As part of this connection, a LIRR station is to be constructed in Sunnyside. I would like to see a truly intermodal complex be linked up with the nearby subway and bus lines.
There's a lot of work already being done at the Sunnyside Yards that i believe has to do with this project. I believe i counted about 8 cranes on the site doing some kind of work.
As part of this connection, a LIRR station is to be constructed in Sunnyside. I would like to see a truly intermodal complex be linked up with the nearby subway and bus lines.
Beneath Their Stations
While Connecticut snobs bask in Grand Central’s marble glow, New Jersey and Long Island commuters have to brave dingy Penn Station. But, as SARA VILKOMERSON reports, this delicate caste system may be facing a rail revolution.
By: Sara Vilkomerson
During a recent and rainy rush hour at Penn Station, dripping umbrellas and dirt tracked in from squeaky sneakers and soggy loafers added to the standard feeling of despair among New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road commuters trying to get home. The air was thick and humid with anxiety, and it smelled like a combination of wet hair, hot dogs and defeat.
“There’s a low-ceiling alienation to the place,” said New York Times writer David Carr, who regularly takes the New Jersey Transit Midtown Direct line from his home in Montclair, N.J. “I alternate between the bus, train and driving. It’s good to mix up the commute, otherwise you end up feeling like killing yourself.”
Meanwhile, across town at the cathedral-like Grand Central Terminal, Metro-North crowds moved easily beneath the aquamarine astronomical ceiling, so high and domed that whether through acoustics or sheer grandeur, all sounds below took on a civilized hush.
“Each station serves as a portal of your New York experience and sort of defines you,” Mr. Carr said. “You walk into Grand Central and you hear Wagner and Beethoven, and you feel part of the great human endeavor. You walk into Penn and you hear Psychedelic Furs or the Cure.”
The chasm between rail-rider identities is already a natural caste system deriving from where one commutes from: scrappy/trashy New Jersey and Long Island versus WASP-y old-money Connecticut. John Updike as opposed to Bon Jovi, Peyton Place compared to The Sopranos, Kenneth Cole against The Tiecoon, and so on.
The stations signal to commuters how New York feels about them. Connecticut and Westchester riders step off their trains to be greeted by the majesty of the Grand Central main concourse: the opal clock atop the information booth (estimated worth: $10 million to $20 million), sculptures of Minerva, Hercules and Mercury, gourmet coffee, bread and cheese. New Jersey and Long Islands riders expect to fight their way up broken escalators to begin a salmon-like upstream battle beneath fluorescent lights. The take-no-prisoner crowds swell against narrow passageways, pushing past the Auntie Anne’s pretzel carts and the ready-made Pizza Hut personal pies, considering entrance to one of the more terrifying bathrooms in Manhattan. Grand Central has a large and dignified American flag hanging from the ceiling since 9/11; Penn Station, judging from the number of armed soldiers, seems to be housing an Army barracks.
It’s no surprise that the East Side Access project, which proposes to bring the LIRR into Grand Central via an eight-track tunnel 140 feet below Park Avenue, has been greeted with some resistance. The LIRR usually dumps its Syosset-bred legions into the grimy underground of Penn Station. If the project, estimated at last count at $6.3 billion, were to go forward, Ralph Lauren–clad riders would have to mix with Juicy Couture tracksuits and cell phones that boast Bubba Sparxxx ringtones.
“The entire point of living in Connecticut or Westchester is to limit your exposure to people who are from Long Island and New Jersey,” said one magazine editor who has been commuting from Westport, Conn., through Grand Central for over a decade. “That’s why we live there, it’s why we wear natural fabrics, and it’s why we don’t stucco our homes. Granted, there are a lot of people in Westport and Darien who grew up on the island and vowed to end all the ridicule by buying a first home here, but these are the people who wear Nicole Miller and practically strive out loud. As far as we’re concerned, Long Island might as well be Barbados—fine for a vacation, but year-round is so not going to happen.”
“Oh yeah, they totally don’t want them there,” said Shane Hoffman, a Manhattan acupuncturist who experiences all three train rides visiting friends and family. “The LIRR is the most entertaining of the three, because of the Long Island yahoo people—it’s delicious! It’s such an amazing opportunity to see the styles from the era of Fame, plus there’s a nice sampling of construction workers going out for the night—totally different than the Metro-North people going to Greenwich or the strange smart people heading to New Haven, recognizable by their heavy books.”
