In the spring of 1993, New York City was suffering from an economic downturn, severe unemployment, social unrest, and a general malaise and fear.
It was, perhaps, the perfect time to start imagining a better future. Enter then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who began a fight for a new Penn Station, to be built at the James A. Farley Post Office Building across the street. It was a battle Moynihan’s daughter, Maura, took up after his 2003 death.
It’s been nearly three decades, and the region is again suffering. So, it’s perhaps the perfect time for Moynihan’s vision finally to become a reality. On Friday, the new Moynihan Train Hall will open to the public, nearly five years after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo jump-started the effort.
But it’s a tough time to be thinking about a new hub meant to serve Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak customers. Ridership on the LIRR is down 75%. Many commuters aren’t commuting, many tourists aren’t traveling. A bright, airy, gorgeous new train hall devoid of passengers seems strange, even sad, at this moment. Talk of more capacity for bustling crowds, so meaningful a year ago, seems unimportant.
But it’s not. Indeed, the opening of Moynihan is a symbol of how the state has continued to move forward, a sign of what’s possible. It may even encourage commuters to return, as it’ll be a far less crowded, dingy, claustrophobic space than the current Penn Station. Continued efforts to develop the area around Penn also will be important, as the region desperately needs the economic boost such development will bring.
Our recovery won’t be easy or quick. But if a new train hall can be built after decades of waiting, then the region’s comeback, even after the most difficult of circumstances, also is possible.
— The editorial board