Today Governor David Paterson made a bold statement in support of the construction of Moynihan Station when he announced conditions related to the future of Moynihan Station at New York Building Congress forum. He emphasized the critical importance for the project to emphasize infrastructure improvements and to that end announced that the Port Authority of New York would be taking over the project.
The Governor said that while New York City and State are in a difficult economic climate, fiscal responsibility is not just about reducing spending; it’s about making wise investments. Throughout New York State’s history, the government has moved ahead with infrastructure projects during times of financial insolvency. For example, the state was facing a deficit for seven of the ten years it took to construct the Erie Canal and the Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge and the Independent Subway System (IND) were all constructed during the Depression.
New York City was in the midst of a fiscal crisis during the construction of the historic Penn Station. “By any measure the 20th century was the New York Century. We entered it as a burgeoning metropolis and we left it as the greatest and most powerful city in the world. We can make the 21st century the New York Century as well, but only if we invest wisely in our infrastructure.”
Paterson said the Federal government must put together a plan for the nation’s infrastructure so we may reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic disasters like last year’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis. He also decried the Federal government's “starving” of Amtrak and reduction of slots at the city’s airports. The Governor said that we must bolster the rail options between Washington DC, Boston and other cities within 300 miles of New York City. Rail is the most fuel-efficient way to move people,, and it is critical that we lighten the loads of our airlines and on our highways. In the absence of a Federal transportation plan, Paterson said the State must develop its own plan.
“It is fitting that 100 years after the building of the first Penn Station, we assess our infrastructure priorities and establish clear conditions for the future of transportation in our State,” said Governor Paterson. “If we are to realize our full potential for growth in the 21st century, then we must look to increase our rail capacity. That is why today I have outlined the conditions that I believe must be met if we are to move forward with the Moynihan Station project. Moynihan must be more than a beautiful station; it must move more people more efficiently.”
The Governor’s specific conditions for Moynihan Station development include:
1. Ensuring that the Moynihan Station project increases transportation capacity by physically expanding the number of tracks and platforms and instituting operational changes by Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak.
Paterson announced that he was asking the leadership of the three railroads to report to himself and Governor Corzine on how they planned to work together.
2. Coordinating the development of Moynihan Station in tandem with other major development projects including New Jersey’s Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) which is the first crossing under the Hudson in 50 years;
The Governor made it clear that it would be a formidable challenge to ensure that the project will be coordinated with major infrastructure projects like ARC and unifying the three transit systems of Amtrak, Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit. “This is why we want the Port Authority to take over the leadership in terms of constructing Moynihan Station, and what we are really saying is that with such major development occurring, there has to be coordination,” the governor said.
3. Taking necessary steps to ensure that the project also helps to revitalize the surrounding community.
While the Governor acknowledged the importance of making Moynihan Station a Gateway to New York city and catalyst for development on the Far West Side, he said first and foremost this is a transportation project.
“Increasing our transportation capacity is an important step, but it is only a one step. We must ensure that we carefully coordinate the improved capacity with other major development and infrastructure projects, which is why today, I called on my Deputy Secretary for Economic Development, and Infrastructure to convene all of the project’s partners from both the public and private sectors to discuss the challenges they face,” Governor Paterson continued. “Deputy Secretary Gilchrist will report back to me with an assessment of these challenges and potential solutions.” “By any measure the 20th century was the New York Century. We entered it as a burgeoning metropolis and we left it as the greatest and most powerful city in the world. We can make the 21st century the New York Century as well, but only if we invest wisely in our infrastructure,” added Governor Paterson.
Read Governor Paterson's press release.
Read Paterson Invokes New Deal in Calling for Fresh Moynihan Plan by Eliot Brown in The New York Observer.
Read Paterson Gives Moynihan Another Shot by Matthew Schuerman of WNYC.
Read Paterson appoints aide to look into Moynihan by Theresa Agovino of Crain's New York.
