The notoriously dingy Long Island Rail Road concourse at Penn Station just got a little brighter and taller Tuesday with the unveiling of the first section of a raised ceiling, following the removal of low-hanging beams at 6 feet, 8 inches, known as “Head Knockers."
The ceiling is now at 18 feet — a height to be seen across the concourse, which is being doubled in width to 57 feet from 30 feet, according to a news release from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls the LIRR.
“Crews are improving lighting, including the installation of a new luminous ceiling, improved air flow, modern finishes, more intuitive wayfinding, and enhanced accessibility at the station,” the release said.
“The moment LIRR customers have been waiting decades for is coming closer," MTA chairman and chief executive Janno Lieber said in the release. “During the pandemic, we started the process of fixing Penn by opening the major new entrance at 33rd Street and Moynihan Train Hall. Now, customers are getting a glimpse of what, when finished, will be a completely transformed and expanded LIRR Concourse at Penn Station.”
Opening this fall: a major section of the 33rd Street Corridor, with the concourse to be substantially completed by March 2023.
“This first section of new ceilings is just the start of a gradual reveal over the next few months, which will allow for customers to take advantage of the new space prior to substantial completion,” the release said.
Those “Head Knockers” have hung less than 7 feet above the heads of commuters for more than 100 years. The beams' removal is part of a $600 million project to raise ceilings and widen the walkway below 33rd Street.
The first beam was removed last winter. But before that happened, a new support structure needed to be built, because the beams supported the weight of the street.
The Penn Station area is being redeveloped through an $8 billion project with up to 10 skyscrapers nearby that are expected to help fund several improvements.