$1.6 Billion Project Transformed Historic James A. Farley Post Office Building into World-Class 255,000-Square-Foot Train Hall
Modern Transit Hub Represents New York's Most Ambitious Transportation and Infrastructure Upgrade in Decades
Innovative State-Led Partnership Completed Project On-Time and On-Budget Despite COVID-Related Challenges
East End Gateway at Penn Station to Open on New Year's Eve—an Iconic New Entrance to the LIRR Concourse at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue
Photos Available Here
Governor Cuomo: "This is a different kind of statement. It says, 'We understand and appreciate the significance of public works.' It is a testament and a monument to the public and they deserve the best and they can produce the best. We built this not for ourselves. We built this four our children and our children's children and we built this as a statement of who we are, and who we believe we are and who we aspire to be. Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York and that's the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children and to future generations."
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the remarks is available below:
Eric Gertler: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the new Moynihan Train Hall. I am Eric Gertler, President & CEO of Empire State Development.
First, let me start with some acknowledgements. First, on the dais with me, Pulitzer Prize architecture critic, Paul Goldberger; Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. From Amtrak, Tony Coscia, Chairman; William Flynn, CEO; Steven Gardner, President. From the MTA, Janno Lieber, Chief Development Officer; Phil Eng, Long Island Rail Road. From the Port Authority, Rick Cotton, Executive Director. My colleagues at ESD, Howard Zemsky, ESD Chair Emeritus; Steve Cohen, ESD Chair; and instrumental on this project, Douglas Carr, Executive Director Moynihan Station Development Corporation; and Holly Light, Executive Vice President for real estate at ESD.
I want to go back to earlier this year. On January 6, well before many of us had even heard of the word "COVID," I sat with many others and listened to the Governor proclaim in his speech at ABNY, and I quote, "We're going to open the new Moynihan Train Hall in the Farley Post Office in December 2020 and it's going to be stunning. It is going to be world-class." I ask you to look around. I think we can all agree that this train hall embodies the Governor's vision and is a testament to his leadership on this project.
I can assure you that in January this train hall did not look anything like it does today. Moreover, it is on budget and on schedule, despite the many unforeseen challenges that we've had in the past year. Yet, still, it is just one piece of a much larger vision that the Governor has laid out.
A decade ago, before Governor Cuomo took office, Penn Station was a monument to inaction. Today, we welcome you to the present. Moynihan Train Hall, which the Governor announced in his 2016 State of the State speech, now completed. All LIRR and Amtrak trains will now be serviced by 9 platforms and 17 tracks accessible from the main train hall. With a direct connection to the Eighth Avenue Subway and, for the first time, direct access to the train station from Ninth Avenue, it will be a true transit hub.
255,000 square feet and 50 percent expansion in total concourse space, as compared to Penn. More platform circulation: stairs, 11 escalators, 7 elevators, will make for a more efficient experience for riders. State-of-the-art wayfinding through dozens of LED and LCD displays, free WiFi, dedicated lounges and 700,000 square feet of new commercial, retail and dining space will all make for a more comfortable experience for all riders.
Three permanent installation by artists Stan Douglas, Elmgreen & Dragset and Kehinde Wiley, commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with the Public Art Fund, are as beautiful and as ambitious as the train hall itself. An Art Deco inspired clock that evokes the Farley Building itself with its distinctive corners. A great train hall needs a great centerpiece - a 92-foot high skylight with over an acre of glass. This sets a precedent for sustainable large-scale, adaptive, reuse transportation projects. Innovative public-private partnership, state-of the-art technology featuring passenger and public information and guidance. It created over 5,000 construction jobs.
Governor Cuomo has a broader vision. More improvements and better service for New Yorkers and passengers coming into and out of the region.
