Plaza33, a pedestrian plaza outside of Penn Station, was unveiled on Monday. Credit: Ed Quinn

Monday marked the opening of a plaza-like pedestrian-only stretch of 33rd Street above Penn Station — part of an ongoing effort to transform the transit hub into a less dingy and more commuter-friendly rail terminal.

The finished product, which takes up a third of an acre on 33rd Street at the corner of Seventh Avenue, is called Plaza33 and includes 16,000 square feet of open seating and walking space.

Vornado Realty Trust, which owns and operates much of the property inside and around Penn, and the New York City Department of Transportation have worked together on the $65 million project, which began late last year.

“All of this really confirms what we have known for quite a while. That the city isn’t just coming back. It is back,” said Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer during an opening ceremony at the plaza, located near Seventh-Avenue-facing entrances to Penn and Madison Square Garden.

Efforts like the completed promenade project have been underway for years to modernize the latest iteration of the 114-year-old Penn Station, which has been criticized as gloomy, cramped and antiquated. An $8 billion reconstruction plan pushed by Gov. Kathy Hochul could entail removing much of Penn's upper level to create additional space and allow for the construction of a skylit atrium.

In September, Hochul announced the state had awarded a $58 million contract for the design of the new station, which she has said would take about five years to build.

The new plaza includes a widened pedestrian sidewalk, “with distinctive Petit Granit stone pavers,” as described in a news release, and several new restaurants. Also, a large canopy-like structure now forms a half-dome over Penn escalators in and out of the station. The plaza sits between Penn 1 and Penn 2, Seventh Avenue office buildings that are also Vornado projects.

For longtime commuters, Plaza33 is yet another example of the rapid changes to streets around Penn Station.

Peter Guzzardo, 71, passes through Penn Station at least three times a week, sometimes to visit his mother in Bethpage, sometimes to do work at Penn 2.

“Penn Station has completely been revamped and re-energized,” Guzzardo said after emerging from an escalator at the terminal.

He described the escalator ride beneath the new canopy as the “stairway to heaven” because it ends with a direct view of the Empire State Building.

“It doesn’t change the commute,” Guzzardo said. “What it simply does is it makes it more palatable to come in.”

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