It’s almost September and we’ve completely refreshed our monthly picks for the best outdoor art installations with all new selections. While many of our selections from summer will still be live, these are new ones to discover during your explorations of New York City.
Roy Lichtenstein sculpture at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street
Earlier, we reported on the construction progress of Plaza 33, a pedestrian plaza opened on 33rd Street next to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Now open for a week, it’s become a popular lunch and hangout spot. With a view toward art, music and food, Vornado Realty Trust has put their best foot forward in creating a welcoming environment designed by New York City-based firm W Architecture for commuters, locals and tourists.
Anyone who has walked from Penn Station to Herald Square along 32nd Street will notice a few incongruous things: homeless people, a Jack’s 99¢ store, the side entrance of Manhattan Mall, and possibly the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. But now, thanks to the In-House Design Department of the 34th Street Partnership, led by Ignacio Ciocchini, Vice President of Design for the 34th Street Partnership and managed by Columbia University GSAPP Urban Design graduate Alexandra Gonzalez, pedestrians will have a colorful, extended sidewalk.
Anyone who has taken a day trip to New Jersey or the surrounding tri-state area can attest to the dismal existence that is New York Penn Station. Unlike its original, far more beautiful predecessor, the current Penn Station can often be thought of as a grey, stuffy, abnormally hot underground way-station that herds people like cattle and smells like tepid water.
Interestingly enough, though pay phones are nearly nonexistent in the city these days, one does remain in Penn Station’s Amtrak concourse and looks to be decades old. A sign above it reads ‘Amtrak House Phone.’ We were told of its existence by Not For Tourists, and upon exploring the station yesterday, found that it does indeed connect you directly to Amtrak.
Our tour of the Remnants of Penn Station has been one of those unexpected hits. When we first launched it in partnership with the play The Eternal Space based on one of our articles, we knew that as city and architecture buffs, we’d be the types of people who might spend two hours on a Sunday exploring the most hated station in the city, if not the country. We’ve been honored and humbled that since February we’ve hosted hundreds of likeminded explorers on this tour–and we ourselves keep discovering new remnants of the original Pennsylvania Station each time we visit.
As reviled as the station may be, its complex and labyrinth nature tells so much of how the original was demolished and the new one built, and why there’s so much left to see for architectural hunters like yourselves. As plans for a new Penn Station are underway, awareness of these remnants will be the only thing that may save the original station from a second destruction.
After more than a year of readings (like at the Center for Architecture), and a successful Kickstarter campaign, the play The Eternal Space will have a run of 25 performances at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row in New York City from November 13 to December 6, 2015. In celebration, we’ve announced tour dates of the Remnants of Penn Station through December. Our October tour will be particularly special, coinciding with the date when demolition commenced.
The Remnants of Penn Station are led by Justin Rivers, playwright of The Eternal Space, using some never before seen photographs of Penn Station sourced from the play and Tamara Agins from the NYC Department of City Planning, who addresses the present and future plans for the station.
The tour dates are (always on Sundays): September 20, October 25, November 15 and December 6. Tickets are available below:
Monasteries may not be an institution synonymous with New York City, but as we’ve shown, they are certainly a presence. Still, most retain a bucolic presence, even within urban or industrial zones. One exception is the Capuchin Monastery of the Church of St. John which sits on 31st Street just next to Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. In this ramshackle stretch of no man’s land you’ll find a loading dock to MSG, the forgotten power station of the original Pennsylvania Station, and an unabashed homeless presence.
Not surprisingly this portion of 31st Street has come up in the city’s redevelopment plans several times. As of January 2015, Amtrak hoped to demolish the entire block and replace it with a rail station for New Jersey commuters, to be called Penn South.