The first travel gift of the new year—the brand-new Moynihan Train Hall—arrived in New York City on Jan. 1, miraculously right on schedule (and budget) despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The snazzy new station is perfectly timed for Amtrak’s 50th anniversary.
When the original Penn Station was constructed in the early 1900s, it was a feat: lavish, large, an architectural marvel—and a symbol of not just New York City but the United States. However, after cars and planes rose in popularity and accessibility, the golden age of train travel tarnished, and the grand station wasn’t able to pull its weight. In 1963, the old Penn Station (and for many, the ideals of American train travel) was demolished, a lapse in judgment that has never quite been forgiven.
Its replacement, the Penn Station that most of us know and loathe, popped up directly across the street—a dreary, windowless, style-less, utilitarian, subterranean space beneath Madison Square Garden.
Now, after decades of work, the new Moynihan Train Hall, a $1.6 billion project led by Empire State Development and Amtrak, harkens back to the O.G. Penn Station while also looking toward the future. For starters, it’s back in the original Penn Station building located on 8th Avenue between West 31st and 33rd Street, across from Madison Square Garden, inside what is now the James A. Farley Post Office Building. It’s also the antithesis of Penn Station.
Named after the late U.S. Senator and train travel champion Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Moynihan Train Hall is also aboveground. Most eye-catching is the 55,068-square-foot skylight roof supported by the original steel trusses from 1912, which rests high above the hall’s open atrium concourse. It's also home to a massive hand-painted stained glass triptych by artist Kehinde Wiley, the artist behind former U.S. President Barack Obama's portrait. The whole design feels airy, bright, and modern, and is full of light, descriptors that will never be used for its dank predecessor across the street.
"Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a man of true vision. He saw the potential in an underutilized post office and knew that if done correctly, this facility could not only give New York the transit hub it has long deserved but serve as a monument to the public itself,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a public statement.
"We built this as a statement of who 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 is the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children, and to future generations. As dark as 2020 has been, this new hall will bring the light, literally and figuratively, for everyone who visits this great city."
Moynihan Train Hall provides a shiny, new 255,000 square foot space for the millions of passengers that flow through New York’s Penn Station—the largest train station in the western hemisphere, and the largest transportation hub in North America (with more passengers per day than JFK, La Guardia, and Newark International Airports combined).
Visitors and transit passengers can expect to find a space that looks a lot like a fancy airport, decked out with clean lines, polished cream marble floors, stylish signage, easy-to-ready digital schedule displays, and elevators that lead down to LIRR and Amtrak platforms that stretch all the way across 8th Avenue to Penn Station. There’s also a 120,000-square-foot retail corridor packed full of shops and dining experiences, four floors of commercial space, and a modern, stylish train lounge that you’ll actually want to spend time in.
We don’t know about you, but, so far, train travel in 2021 looks mighty fine to us. Can’t make it in person just yet? No sweat. You can take a virtual tour here.
NY Times. "Longing for the old Penn Station? In the End It Wasn't So Great." Published Feb. 2015. Retrieved Jan 6, 2021.
Seele.com. "Moynihan Train Hall New York: steel-glass roof." Retrieved Jan 6, 2021.
Amtrak. "Fact Sheet: Moynihan Train Hall." Retrieved January 6, 2021.