A rendering of the 8th Avenue entrance, part of the proposed...

A rendering of the 8th Avenue entrance, part of the proposed Penn Station redevelopment. Credit: Office of the Governor

It’s a tale of two Penn Stations.

Travelers heading through Moynihan Train Hall enjoy a modern, brightly lit, comfortable experience. Newly renovated stretches of the Long Island Rail Road corridors have more space and light, too.

But turn a corner, and commuters step into the more familiar dingy and decrepit version of Penn. Hallways are tight and unmanageable; the main concourse so many identify with Penn remains dark and dismal. Often unsafe due to hustling crowds and deteriorating conditions, this Penn needs far more than a fresh coat of paint.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed a plan to remake Penn, to turn a two-level concourse into a more open one-level space, widening hallways and adding more escalators, entrances, and exits. But she tied the project to an extensive real estate plan for the blocks around the station — one that could revitalize the neighborhood but also add multiple skyscraper office buildings, retail, and housing.

Now, Vornado Realty Trust chief executive Steven Roth has expressed caution about those big plans, citing “headwinds” facing such development and suggesting there will be delays ahead. It’s hard not to conclude that he is correct.

But such caution should not hold up the remake of Penn itself. Reinvent Albany, an advocacy group, argued this month that “the future of Penn Station does not depend on the success or even survival of struggling real estate developer Vornado . . . ”

That’s right. Consider: Penn’s remake is a $7 billion project. Federal dollars are expected to cover half, with New Jersey covering 25%. That leaves $1.75 billion for New York State to pay. The state and New York City planned to split that, with the city’s funds coming from payments in lieu of taxes from the expected surrounding development. But Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams can revisit that agreement, and find other funding if the real estate projects are delayed. Worth remembering: The legislature in 2021 approved $1.3 billion in bonding for below-ground transportation improvements at Penn. That will help.

Hochul and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have made it clear they want to move forward with the work at Penn. That’s critical. They must not let Vornado’s troubles, or objections to the surrounding development from local political officials and civic groups, impede improvements to Penn itself. The two efforts can move forward at separate paces — without one blocking the other.

But Penn must come first. There’s a short window to get that work done, between the opening of the LIRR’s new terminal at Grand Central Madison and the development of Metro-North Railroad’s connection to Penn Station — expected by 2027. State, city and MTA officials must find appropriate funding sources to keep the design and development of Penn on time and on budget.

Keep Penn on track — without allowing other plans or proposals to cause traffic ahead.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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