Mini-factions have broken from these two warring commuter-groups. Many Garden State travelers heading through Penn Station are happy to be losing their Long Island brethren. Joni Noe, a 32-year-old photo editor and regular New Jersey Transit rider, said: “I’m not jealous about the LIRR going through Grand Central, if it means that those commuters won’t be going through Penn Station. Would that mean we won’t have to deal with as many New York Islander fans?”
Certainly there is something undeniably New York represented by both stations. Grand Central embodies the gilded glamour of a Truman Capote story: the whiff of promise of Fifth Avenue shops right outside its doors, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, express subways that whisk the cashmere-coated straight to the Upper East Side. Penn Station carries with it the air of hard work, sweat and trying to make ends meet. The surrounding streets of Penn are filled with the industries of immigrants—the garment and fur districts.
“Grand Central has architecture and heft and scope and white marble and Kennedys backing the restoration. Penn Station has jerry-rigged plywood sheets with orange graffiti arrows,” the magazine editor from Westport continued. “In Grand Central, tourists gather in groups and point to the famous little spot on the ceiling they left intact—the one that shows how dirty the main waiting room was before the restoration. At Penn Station, people who point at the ceiling are remarking over how that pigeon managed to get in. Grand Central has a PBS feel about it. Penn Station is the WB.”
BUT FORGETTING, FOR A MOMENT, THE BIG-PICTURE differences of the stations, one need only look at the dining options available to both sets of commuters. Penn Station has T.G.I. Friday’s, Houlihan’s and every fast-food option available, in miniature.
“Aesthetics and claustrophobic symptoms aside, Grand Central is on its own plane, with nicer restaurants and shops,” said Ms. Noe. “They don’t have the lowbrow spots like Krispy Kreme, do they?” (Answer: no.)
Grand Central, in addition to fine dining restaurants like the Oyster Bar, Cipriani Dolci and Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, boasts a “dining course” level below the main waiting area that puts any ordinary food court to shame: Masa Sushi, Junior’s, Café Spice and Mendy’s Kosher Deli. On a weekday lunch hour, nattily dressed workers descend upon the area, iPods in and heads bowed over The Times and the Post. There’s even a specialty market where commuters can stop by a butcher and pick up Godiva chocolates or Murray’s cheese on their way home.
“You just can’t buy nice olive oil in Penn Station,” said Mr. Hoffman.
Then there’s the little matter of how each station treats its passengers when it comes to the actual boarding of trains. At Grand Central, the track numbers are announced up to half an hour before the departure time, allowing riders to leisurely decide when to get on the train and find a seat. At Penn Station, there is a palpable anxiety as crowds gather around the large board of departures, or the tiny television monitors. Somewhere between seven and 10 minutes before departure, a track will be posted and a running of the commuters commences, a Lord of the Flies–like flurry to get down the escalator and into a seat.
“I used to run track, and it’s like a starter pistol going off,” said Cristina Tapper, an editorial assistant at People magazine who attended the New Jersey Transit–reachable Rutgers College but now commutes daily on Metro-North from Mount Vernon. “That clamor is the major difference that sticks out in my head. I just remember having to run for a seat at Penn Station.”
“As far as the rush-hour situation, here’s a true story, “ said Anne Gregory, a petite blonde who teaches physical education on the Upper East Side. “I once saw a guy who was practically body-checking his fellow riders when the track number was announced, only to be stopped when he heard a young voice yell, ‘Dad!’ In the insanity of trying to get to the escalator, he let go of his daughter’s hand and started tearing ass. She couldn’t have been older than 9.”
“Oh, it’s a total cluster-****,” said Mr. Hoffman. “If you get called to a track without an escalator, you’ll always end up behind the people with the luggage struggling down the stairs. Then it becomes about waiting: ‘Is that old guy going to be pushed down?’ It’s insane. I think the New Jersey Transit people are more respectful. The LIRR people’s exploding point seems to be much lower.”
Penn’s animals-in-a-cage feeling has a lot to do with the absence of seating. Grand Central riders have benches available to them, plus all the seats in the dining-concourse level. At Penn, it’s not uncommon to see business men in three-piece suits squatting on their briefcase. “Essentially, both places are staging areas for getting a seat,” said the Westport commuter. “I always get a great seat at Grand Central, which makes it a successful building. Never, ever in my entire life has my ass been happy at Penn Station.”
