The holiday season has ended. Family and friends have returned home. We stare across the vast Serengeti Plain of January through March pondering the eternal question: What shall we do this weekend? A movie? We can stream great films at home and not get ripped off for a soda and stale popcorn. How about a trip to the mall? That’s fun during the holiday season. Now, not so much. We love to drive along Ocean Parkway, but that takes up only an hour or so.
When I suggest that folks consider a trip to Penn Station as a form of staycation, they look at me in shock. Like me, they grew up with a Penn Station they moved through as quickly as possible, a dark, dreary place that only a masochist would “visit.” My love-hate relationship with Penn Station began in my early teens, and after 60 years of promises from politicians and civic leaders that things would soon get better, I sadly accepted that change would not come in my lifetime. This once-proud facility that uplifted the spirits of travelers in the pre-Madison Square Garden era would remain a place with bathrooms that smelled like an animal farm on a rainy day.
Twenty years ago, I heard about the plan to turn the city’s main post office, across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station, into a modern transportation hub designated Moynihan Train Hall in honor of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who spent 24 years in the U.S. Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the enabling legislation in 1998, and we waited for the project to come to fruition . . .
Even when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began posting signs hinting at what the future held, we maintained the kind of stoic negativity that true New Yorkers understand. About six months ago, my wife and I ascended an escalator at the western end of the Long Island Rail Road platform. As we emerged, we found ourselves spellbound, convinced that a magical conveyance transported us to a distant time and place. Moynihan Train Hall glowed with light cast everywhere from LED fixtures and huge high-definition video screens like the ones in the newest sports arenas. The ceiling consisted of thousands of irregularly shaped glass panels.
My recommendation to all jaded Long Islanders? Rather than sit around the house counting the days until April, hop on the LIRR and take a trip to Moynihan Train Hall. If you are a fan of French chocolates, stop by the kiosk that houses La Maison du Chocolat, the purveyor of among the finest sweets in Paris.
Check out the new restrooms complete with the kind of facilities that you see in hospitals.
The waiting area features leather banquettes equipped with ports to recharge your phones and other electronic devices.
Hungry? Take a stroll through the food court and you can choose from the latest dishes from a selection of eateries that span the culinary landscape of New York. Thirsty? There’s a spacious bar that runs the length of the food court.
More than anything, you likely will find your spirit lifted in the manner that great public works bring to everyday citizens on their way to work -- or play -- in the world’s greatest city. If you cling to the notion that government cannot do anything right, prepare to call that belief into question.
Reader Michael Cohen lives in Brightwaters.
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