Today, we also announce the completion of the East End Gateway Entrance at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue, providing access to the Long Island Rail Road concourse, which will open for public use on New Year's Eve. Today, the Penn Station Entrance on 34th Street is the only direct way to enter the LIRR level and the concourse and its existing egress facilities are highly congested. At its peak, triple the daily foot traffic it was built for. By creating this new entrance at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, we will double customer access and egress capacity to the LIRR level, relieving congestion and the serious safety concerns it creates all while creating an iconic new point on our map. "Let's meet at the LRR entrance," people will say. And so, for that Congratulations to Janno Lieber and the MTA team.
Opening to the expanded LIRR concourse, nearly doubling the width of the 33rd Street corridor, which is among the busiest sections of Penn Station, doubling passenger capacity, it will be brighter, higher, and have better wayfinding. The work is continuing but providing beautiful and spacious new access points for riders. And the West End concourse, which was completed in 2017, increasing passenger circulation and improving wayfinding. In January of this year, the governor announced a comprehensive redevelopment initiative to create a revitalized transit-oriented commercial district centered around New York's Pennsylvania Station, allowing for the Penn expansion, including the 780 block and additional parcels south of the station.
The key is that we're not just adding space we are increasing track capacity too. At least eight additional tracks, an increase of 40 percent, in anticipation for the Gateway Tunnel which is needed to meet the growing economic demands of New York. The sum of these parts, it is the Empire Station Complex. The ambitious vision that the governor announced in January 2020 and indisputably a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The most ambitious mass transportation program in the nation, providing better service to finally unlock the area's economic potential. Moynihan is a fully functioning transit hub designed for New York. It will be an aggressive catalyst for the state's economic growth.
I also want to thank our partners Amtrak, MTA, and LIRR, Skanska and Vornado. now while I have the privilege today to share with you today's opening of this magnificent train hall, I also sit here as a link between the Governor's vision and tremendous leadership on this project and the countless members of the State's and ESD's teams who have labored for years on this train hall, particularly one individual whose spirit is present today, and that person is Michael Evans. Michael was head of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation since 2013, serving as a critical driver among the Governor's office and the architects, construction teams, and other stakeholders who collectively brought this magnificent space to life. Michael was the very best kind of public servant. He was smart, dedicated, detail-oriented and relentless in the pursuit of building something truly spectacular to the benefit of the people of this state and beyond. For those of us who knew Michael, we will forever think of him each time we set foot in this Hall and on behalf of the family of New York, we thank him.
And now it is my pleasure to introduce Paul Goldberger, known to many as the Pulitzer prize-winning architectural critic of some of the most important news organizations in our country, including the New York Times, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He is also the author of numerous books and someone who the Huffington Post has called the leading figure in architecture criticism. He's also been a critical advisor and collaborator on this project. Paul, I turn to you.
Paul Goldberger: Thank you, Eric. Good morning. It's been a fantastic pleasure working with you and Michael, and Doug Carr, and the Governor and his team, and the remarkable team of architects here Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Peter Pennoyer, and David Rockwell to help get everyone to this amazing day.
I suppose you could say the story of Moynihan Train Hall really begins in 1910 when the original Pennsylvania Station opened. It continues in 1963 with the tragic demolition of this masterpiece of public architecture after only 52 years of active use. Then it picks up again in the 1990s, when Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who among his many virtues, was a believer that great architecture had a real and tangible public benefit, because it made life better for everyone. Moynihan saw that the magnificent Farley Post Office was right across the street from Penn Station and sat atop the same railroad tracks as Penn Station and said, "Why couldn't we turn this place into a new station, and once again give the city the great entrance it deserves?" It took a couple of decades but it has finally happened in a way that is remarkably true to Senator Moynihan's great idea but I think the opening of Moynihan Train Hall is much more than a tribute to Senator Moynihan's imagination.
It is the first step to returning the busiest rail center in the United States into the best rail center in the United States. There's still a long way to go but we're moving in the right direction, toward a recognition that great public space belongs to everyone, and a great city deserves a noble public realm, and that the government has a responsibility to help make that happen.