The original Penn Station, a glorious Beaux-Arts structure in pink granite and glass, was famously demolished (to great public horror) to make way for a multimillion-dollar sports complex in 1963. This memory of beauty on the West Side haunts the aesthetically afflicted Jersey natives. “One entered the city like a god, one scuttles in now like a rat,” wrote the architectural historian Vincent Scully. The powers-that-be at Penn Station have tried to make amends to their customers. There was a restoration of the New Jersey Transit waiting area in the late 1990’s to remove some of the grime. The area features a four-sided clock from the original station. But it hasn’t helped much, and most commuters don’t even use it, choosing to stick by the big board with its seemingly random changing of numbers. You never know when yours will come up.
“There’s just … there’s this sag in front of the board, where you look at your now fellow inmates, trapped on this island off the coast of America with no or little way home,” Mr. Carr continued. “There’s a collective sadness that drops over the place.”
But there’s also hope. In 1998, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan started an official movement to create a new Penn Station across the street in the Farley Post Office Building. Drawings of the proposed building show an airy main room and glass ceilings. The project has become a bit of a political hot potato and is currently in limbo.
“I’m hoping I’m still gainfully employed long enough to experience it,” said Mr. Carr. “The fact that it didn’t happen yet is a significant failure of leadership—the fact that we have to re-engineer one of the worst ideas that ever was in the first place. I don’t care if it takes a long time and gobs and gobs of money. When it comes to bridge and tunnel, we should all be treated equally.”
copyright © 2006 the new york observer, llc | all rights reserved
Trash journalism, based on nothing but stereotypes. The Observer should be embarrassed by itself.
The Onion could have done a much better job with this article idea.
It befuddles me that a structure so renowned for its opulence - Grand Central - is also so much more successful in fulfilling its function. At the same time, the labyrinthian Penn Station is nowhere near deserving of aesthetic appreciation, yet it's an unquestionable failure as a structure that was built in the era of Modernism, where it was assumed we'd gain function by eliminating opulence. What went wrong in the planning?
I don't buy you premise, or at least the second half. Yes, GCS is much more aesthetically pleasing. But I don't agree that it is any more efficient or effective as a transportation hub. If you look at simply the act of moving the mass of commuters on and of the trains, and onto connecting subways, they two stations do a pretty equal job of it. GCS just provides a better ambience to do it in.
Have you ever taken a train from Penn Station? Or, God forbid, had to transfer from a train to a subway? It's hell trying to find your way through all the different corridors.
My point is fairly simple: Grand Central has one, centralized area for passengers, with tracks surrounding it on all sides, and departure information laid out efficiently. Penn is a maze, on the other hand. It takes much longer to get from your train to the street, or to another subway, depending on where you are.
Doesn't it sound illogical that a station whose promoters sought to achieve efficiency by tearing down something ornate, and outdated, is woefully inadequate at fulfilling its function? And that's it's outdone by something much older, and much more opulent?
The transfer from "real" trains to the subway in GCT is no picnic either ...
I guess the easiness you talk about pianoman has to do with the fact that GCP has a main hall with windows, and if truely lost you can go outside (but then again I don't find GCP too hard to navigate, but I don't know Penn that well). Penn Station suffers more from lack of light then anything, I don't think being underground with no access to natural light helps, probably has some kind of psychological explanation.
December 16, 2006
Spitzer Names Port Authority Head and Fills 11 Other Top Positions
By PATRICK HEALY and WILLIAM NEUMAN
Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer’s choice to lead the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said yesterday that the Spitzer team would take a “fresh look” at the Freedom Tower project at ground zero.
Mr. Spitzer cautioned that it was premature to say whether plans would change, but the new Port Authority leader, Anthony E. Shorris, said there was little flexibility to make a major overhaul.
The comments came at a news conference where Mr. Spitzer named Mr. Shorris to be executive director of the Port Authority and also tapped 11 others for top jobs in his administration. Half of the appointees are current or former members of Mr. Spitzer’s staff in the attorney general’s office, and others, like Mr. Shorris and Priscilla Almodovar — his choice to be president of the state housing finance agency — have been advisers to the governor-elect.
