Moynihan Station starts construction in October

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Work is expected to start in October on the long-delayed project to turn the James Farley Post Office on Manhattan’s West Side into a resplendent successor to Penn Station, the last stop for thousands of Long Island Railroad riders from Queens.

“I am pleased that after years of planning, negotiations and community outreach, our state will be able to embark upon phase one of the Moynihan Station project,” Gov. David Paterson said last week.

“This investment will create thousands of jobs for our construction workers while achieving the vision of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” Paterson said. “This is a tremendous step forward for New York.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed.

“The best way to get New York’s economy moving again is to build big, bold and often and the best project to get things started is Moynihan Station,” Schumer said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The underground maze that is Penn Station should be reconfigured and reimagined into a world-class gateway to New York City and the progress on the first phase of transformation and on realizing Sen. Moynihan’s vision of a very good development.”

The state Public Authorities Control Board’s approval was the go-ahead that allowed work to begin on the Moynihan project, expected in October.

Phase one of the project is estimated to cost $267 million and is to be jointly paid for by the state and federal governments. Phase one is scheduled for completion by 2016. No completion date has been reported for the entire project, which could cost $1.1 billion.

Phase one includes expansion of the 33rd Street passageway between Penn Station and a concourse beneath the Farley Post Office’s grand staircase, extension and widening of the west end concourse serving nine of Penn Station’s 11 platforms and installation of elevators and escalators.

Previous plans once included moving Madison Square Garden into the new rail station’s environs.

It was Moynihan’s idea to convert the adjacent Farley Post Office into an imposing, new railroad terminal to replace the present Penn Station. Moynihan died in 2002.

The Farley Post Office, with its row of 53-foot high Corinthian columns on Eighth Avenue, was designed by the same renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White as the original Pennsylvania Station, completed in 1910.

The present Penn Station was built beneath Madison Square Garden after the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station, parts of which were modeled on the Baths of Caracalla of imperial Rome. The present station, which Bloomberg once called “a dreary subterranean failure,” is the destination of nearly 600,000 people daily, including thousands from Queens.

Planners have said the inscription surmounting the columns of the Farley Post Office — “Neither snow, nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — is to be preserved.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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