These are difficult times, much tougher than they were when Governor Cuomo got this project moving again a few years ago, but all the more reason that Moynihan Train Hall matters. Much of the great infrastructure of New York was built during tough times because that is when the government needs to send a signal that it believes in the future, that we will have a better future, and we are investing in it because that very investment will help make a better future happen.
We travel every day across bridges and through tunnels and along subway tracks that were built in difficult times, because other generations invested for us, and Moynihan Train Hall is a symbol of our will to do the same thing today and invest in the future even as we are struggling to keep afloat in the present, because investing in the future is actually one of the best ways we have to keep afloat in the present, but that's the test of a great government, that it can take the long view.
Abraham Lincoln kept construction going on the Dome of the US Capital during the Civil War even though funds and manpower were desperately short, because he said that if the work went on people would see that he believed that the Union would go on. We believe. We know that New York will go on, and that it will continue to be the greatest city in the world, and that the only way it can lose that is if we give up on investing in the public realm. That is its heart in a time that is too often elevated or favored the private realm over the public, one governor, Andrew Cuomo, has been a steadfast believer in the role of government to make great public places that belong to all of us, places that lighten the pressures of daily life. They bring a lift to the spirit and elevate the lives of everyone who passes through them.
Governor Cuomo, like Daniel Patrick Moynihan before him, understands what architecture can do for the spirit and for the soul of a place, and he is managed to make this project happen not only to give New York a better front door, but to give it a better future. It's now my pleasure to introduce to you Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you thank you, thank you, thank you very much. How great is today? How different, but how great. First, Paul Goldberger. Thank you Paul for those kind words and thank you for all your help on this project. Paul Goldberger, a true New York asset, and on this project, his talents have been brought to help all New Yorkers.
Let's get the Hall a round of applause. The whole team at Empire State Development, Eric Gertler who's done a fantastic job. We have our Chairman Emeritus, Howard Zemsky, let's give him a big round of applause. Steve Cohen, our Chairman, let's find him, who's the great council and Michael Evans, who really put his heart and soul into this project. Let's give them all a round of applause.
The MTA team that is redefining everything we thought we knew about the MTA. They're making things happen. They're getting it done faster and better. The new entrance that you will see is just really magnificent general labor. God bless you and thank you and to the railroad, thank you for your talent, our partners here, Vornado, who are running the retail space. I want to thank them very much. Amtrak and Tony Coscia is here. Amtrak really made things happen and made things happen quickly and a large part of that goes to leadership, as I know as well as anyone. Tony Cosica, thank you very much. Thank you.
To my team who actually does the work because someone has to do the work - Melissa DeRosa, Rick Cotton who now runs the Port Authority but was in my office and really brought this project back to life. I want to thank him very much. And Kelly Cummings who keeps our trains running on time, pardon the pun. Let's give them a round of applause.
And to Moira Moynihan, daughter of our great and beloved Senator Moynihan. It's a pleasure to be with you Moira. Thank you so much. I hope you find pride in today, as we honor your father and his vision.
Today would be a special accomplishment on any day, but its extraordinary today. Senator Moynihan, I had the good fortune to work with directly when I went down to the federal government and I worked with him on a number of occasions. He was a man of true vision. He was not limited by a governmental view, or a bureaucratic view or a practical view. He really envisioned what could be and set his sights on that. Yes, this was a magnificent building, underutilized as a post office and this was actually the sorting room for the post office. This is where they sorted mail. The great skylight was not just a beautiful piece of architecture - it brought the light into the building so they see the mail and read the envelopes and do the sorting. Senator Moynihan said what a beautiful statement. What a beautiful piece of architecture. How could we use that for the public? The details had to catch up to his vision, but God bless Senator Moynihan and the vision he brought to New York.
