An iconic piece of the original McKim, Mead, and White-designed Penn Station has been reincarnated in a new piece of art. This week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) unveiled a stunning glass mosaic mural by artist Diana Al-Hadid at a new fully accessible street entrance and fare control area at 7th Avenue and 33rd Street. Titled The Time Telling, the mural artistically recreates the clock that once hung at the entrance to New York City’s lost Penn Station.
Al-Hadid’s mosaic was inspired by a 1943 photograph by Alfred Eisenstadt which captures the clock hanging above a crowd of servicemen as they say goodbye to family and lovers before shipping out. In Al-Hadid’s abstract reimagining of the image, the clockface looms large over a blurry crowd of bustling commuters as light streams in through arched windows. As in Eisenstadt’s photograph, there is a slight haze and ethereal quality to the scene. Like a fading memory, the piece offers a glimpse into the past that is just a little fuzzy. The mosaic stretches nearly 15 feet high and 14 feet wide.
Remnants of Penn Station
The Time Telling is not Al-Hadid’s first or only piece of art at Penn Station. She previously paid tribute to the architecture of the original station in her 2018 mosaic mural The Arches of Old Penn Station. This large-scale installation depicts abstracted renderings of the grand arches which were a central feature of the 1910 station. It can be seen at the 34th Street-Penn Station subway station on the 1/2/3 lines.
“In recent years, Diana Al-Hadid has created multiple timepieces. In this new mosaic she references one forever connected with the memory of the original Pennsylvania Station,” said MTA Arts & Design Director Sandra Bloodworth, “Al-Hadid’s work blurs the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, creating a scene that feels drawn from our collective memories of this historic space, real or imagined. The line work is fluid, not fixed. It invites viewers to travel into a moment in time.”
Accompanying the debut of the new art piece is the debut of a new accessible entrance with stairs and an elevator to serve commuters on the subway and Long Island Railroad. The new entrance is part of a larger project to increase accessibility at Penn Station. As part of the larger project, four existing elevators at the station received an upgrade. The new elevators feature an Emergency Elevator Two-Way Communications System that facilitates better communication in case of emergency between rescue workers and all passengers, including those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing or have speech disabilities. A Fare Control Area at the new entrance provides customers with better access to subway service and features information screens that will display service alerts and customer communications. The project also includes the replacement or repair of five platform stairs serving LIRR customers, and improvements to station circulation, lighting, and wayfinding.
“Thousands of customers will benefit from these new and modernized elevators, which create redundant accessible options to get in and out of Penn Station and provide accessibility between the subways and Long Island Rail Road,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “Riders with disabilities, caregivers with strollers, visitors with luggage, and many others rely on elevators, and need an accessible option at all times, especially at our busiest stations. This work reinforces our commitment to achieving a fully accessible system.”
Since 2020, 16 subway stations have been made accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the MTA’s historic 2020-2024 Capital Plan includes $5.2 billion to make additional stations accessible. In June 2022, the MTA committed to bringing ADA accessibility to at least 95% of subway stations by 2055.