Penn Station’s Possible Redesign Revealed as Part of Empire Station Complex, in Midtown Manhattan

Single-Level Alternative – New 33rd Street Entrance at Street Level looking westSingle-Level Alternative – New 33rd Street Entrance at Street Level looking west. All images courtesy of NY State

This week Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released new reconstruction options for revitalizing Pennsylvania Station in Midtown, as part of the proposed Empire Station Complex. The initiative is a massive undertaking by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak, and NJ Transit to unify all three concourses into a fresh and modern space with FXCollaborative and WSP handling design. The existing Penn Station served 600,000 passengers daily and the redesign will accommodate the future influx of customers using both the existing Penn Station and the upcoming Penn Station expansion. The state projects ridership to grow to 830,000 daily users in 2038, about 54 percent of whom will be MTA customers using LIRR, Metro-North, and the subway, and 42 percent to be NJ Transit customers, with remaining four percent to be Amtrak customers.

LIRR 33rd Street Concourse – opening early 2023

LIRR 33rd Street Concourse – opening early 2023

“The Empire Station Complex is a transformative project that will support and deliver on the long-delayed Gateway vision for the entire East Coast and enhance the passenger experience in North America’s busiest transportation hub. Together with our partners in New Jersey and at Amtrak, New York State is moving quickly to advance this comprehensive plan,” said Governor Cuomo. “These reconstruction alternatives provide a framework for a new and improved Penn Station that serves as an appropriate doorway to a world-class city. Every single day, we get closer to the end of COVID-19 and the beginning of a new post-pandemic economy, and this project will be a cornerstone of the revitalized New York City that we must build together.”

Critical elements of the re-envisioning include additional concourse space to reduce congestion now in and handle future growth, simplifying ticketing, increasing mobility through more stairs, escalators, and elevators, upgrading to full accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and new retail.

33rd Street looking east from Eighth Avenue – Shared Street – pedestrians have priority (could be used with either alternative)

33rd Street looking east from Eighth Avenue – Shared Street – pedestrians have priority (could be used with either alternative)

The first option known as the Two-Level Alternative uses the existing two-level boarding configuration as a starting off point. It also creates a central atrium, improves the existing layout, repurposes some of Amtrak’s space for NJ Transit’s commuters and operations, adds new vertical access points to platforms, widens concourses, and creates new entrances at sidewalk level along Eighth Avenue. This redesign can be incorporated into plans of a new Eighth Avenue entrance and a light-filled West Train Hall where the Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater currently stands.

Two-Level Alternative - Central Atrium looking west from Lower Level

Two-Level Alternative – Central Atrium looking west from Lower Level

Two-Level Alternative – looking down into the New West Train Hall from 31st Street entrance (could also be used with the Single-Level Alternative)

Two-Level Alternative – looking down into the New West Train Hall from 31st Street entrance (could also be used with the Single-Level Alternative)

Two-Level Alternative - Central Atrium looking east from Upper Level

Two-Level Alternative – Central Atrium looking east from Upper Level

The Single-Level Alternative redesign turns Penn Station into an open, single-level concourse. This option eliminates low ceiling heights and simplifies entrances and exits from trains and street level, by removing 40 percent of the upper level so that all the public concourses could be two or three stories high. The new circulation areas improves sightlines and access to platforms, tracks, and station entrances/exits. A multi-story, mid-block Train Hall with atrium would bring in natural light. Like the Two-Level Alternative, this redesign can also be combined with a new Eighth Avenue entrance and the light-filled West Train Hall.

Single-Level Alternative – Mid-Block Train Hall looking south from Lower Level near 33rd Street

Single-Level Alternative – Mid-Block Train Hall looking south from Lower Level near 33rd Street

Single-Level Alternative – Mid-Block Train Hall looking south from Street Level entrance on 33rd Street

Single-Level Alternative – Mid-Block Train Hall looking south from Street Level entrance on 33rd Street

Public feedback is requested here before the reconstruction can move forward. Also next in the process would be the securing of funding by the state and an Environmental Impact Statement for the Penn Station expansion.

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24 Comments on "Penn Station’s Possible Redesign Revealed as Part of Empire Station Complex, in Midtown Manhattan"

  1. G-d willing, we should all live long enough to see a version of one of these plans become reality.

  2. Well, I don’t really care whichever design comes to reality, as long as it’s better and nicer than the existing station.
    But, I will say that I prefer the Single-Level Alternative. I really like the skylight and the all the different walkways. It just looks a bit nicer and also it’s more pedestrian friendly than the Two-Level Alternative. To me, the Two-Level Alternative looks like a mall, and it’s just too uniform and dull. It looks like it’ll probably get clogged by traffic very easily to due this. But, that’s just my opinion.
    Overall though, pretty cool!

    • Yes, the single-level alternative is the clear winner. The skylights make the difference. It doesn’t rise to great architecture, but it has a chance of being good.

  3. No good. Got to get rid of the “Dolan’s Drum’ first.

  4. MSG needs to go. They can build a new one somewhere else, so we can have a better Penn Station development. Maybe a replica of the 2nd MSG. There is nothing special about the current one, as it’s already the 4th Garden.

  5. Single level is most user friendly. Hopefully the antiquated MSG will be relocated to the 34th Street 7th Avenue block opposite the its current location and Macy’s to make this all possible.