This is a work of art in a way we don't build anymore. It's almost too ambitious. It's almost too beautiful. It's almost too breathtaking to think that we could do this. Can we really do this? Can we rebuild that skylight? Can we bring this building back to the magnificence that the generations before us envisioned and actually materialized. There were many doubters who said it was too bold, it was too audacious, but we said we could and we did. This is a great public work. Public work. Different than how we do it today. This is a different kind of statement. It says, 'We understand and appreciate the significance of public works.' It is a testament and a monument to the public and they deserve the best and they can produce the best. We built this not for ourselves. We built this four our children and our children's children and we built this as a statement of who we are, and who we believe we are and who we aspire to be. Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York and that's the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children and to future generations.
So, this would be an amazing accomplishment at any time, but it is an extraordinary accomplishment today because today is a different day. None of this is normal. None of this is right. We're at a place where no one ever envisioned being. We saw the greatest country in the world fall prey to a microscopic virus and we have seen our world turned upside down and so many things we believe to be true - our ability to control, our ability to dominate - that all turned out to be false. We're going through a traumatic period, individually and collectively. Society is going through a traumatic period and the question for us now is 'What will this traumatic period cause us to be? What will it do to us? How do we respond?' Life will create trauma. You will have setbacks in life, no matter how careful you plan, no matter how smart you are. You will have challenges. You'll have health challenges. You'll have personal challenges, but the question becomes how you respond to those challenges. Tell me how you react to the challenge and then I will tell you who you are and I will tell you your character.
That's what we're going to decide in this New Year 2021 as we close this chapter on 2020. But we learn the lessons and we move forward to 2021 and what this hall says to me as we head toward the New Year is yes. Yes, we can. Yes, we can learn. Yes, we can grow. As dark as 2020 was, to me this hall brings the light literally and figuratively. It brings the light. Which way do we head? We bring the light. New York brings the light. That's what this magnificent skylight says to me today. A.J. Parkinson said, "Sometimes life will knock you flat on your back, but it will change your perspective and if you look up, you see the sky." When you're in this hall, you look up, you see the sky and that's the way we want to start 2021.
New York found the best going through this COVID situation. It brought out the best in New Yorkers. They heard their better angels. At a time of division all across this nation, you saw New Yorkers unified like never before. We weren't Black and white and Latino and upstate and downstate and Democratic and Republican. We said, "Let's come together and find the commonality in the community and let's help one another." That's what this was a symbol of: I do this for you and you do this for me. I understand our interconnection and I understand our interrelationship. New Yorkers did that. New Yorkers took the highest COVID infection rate in the nation and brought it down to the lowest infection rate in the nation. New Yorkers did that working together. Yes, it was traumatic. Yes, we were knocked flat on our back, but we got up stronger than ever before. That's what this hall says today and it reminds us who we are: We are New York. We are different than any other place and we are special. We come from a special place. Our DNA is special. We came from risk-takers, from ambition, from daring. We came from the entrepreneurial spirit. We were born from people who left where they were and crossed great oceans just to come here for opportunity and they made the greatest state in the nation out of nothing. That's who we are in our genetics, that's our DNA, that's our core, that's our essence — so of course we can.
We showed the nation how to deal with a common enemy. We showed them what unity can do and now we're going to step forward in 2021. Are we going to go back to where we were in January 2020? No. Life is not about going back; life is about going forward. Life is about learning and being stronger and getting up and pulling yourself up, and pulling together and making the best of the place, making the best that we can be. And that's going to be 2021 for New York. I believe we're going to be the stronger for it. I believe we've learned from it. I believe there's more connection between New Yorkers than there's ever been and this hall says that we can do it. We don't accept mediocrity. We're tired of hearing why we can't do something. We're going to focus on how we can get it done. We are New York. We are the best. We will rise and we will be stronger than we have ever been together and that's what this hall says to me and that's what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan would say to us today.
Let's close the door on 2020. Let's open the door on 2021. More united, more loving, more connected than ever before. Let's cut the ribbon on this great hall. Thank you.