Penn Station Looks To Be In Line For An Upcoming Upgrade

Penn Station, while a NYC icon, is overdue for modernization.

By Jeff Vasishta October 4, 2016
All renderings by SOM, via Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Eighteen foot ceilings with LED lights to resemble blue skies and clouds? Could this really be the same Penn Station? The one which for many commuters feels like embarking on the journey of a tapeworm through a small intestine? Even though the 1.6 billion dollar revamp, to turn the Post Office into the new Pennsylvania Station Complex only exists as an architect’s rendering, it’s comforting to know that there is light, literally, at the end of the tunnel.

Related: Port Authority Face Lift: Five Proposals To Remedy Hell On Earth

“It really gives you a sense of openness as opposed to being closed in,” Cuomo said during a speech to the Association for a Better New York. “It is dirty, it is dingy, it is dark and that is not what New York is all about. It is the equivalent of LaGuardia Airport which is now become a national laughingstock,” said Cuomo.


Let’s face it, New York’s transit systems are an embarrassment. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is like a trip back into the bad old New York where you might still expect to run into characters like Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) and Ratso Rizzo (Midnight Cowboy). Touching down at LaGuardia would make fleeing refugees from war torn countries wonder if they’d even left home. It’s acutely embarrassing compared to the shimmering, airy structures around wealthier European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Vice President Joe Biden famously likened LaGuardia to a “third world airport” in 2015.

“Penn Station is the train version of LaGuardia,” Cuomo added, hammering home his point.


But the designers of Penn Station can’t be held to blame, not simply because they’re dead, but because the hub was built over a hundred years ago when the needs of the city and the city itself were completely different. With 650,000 passengers per day, the station is a key transportation hub. It has more than double the daily traffic than John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports combined and is at triple the capacity it was designed for.

The redesign will change that, said Cuomo. The width of the 33rd Street LIRR corridor, one of the busiest sections of the station, will be nearly tripled in width. The two subway stations located at Penn Station, the A, C and E trains and 1, 2, and 3 lines will also be improved as part of a $50 million upgrade. The portion of Amtrak remaining in Penn Station will also be redesigned. With 650,000 passengers per day, the station has more than double the daily traffic than John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports combined and is at triple the capacity it was designed for.

At the same time, the Farley Post Office building will become Moynihan Train Hall and will house both the LIRR and Amtrak instead of just Amtrak alone. There will also be 112,000 square feet of retail, including a 70,000-square-foot balcony for retail and dining. There will also be 588,000 square feet of office space in the building.

It all sounds staggering and something you may well expect your grandchildren to witness being completed. Shockingly, though after the contract is awarded at the end of 2016, the Governor expects much of the work to be completed by 2018 with the overall completion expected by 2020. Four years to makeover Penn Station? It makes you wonder what took New York so long in the first place.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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