City Pushes for Warren of Walkways Under and Around Moynihan Station
The Observer 3/17/08
by Eliot Brown
As part of the plans for a reconstruction and expansion of Pennsylvania Station, known as Moynihan Station, the city is seeking ways to create an expansive pedestrian network of tunnels and walkways in the area around the transit hub.
The improvements the city is considering, the cost of which may be borne by private developers and landowners, include a reopening of the so-called “Gimbel’s passageway,” a tunnel that would connect Penn Station to Herald Square and the N, R, Q, and W subway lines on Sixth Avenue; a possible walkway along 33rd Street in a below-grade moat-like space on the northern edge of the Farley Post Office; and improving subway stations in the area.
Members from two community boards, among other attendees, were briefed recently by the Department of City Planning on the planned improvements being considered, which are preliminary and would be part of a zoning change connected with the Moynihan Station project. The planning department, led by director Amanda Burden, has previously expressed the desire for pedestrian improvements in the area, as have community and civic groups such as the Municipal Art Society.
Of course, the grand plans for Moynihan Station—already tenuous given the extraordinary cost—could be thrown further up in the air by Governor Spitzer’s prostitution-related ordeal, as he had taken a strong personal role in the project to try to move it forward.
Key to the Moynihan project, for which Madison Square Garden would move to the rear of the neighboring Farley Post Office, would be the creation of millions of square feet of new development in the blocks surrounding Penn Station. The tunnels and other pedestrian improvements would likely be paid for by some of the developers and landowners building in the area.
Given the extraordinary amount of development rights associated with the project, the buildings could be very large—attendees to the meetings with the Planning Department said they were told a building of 1,100 or 1,200 feet could rise on the east end of the Vornado Realty Trust-owned block just north of Penn Station, between 33rd and 34th streets. That would be 100 or so feet shorter than the Empire State Building.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has pushed for a large pedestrian walkway along 33rd Street, and said in a statement that such an improvement “would be the backbone of the new West Side.”