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West World

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The increasingly modest renderings for Moynihan Station's concourse, from 1999, 2005, and 2006. (From left, Pixel By Pixel/courtesy of SOM; Getty Images; Archimation/Courtesy of SOM)  

How a new Madison Square Garden, a new Penn Station, and a new shopping mall could be squeezed into the Farley Post Office.

The whole West Side plan began with Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s notion that the old Farley Post Office would make a splendid gateway to New York. By righting the wrong of Penn Station’s 1963 demolition, it gave aesthetes and civic boosters a reason to fall in behind a big rebuilding project. Only later did it become a potential gold mine for developers.

With the backing of Governor Spitzer, and driven by the developers Steve Roth of Vornado and Steve Ross of Related, the plan has swelled to include a replacement for the seedy Madison Square Garden, which ought to make owners Charles and James Dolan very happy. Yet they may be the ones to scotch the plan.

Why? The colonnade facing Eighth Avenue, topped by the neither-snow-nor-rain-nor-heat-nor-gloom-of-night motto, will be the project’s public face. Everyone wants a piece of it. The current plan calls for the Farley to be split in two, with the train station in the eastern end (where the portico is) and the new Garden being stuffed in the back, with a glass shell in between.

But here’s the catch: The Dolans have to agree to move, or nobody gets a big payoff. And, not wanting their arena to be stuck out of view, the Dolans are holding out for a portion of the Eighth Avenue portico as their entrance, with major signage. They also want a glass wall inside the complex, abutting the train station, so passersby can see the action. The point of Moynihan’s plan was that Penn Station craves dignity, and an entrance to the circus isn’t what he had in mind. In essence, the Dolans are holding the senator’s vision hostage. You want a station here? You have to come through us.

The second but no less crucial player in all this is Related/Vornado. Competitors at Hudson Yards, they’ve teamed up here to take advantage of the Dolans’ departure. Their plan to replace the Garden calls for a second, modern entrance to Moynihan Station across the street from the Farley, a retail development above that, and a mix of office towers on all Vornado’s nearby turf. (For that story, turn the page.) The tracks and related infrastructure stay more or less where they are, beneath the current and future stations, and newly accessible from both sides of Eighth Avenue.


2A. THE NEW GARDEN
Principals: Jim and Chuck Dolan
Developer: ESDC
Its grim aesthetics aside, the current Penn Station runs at twice its intended passenger capacity and must be replaced. But it’s been slow going. Various railway-station designs have been commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation over the past fifteen years—and in each iteration, the architectural flair of the glass roof has been pared down. This March, the ESDC finally purchased the Farley building from the Postal Service for $230 million, and Maura Moynihan, the senator’s daughter, has turned her boundless energy to the task of keeping alive her father’s dream, putting her voice behind anybody who can move the project forward. As she declared at the press conference last Wednesday: “Whatever we have to do to get the jackhammers moving, we’ll do it.”

2B. MOYNIHAN STATION WEST
Visionary: Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Developer: ESDC
Its grim aesthetics aside, the current Penn Station runs at twice its intended passenger capacity and must be replaced. But it’s been slow going. Various railway-station designs have been commissioned by the Empire State Development Corporation over the past fifteen years—and in each iteration, the architectural flair of the glass roof has been pared down. This March, the ESDC finally purchased the Farley building from the Postal Service for $230 million, and Maura Moynihan, the senator’s daughter, has turned her boundless energy to the task of keeping alive her father’s dream, putting her voice behind anybody who can move the project forward. As she declared at the press conference last Wednesday: “Whatever we have to do to get the jackhammers moving, we’ll do it.”

But the project may not be as straightforward as the senator thought it would be. It’s become apparent that the Beaux-Arts building isn’t exactly lined up above many of the commuter tracks, leading to the plan for a second entrance across Eighth Avenue.


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