I’m back again for another installment of the Blue and White Blog. Earlier this week I dropped a friend off at Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan. Penn Station is one of the two most well known train stations in New York City, along with Grand Central Terminal. And unlike Grand Central Terminal with it’s giant concourse and austere Roman columns, Penn Station is built completely underground and feels more like a glorified subway stop than of of the world’s great train stations. You feel claustrophobic, never knowing if it’s light or dark outside. To me, and most of the people who live here, it’s a scourge on New York City.
However, it wasn’t always like this. The original Pennsylvania Station was built in 1910, It had massive concourses, glass ceilings that made it feel light and open, and the façade was that of a pantheon to transpiration.
Unfortunately, like many beautiful examples of architecture, it was torn down in 1963 to make way for a new Penn Station. A station that would not only be built underground, but would allow the construction of a high-rise office building, and the now famous Madison-Square Garden arena on top. In classic New York fashion, let’s build it higher, and higher. Our current iteration of Pennsylvania Station is a maze of underground walkways, fast food places, and low ceilings. In other words, it's a miserable place to be.
I remember first hearing about the old Penn Station on a podcast and being blown away at why such a beautiful building would ever be demolished. But it is really quite fitting. This is the way we’ve always done it in America. Out with the old and in with the new. And New York is probably the most familiar with it. Looking at the skyscrapers that dominate New York’s skyline, most didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago. Even in my neighborhood in Brooklyn I look out and see new apartment buildings going up all around me. And too be fair, I’m just as big of a culprit as anyone as my building is only a couple of years old. Often I don’t know if we consider what we’re getting rid of when we tear down an old building in favor of a shiny new one, or in the case of Penn Station, a dingy, underground one. In a way we get rid of our history, and the things that have shaped us.
Even though the old Penn Station has long since fallen, and the underground tunnels of it’s replacement have now been functioning longer than the original, it won’t stop New Yorkers from remembering (or pretending they were old enough to remember) the original Penn Station.
I believe this quote sums up the overall sentiment towards Penn Station
"One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat." - Vincent Scully
However for those who despise Penn Station, there is some hope on the horizon. A new station directly adjacent to the current Penn Station is currently under construction called Moynihan Station and it will replace much of the traffic the current underground station sees. And luckily the renderings are a bit more pleasant to look at.
If you aren't totally and completely sick of hearing about New York City train stations and you want to dig a little deeper into this please listen to these two podcasts, you won’t be disappointed.
-Penn Station sucks / 99% Invisible -
-Pennsylvania Station - Manhattan’s Missing Treasure / The Bowery Boys - http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2009/04/pennsylvania-station-podcast.html
Until next time,
-Jordan and the Blue and White Collar Team