No matter their race, religion, or politics, all New Yorkers hate Penn Station. The destruction of McKim, Mead, and White's grand Beaux Arts building and its replacement with a linoleum-and-plaster basement ranks as one of the greatest casualties in the long war on American cities that transpired over the second half of the twentieth century. Needless to say, the prospect of moving some train operations (Amtrak, in all likelihood) to the Farley Post Office --- the companion building to the old Penn Station --- strikes everyone who has ever heard it as a fantastic idea. And if all goes as planned, construction on Moynihan Station, as it will be known, will begin next year, which means that the tour we took yesterday, part of the ninth annual Open House New York weekend, may be the last for a long while.
Led by Timothy Gilchrist and Bronson Fox of the Moynihan Station Development Corporation, the tour took us beyond the striking lobby and through the innards of the gargantuan complex. Like a company town under one roof, all the facilities necessary for daily life, including a gym and a jail, were once found inside. Now, however, it's nearly all vacant, as postal operations have been downsized and moved across Ninth Avenue. All of these blue-carpeted offices and cavernous sorting rooms sit empty, waiting for a better life.