Last night, 800 people in person (and 1,400 people and counting through Facebook live) attended The Summit for the Future of Penn Station at Cooper Union, an event produced by Untapped Cities in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York. This discussion, moderated by Jose Martinez, transit reporter for NY1 about the challenges and potentials of the future Penn Station featured Susan Chin, President of the Design Trust for Public Space; Robert Eisenstat, Chief Architect at the Port Authority of NY & NJ; Gina Pollara, President of the Municipal Arts Society; John Schettino, Designer of The New York Penn Station Atlas; Tom Wright, President of Regional Plan Association.
Introductory remarks were given by Michelle Young, Founder of Untapped Cities and Adjunct Professor of Architecture at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Whitney W. Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director and President, Museum of the City of New York.
Young spoke of the importance of a design that involves the input of New Yorkers. “New Yorkers were certainly not part of the decision to demolish the original station so how can we, the public, make our voice heard in the developments to come now?” Sharing about the activism of Untapped Cities about Penn Station and its popular Tour of the Remnants of Penn Station, she contended, “It is our belief that a new Penn Station should be conceived as a great civic public space that can persevere for centuries, that it should be designed with the input of the public, and that it should serve not only the functional needs of a growing New York City but also be an example of what this city can build, together.”
Donhauser brought for the competing visions of Penn Station in the mind of New Yorkers, saying “Penn Station lies at the intersection of New Yorkers’ understanding of style and substance, with the old building recalling visions of civic beauty and the current transportation hub causing modern day commuting nightmares. Few subjects mean so much to our city from both an aesthetic and a practical perspective.”
Here are 10 fun facts about the current Penn Station, many of which we learned at last night’s event.
1. Every Day, 650,000 People Go Through Penn Station – More Than All Three Major NYC-Area Airpots Combined
The urgency for a new Penn Station is very real. Built for 200,000 commuters, today, 650,000 people go through Penn Station each day, more than the daily passengers for all three major New York City-area airports combined. As John Schettino of The New York Penn Station Atlas so effectively pointed out in his presentation, this number is also larger than many of the major cities of the United States: Atlanta with a population of 463,878, Miami with 441,003, and Cleveland with 338,072.
The official number of visitors to Grand Central Terminal is 750,000, but that includes the many tourists and shoppers that take in the sights there. Penn Station, because of its less than desirable interior, is mostly packed with commuters, which makes a future Penn Station that truly serves its users more important than ever.