Major Revamps for the City’s Rails

On January 6th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $3 billion plans for a much-needed Pennsylvania Station reconstruction, including a redevelopment of the historic Farley Building and construction of the Moynihan Train Hall. The upgrade is sponsored by Cuomo himself, Amtrak, MTA, and Empire State Development. A long-overdue Request for Proposal for Pennsylvania station was released on January 22nd.

If you’re not familiar with the current state of the station, it is entirely underground and often criticized for being less than charming. The New York Times calls it a “confusing catacomb,” and “unworthy of the city it serves.” The entirely underground structure is the busiest rail terminal in the country. It is surprising that reconstruction has not been proposed earlier, being that NYC practically runs on public transportation.

The new name is the Empire Station Complex, and will take $3 billion to rebuild. If you’re wondering what the new Penn Station may look like, according to the 65-page RFP, renovations include but are not limited to:

  • a grand entrance (or two) along 7th or 8th Avenue between 31st and 33rd St, which requires demolition of the theater at Madison Square Garden
  • increased accessibility by adding more corner and mid block entrances
  • more retail stores
  • plenty of waiting areas and new ticket booths
  • closing the street on 33rd St between 7th & 8th Avenue to create new skylight feature

Governor Cuomo is on a tight schedule, and so the race is on for developers to submit their responses to the RFP by April 22, 2016.

Another terminal getting an upgrade is Grand Central. The SL Green Realty Corporation committed to approximately $220 million in upgrades in order to gain city rights to develop 1 Vanderbilt place. Renovations for the terminal include:

  • new subway entrances
  • a pedestrian plaza
  • public hall in building’s lobby
  • decongestion of traffic on the 4, 5, and 6 trains (which means a faster commute for about a million people per day)

Andrew S. Penson, the relatively private owner of the terminal as of 2006, has full ownership of the terminal’s air rights. As of September 2015, Penson’s lawyers are suing SL Green Realty for $1.1 billion over air rights, which are the rights to build above the empty space above a property. Penson argues that this negotiation of the building’s development (One Vanderbilt in exchange for Grand Central renovations) render his ownership of air rights over the terminal worthless.

However, SL Green realty corporation developers are unfazed. According to the New York Times, SL Green spokesman Jonathan Rosen stated the project would not be “sidetracked by frivolous litigation.”

According to Businesswire.com, TD has already leased 200,000 sqft of space in One Vanderbilt. The building itself was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox and consists of a total of 67 floors. It is expected to be 1,501 feet tall, making it the second tallest building in the city upon completion. Development of the building was scheduled to begin 2015 and end 2021, although there are no updates on whether or not the lawsuit has actually affected development. You can find renderings of the building here

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