  6. Peter Mandzych | April 24, 2021 at 10:43 am | Reply

    Madison Square Garden isn’t going anywhere. Completely confounded why certain people need to drag out this arguement. The State of New York controls the game and the rules are now etched in stone. The old Penn Station was torn down beginning in 1963.Yes it was a tragedy from an architectural and functional perspective but people forget or are too busy watching “America Idol” to understand that the station was in utter decay in the late 50’s and early 60’s and the Pennsylvania Railroad was headed and eventually filed for the largest U.S. bankruptcy to date in 1970. It was doomed though one positive development was the creation of the Landmarks Commission in New York City which eventually saved Grand Central Station. Regardless some still hold on to the utter fantasy of seeing Madison Square Garden going away from the corner of 33rd and 7th Avenue and completely choose to ignore the sporting history of the building that has been coined “The World’s Most Famous Arena”. To those I say get off your snobbish high horse and negative slant towards MSG and the utter delusionary fantasy of seeing the Garden going away after the 10 yearlease expires. Either go back to sleep or face reality and GET OVER IT.

    • Peter Mandzych | April 24, 2021 at 10:45 am | Reply

      Oh and I root for the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Nets so I have no dog in the hunt.

    • The Dolans are laughing at you shilling for them for free.

      • Cheesemaster200 | April 24, 2021 at 3:07 pm | Reply

        The Dolans would love a new arena, who are you kidding? The question is who pays for it, and I think the inevitable answer to it will be “not the Dolans”.

        Leaving Manhattan without a major event venue is politically untenable, and one mention of moving the Knicks and Rangers to the Prudential Center, UBS Arena, or Barclays Center would end the discussion real quick.

  7. Cheesemaster200 | April 24, 2021 at 10:50 am | Reply

    The existing Madison Square Garden should be “squared” out. Each corner would be provided with a combination of granite and multi-story skylights into an enlarged multistory atrium below. Provide granite colonnades between each new corner evocative of the previous Penn Station that was demolished. This would remove the view of the hideous circular MSG from the street, and a timeless integration into the post office across 8th avenue. On the east side, wrap 2 Penn Plaza in a more modern glass entrance similar to what has been proposed. Modern in the front, historical in the back. Pursuing this could be done without demolishing MSG, keep the arena on top of a major transit hub, be accomplished with little interruption of existing train operations, and will cost much less than other alternatives.

    Inside Penn Station you could demolish the Amtrak level and integrated it into one single level on what is currently the LIRR concourse. Remove the paramount theater to free up ceiling space. Clad all the walls with granite to respect the historical nature of the station and put in some crazy electronic ceiling that will garner Instagram pics from tourists. Entrances will come from the new wraparound of 2 Penn Plaza and escalators down the high-atrium skylit corners previously discussed.

    Grand Central has lots of rat-warren-esque interior corridors and passageways. The difference is that they are stone clad, furnished and maintained with respect to the station’s past. When they created the current rendition of Penn Station it was done in the contemporary style of the 1960s. It has not been upgraded (or cleaned, maintained) since. My problems with the proposed renovations in these articles is that they are entirely in a contemporary style that will likely be outdated (again) in 20-30 years. Learn from the successful Moynihan Hall. Respect the past while integrating the benefits of the future.

    • Peter Mandzych | April 24, 2021 at 11:01 am | Reply

      That’s the best idea and solution towards solving the issue of how to improve the exterior of Madison Square Garden to date from all I’ve read over these last few years.Finally someone addressed a positive solution towards the exterior of that arena Great post Cheesemaster200 !!!!

  8. The current MSG is over 50 years old and the oldest arena used by either the NHL or NBA…
    It’s “status” well predated this current iteration- There is no need to handicap our transportation needs for this current structure.
    We have given the Dolans enough.
    PS I remember going to the previous Garden as a kid.
    It was special in its time too.
    Please look at Chakrabati’s plan which is superior to these

    • Cheesemaster200 | April 24, 2021 at 2:59 pm | Reply

      Chakrabati’s plan is typical of the “starchitect” mentality and shows an obvious lack of understanding of cost, functionality, or implementation. It focuses on some idealized version of the end product.

      His plan would “use the shell” of the existing MSG to create some sort of grand train hall. However in practice the plan effectively demolishes MSG. If we are demolishing and rebuilding, then why are we keeping the out-of-place footprint and façade of MSG? It is quite literally a round peg in a square hole and is one of the major problems with the existing installation. Reusing the existing structure is likely also not as easy as it sounds; how is that even accomplished per his design?

      If we are going to incur the massive logistical challenges of a rebuild (i.e. Penn needs to remain operational), then design something a little more inspiring and functional than a mock MSG.

  9. Looks beautiful. Build it.

    • MSG should be relocated to a new sports/entertainment hub in Sunnyside. Not tomorrow, but eventually and we should commit now. The real estate is too valuable to have a big empty box on top of 1M/day commuter hub.

  10. Buncha poopy

  11. The wonderful thing as an architect working on Penn Station, is that you could pretty much do anything to it and it’s a win.

  12. Neither alternative addresses the biggest problem with Penn Station: the track and platform situation. While the two levels are an embarrassment and ingress and egress are still a problem, the station was designed for through intercity travel, not for terminating commuter rail lines. The platforms are too narrow to allow quick operation and turnaround of trains. Adding tracks to the south, tracks that won’t connect to the East River tunnels, won’t help. Cut the number of platforms in half, dedicate sections of platforms to LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak, and, eventually, Metro North, and run through service, LIRR and Metro North to Secaucus, NJ Transit to a new Sunnyside station and some to Jamaica. Penn Station will operate much better as a through station, where passengers get on and off trains quickly rather than having the trains emptied and possibly sent light to be stored.

  13. It looks like the two level plan is the value engineered version of the single level option. In any case, I must have missed something. I thought that the state was “committed” to the Chakrabati plan to move MSG closer to Herald Square. As usual with these major changes, there seems to be a certain amount of baiting and switching going on.

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