Grand Central rededicated for centennial

Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal before the

Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal before the official kick off of the Grand Central 100 Years celebration. (Feb. 1, 2013) (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Grand Central Terminal came to a halt Friday as morning rush hour commuters paid tribute at the centennial rededication of the iconic transit hub that opened to the public Feb. 2, 1913.

Commuters lined the terminal's marble stairways and balconies, placing their hands on their hearts and listening to the West Point Brass & Percussion Band play the national anthem.

People crowded around the perimeter of the stage next to the terminal's famed gold clock.


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Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Caroline Kennedy -- whose mother Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was instrumental in saving the terminal from the wrecking ball in the 1970s -- were among the dignitaries who expressed their appreciation of the terminal's Beaux Arts design and majestic public space.

"We are here to pay tribute and celebrate an iconic building -- Grand Central Terminal," said Bloomberg, who told Kennedy: "And your mother really made a difference."

Kennedy read a letter her mother wrote in 1975 to then-Mayor Abe Beam asking him not to raze the terminal. In the letter, her mother said monuments preserve the past and "inspire people to fight for the future."

She said her mother was moved to action when the original Penn Station was demolished on the West Side in the early 1960s.

"My mother, a native New Yorker, was so upset," Kennedy said. "But when it came to Grand Central Terminal, it was too much. She understood how great public spaces build community."

After the ceremony Harry Kelly, the Metro-North railroad superintendent of building services, said the terminal's rededication "was beautiful to see. After all these years, to think that I am still here is unbelievable," said Kelly, 59.

Kelly, whose first job at age 19 was to usher passengers to their trains, will have worked at the terminal for 40 years in October.

When the U.S. men's ice hockey team won the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, "I got on the P.A. system and announced us winning. Everybody cheered. The place just went nuts," Kelly said. "It was great. People stopped and were hugging each other."

Kelly said his cleaning crews had scrubbed walls and windows for three months to make the terminal sparkle for the rededication. "Look at those windows. They were black. Now you can see through them."

The centennial celebration will continue throughout the year with art exhibitions, dance, music and poetry readings -- all scheduled for commuting days.

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