A secret platform that could make Penn Station better

Good morning. Today is Thursday. Scroll down to find out where masks are still required in New York – and those that may not be required, come in September. But first, check out what I’ve learned is a secret station in Station Pennsylvania could be revamped to make life easier for commuters.

Samuel Turvey leads the way where he can admire his secret place from afar. Turns out it was a secret place no one knew about. It was right there in plain sight. Thousands of passengers pass it every day on their way to and from Pennsylvania Station. But you can’t go there – it’s restricted to the public – and you wouldn’t want to. It’s full of trash.

It is a long-abandoned foundation that Turvey, the president of ReThinkNYCan advocacy group, says it was used during the mail train era.

He was amused by it. He calls it “magic”. He said it was essential to accomplish something that sounded impossible: make Penn Station a hell for commuters. He said that if the space where the four tracks on either side of the platform were redesigned, more trains and more passengers could move through the station faster.

“Hell pit” isn’t his word, though he did say that once you’re beyond the glittering acres of rock, still fresh in the Moynihan Train Hall, it’s the right word. Governor Kathy Hochul used it last year to profile a $7 billion rebuilding plan.

That plan is expected to win approval from state officials today. It calls for the construction of 10 super-tall buildings near the station. It also promises an estimated $1.2 billion in tax relief for a developer who owns most of the land. Opponents say it’s less about transit and more about real estate.

Financing is complex, and questions have been raised about how improvements to the station will be paid for. An economic analysis was released last week concluded that the plan would generate enough revenue to cover only half the cost of station improvements. To make up the difference, the state would have to reallocate about $3 billion from other sources.

The station overhaul is expected to follow in a segmented infrastructure project that includes the addition of two monorail rail tunnels under the Hudson River. As with everything at Penn Station, some railroads and their government oversight are involved – Amtrak, which has long-distance trains that stop at the station and two commuter lines, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit. They often use the same tracks, but their lounges and departure gates are largely separate.

Hochul, determined not to wait for the tunnels, has moved to speed up the state’s station renovation. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority solicited proposals from architectural design firms to suggest ways to “relieve overcrowding and improve passenger flow” in the station.

Turvey says that better flow presents an opportunity to reinvent an inefficient terminus into an efficient “run through” station. It’s a concept he says has caught on in places like London, Paris and Tokyo. In the New York area, it would allow someone from Queens, for example, to get to New Jersey without having to change trains. When offices reopen, that could attract the opposite commuters who have been scattered during the pandemic.

Karim Ahmed, a senior advisor at ReThinkNYC who joined Turvey to review the secret platform, says that running through will allow commuter trains to run more frequently.

“I’ll take a job in Newark – I’ll take NJTransit to Newark – if there’s only one train coming in every 20 or 30 minutes?” he asks. “No, because if I miss my train, I’ll miss my morning meeting and I look like a fool. But if I have trains that run every 10 minutes, then even if I miss one, another will come. I may be five or six minutes late to my meeting, but that is a much different situation than it may not be for a long time.”

An MTA presentation last year that is not possible because “there are too many physical constraints and serious flaws”, and the costs will be “very disproportionate to the limited benefits”. ReThinkNYC countered that its plan would cost about half as much as the state’s plan for the eventual expansion of the station and the tracks below.

Ahmed and Turvey, chatting on another platform, must wait for a glimpse of the secret – a Transit train in New Jersey blocking their view. The train left the station after a few minutes.

“Strangely, this abandoned Post Office railroad platform holds the key to the second miracle on 34th Street,” Turvey said.


Again: It’s going to be another hot and humid day with a peak in the mid-90s. Afternoon thunderstorms could interrupt the heat – for a short while. At night, it will be mostly clear, with temperatures in the mid to high 70s.


Valid until August 15 (Hang Thuan Festival).

“No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” is an age-appropriate saying for the last days of the school year.

As the school year in New York begins in September, “no more masks” may be the rule.

Governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday that students in New York probably won’t have to cover their faces when classes resume. But she said the statewide mask-wearing rule for public transportation will remain in effect for now. “The numbers will have to be lower than they are now and always lower,” she said, before she raised it.

Coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths have increased because of the rapidly spreading Omicron sub-variant known as BA.5. Hochul used her first Covid briefing in months to ensure that case levels were manageable for now and argued that her pandemic emergency powers should be extended. in cases of severe illness and increased hospitalizations.

The girl has join the criticism in recent days for continuing to declare, month after month, that New York is facing a pandemic emergency. That allows her to enact proxies and spend tax dollars without the full scrutiny of the legislature. She appeared to call the briefing in part to say she still needed that authority.

She said she was hoping the coronavirus pandemic would be over by now, but “it’s become clear to me that it’s not gone yet.” She wants to prepare for a potential surge in the fall and winter.

In the fall, she said, the state focused on sending millions of rapid tests to schools so children could be tested in time on the first day of school. She also said the state is working to stock up on enough masks and other personal protective equipment to last 60 days.


Dear Diary:

I was walking south toward Penn Station and the train home at the end of a long day when I overheard two people walking together in front of me.

“LA is hard,” said one. “It’s all about looks. If it’s not beautiful, it’s hard to get anywhere.”

“What about New York?” the other asked.

“New York?” first person to answer. “New York is more about the brain than the looks.”

– Frederick Hurford

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and Read more Metropolitan Diary here.

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