MSG pulling out, the economic downturn, the transportation crisis, the possibility of the Port Authority taking over, ARC – those of us following Moynihan Station have been battered with some heavy and complicated news recently.
So while the complexities of the project are getting worked out, it’s nice to see some progress in at least one important area: toilets. Specifically, we are referring to this week’s announcement that a $5 million renovation of LIRR’s Penn Station bathroom facilities is, according to Newsday, “in the can.” Steve Ritea reported that “LIRR officials were flush with excitement about the project”:
In recent years, concern about a lack of stalls in the ladies' room, as well as complaints of odor, sent the bathrooms' image down the drain.
The renovation will expand the number of toilets in the ladies' room from 17 to 25 and increase the number of sinks from eight to 19. The number of toilets in the men's room will drop from seven to six, but men will gain two sinks, bringing the total to 10. That restroom will retain 10 urinals.
Our customers deserve state-of-the-art accommodations at Penn Station and our restroom facilities are clearly in need of updating," LIRR President Helena Williams said. "If the riding public can bear with us during construction, we promise major improvements and a maintenance program that ensures their comfort."
After the renovation, the restrooms will ventilate to the street for the first time. They have ventilated onto the LIRR's underground tracks since being built in that location in 1994.
The renovated restrooms will feature mosaic glass tile walls, epoxy terrazzo floors and metal panel ceilings, as well as automated toilets, faucets and soap dispensers, the LIRR said.
In all seriousness, it sounds like a much needed and long overdue improvement for LIRR riders – and let’s hope that it’s not the only one!
On Friday, Newsday said if there is one big project “that deserves saving, it’s Moynihan Station.” The editorial called on State and City officials “to put their shoulders into this project and push.” Below is an excerpt:
This is a great deal for Long Islanders. First, commuters will be able to move off trains more quickly. Also, more jobs will be created in western Midtown, eliminating the need for many LIRR riders to backtrack east to Grand Central Station. An easier commute has to be good for Island home values.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer and economic czar Pat Foye met Wednesday with the private interests - the Garden and developers Vornado and Related. All are hedging over how to fill a $1-billion funding gap.
Spitzer has also met with New York's delegation in Washington. But he needs to sell the project by painting a broader vision of how it can become a national economic development boon, rejuvenating rail travel from Boston to D.C. to Chicago. Only then will legislators from Ohio or Pennsylvania vote yes, and help prove Moynihan wrong.
Kudos to Newsday for emphasizing the “broader vision” of the project and its importance for Long Island commuters. Indeed, Moynihan Station possesses economic development potential on a national scale and, if built right, could demonstrate the possibilities of regional rail in the U.S. If any transit project is deserving of federal funds it is the redevelopment of Penn Station.
If Amtrak workers strike at the end of January, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit systems will be crippled. Why? Because even though multiple train companies use the rails at Penn Station, Amtrak operates and controls the rail switches. An Amtrak strike would basically shut down Penn Station. Both systems are currently working out contingency plans in the event of a strike. NJ riders will have to rely on buses or take the PATH. LIRR riders will likely have to switch to the E train in Jamaica. The Subway Blogger thinks the strike will result in crammed subways and heavy car traffic. “If the option is drive to a PATH station or parking lot near a subway stop, people will probably just say 'screw it' and drive all the way in…Folks that choose not to drive are going to get crammed into PATH and Subway trains like they’ve never seen before."
In today’s editorial page, Newsday called the current Moynihan Station plan “vastly improved for Long Islanders” and said “Long Island’s key advocates – MTA board member Mitchell Pally, ESDC co-chairman Pat Foye and the LIRR Commuters’ Council – must stay involved and on track.” We certainly agree that the current scheme has the potential to offer tremendous benefits for the over 280,000 riders who take the LIRR into Penn Station each day. While Long Island’s key advocates must play a major role, they’ll also need support and input from riders.