the funding and construction of the Gateway Tunnel project.

The state plans to expand the LIRR concourse, widening the hallway to 60 feet and raising the ceiling—which dips as low as seven feet in some places—to 18 feet. And officials expect to build glassed-in pedestrian walkways that allow riders to see the trackways and wait until trains actually arrive to go down onto the platforms.

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One of the proposed designs for new Penn Station entrance.

The Empire State Development Corporation has not yet determined the design and cost of the entrance, but Cuomo did display (and criticize) a few of the design proposals during his speech. The price of the project will also include the cost of buying out or relocating existing tenants along the LIRR concourse.

In addition, ESD will undertake a larger planning process with local stakeholders to put together a neighborhood-wide development plan, according to the governor. In the past, Cuomo has floated controversial plans for the area around Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, including the possibility of using eminent domain to seize property that could be used for a new bus station.

Cuomo is currently revamping the former Farley Post Office Building into a new train hall dubbed Moynihan Station. Amtrak and the LIRR will eventually move into Moynihan, he said.

Then the governor hopes to dramatically renovate Penn Station, in coordination with the construction of the new Gateway tunnel-and-bridge project across the Hudson River. The century-old underwater tunnels between New York and New Jersey are widely considered a potential chokepoint for trains that run along the rail corridor from Boston to Washington D.C. Amtrak officials have warned that the tunnels, which carry roughly 200,000 passengers daily and were damaged during Superstorm Sandy, could fail anytime in the next 10 to 15 years.

New York and New Jersey have not yet nailed down federal funding for the Gateway project, which could cost as much as $30 billion. Both states have pulled together cash to cover the first phase of Gateway, which is expected to cost $14.5 billion and includes the reconstruction of two rail bridges between Newark, N.J. and Penn Station, as the New York Daily News and other outlets reported this summer.

Cuomo admitted that he doesn’t want to want to wait for federal funding to start the renovation of Penn Station or the Gateway project, but he didn’t elaborate on how, exactly, the state would gather funding.