Mr. Spitzer’s selection of so many people close to him came despite promises made during the campaign that he would look broadly for the best possible talent. He said yesterday that he would make a wide search to fill other top jobs.
Mr. Shorris’s remarks about a top-to-bottom review of the Freedom Tower reflected private comments made recently by some Spitzer advisers. They have vowed to examine everything from the project’s cost and leasing viability to its height, which Gov. George E. Pataki helped set at 1,776 feet.
Both the Port Authority, which owns the World Trade Center site, and the state have many other significant infrastructure needs, from the Second Avenue subway to the rebuilding or replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. And Mr. Spitzer is on record, as a candidate last spring, as saying the Freedom Tower could become “a white elephant” because it seemed to lack “economic viability.”
“We’ll be looking at every aspect of it, both the plan and the execution of it, we’ll take a fresh look at the whole thing,” Mr. Shorris said yesterday. “But I also think the No. 1 priority of the governor is to get ground zero moving. The last thing that any of us wants to see is a slowing down of the progress.”
He added that at this stage, with work already begun for the tower, there was “very limited” opportunity to rethink the project, especially with many New Yorkers impatient for action at the site.
Mr. Shorris was a top aide at the Port Authority from 1990 to 1995, and was deputy schools chancellor in New York from 2001 to 2003. He left the schools job soon after it became known that he held a second high-paying job as a consultant for then-Local 1199’s National Benefit Fund, with his supervisor’s approval.
Mr. Spitzer also appointed Elliot G. Sander as the executive director and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He signaled that Mr. Sander might also replace Peter S. Kalikow, the powerful chairman backed by Governor Pataki, once Mr. Kalikow steps down.
Mr. Kalikow has created tension with the Spitzer camp by saying he will not resign until federal financing is in place for both the Second Avenue subway and a Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central Terminal, which is likely to occur in the first six months of next year. But Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Sander made clear that Mr. Sander will have effective control of the agency even with Mr. Kalikow still in place.
Mr. Sander is a senior vice president at DMJM Harris, an engineering firm with millions of dollars of contracts with the transportation authority. He is also a former city transportation commissioner.
As he had during his campaign, Mr. Spitzer characterized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as an agency that “needs a management shake-up,” and indicated once again that it would “make sense” to combine the powers of the transportation authority chairman and executive director.
He added that he needed to work with the Legislature to accomplish that.
But Mr. Sander stressed continuity in at least one area, saying he planned to move ahead with the list of ambitious projects already under way at the agency, including the Second Avenue subway, the Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central and the westward extension of the No. 7 subway line to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Mr. Sander will have to deal with immense deficits projected for the agency. He said that while there would be no fare increase next year, one was possible in 2008.
He said one of his first acts would be to evaluate the transportation authority’s security program, including its antiterrorism efforts.
December 18, 2006
East Side Access Project Gets Funding Boost From Feds
A long-awaited project to give Long Island Raid Road commuters easier access to Manhattan's East Side got a big boost from the federal government this morning.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters was at Grand Central today with Governor George Pataki to sign what is known as a Full Funding Grant Agreement, giving the MTA a guarantee of $2.6 billion in federal transit funding over the next seven years to be used to help fund the East Side Access project, which will connect the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal.
Under the proposal, the LIRR will be linked to the existing 63rd Street subway tunnel to cross the East River. Then a new tunnel would be built from the Manhattan end of that tunnel to connect to the Park Avenue tunnels down to Grand Central. It would also create a new terminal space at Grand Central.
The deal is being called the single largest transit investment in American history. The addition would shave 40 minutes off the daily commute of Long Island commuters, and it would cut cross-town congestion from Grand Central to Penn Station.
"This project – underway right now – it is going to open up Grand Central and the east side to tens of thousands of commuters from Long Island, commuters who currently take the train into Penn Station and then have to get back to the Grand Central area," said Governor Pataki.
"At 150 feet deep, we are going to carve out a brand new terminal under this existing terminal. That's not like doing an addition on a house; this is a big project," said FTA Administrator James Simpson.
The federal money virtually guarantees that the project gets completed. The full construction cost is just over $6 billion. The rest of the project will be funded through the MTA's Capital Program. Initial construction has already started. It's scheduled to be finished by 2013.
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