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Author Topic: Penn Station
yukon11
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On Tuesday, Feb. 18, there will be a program, on PBS, entitled "The Rise and Fall of Penn Station". It will be a part of the "American Experience" series.

Richard
*******************************************

NEW YORK – Feb. 18, PBS will air “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station” as part of its “American Experience” series. The show is based in part on the book Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels by Jill Jonnes. The one-hour program will cover the station’s construction and ultimate destruction.

In 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad accomplished the enormous engineering feat of building tunnels under New York’s Hudson and East rivers and building Pennsylvania Station. The station covered nearly eight acres, extended two city blocks, and housed one of the largest public spaces in the world. But just 53 years after the station’s opening, the monumental building that was supposed to last forever was destroyed. On the morning of Oct. 28, 1963, the demolition began; it took three years to dismantle the station.

Show times vary in different cities. For more information about the show, a preview video, and scheduled broadcast times, go to www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/penn.

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palmland
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Thanks, have it set to record- since I'll probably forget to tune in.
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Gilbert B Norman
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http://schedule.wttw.com/schedulenow.php?stime=2014-02-18

Airing 9PM in the Chicago area; immediately preceeding is an 'American Experience' production regarding the Grand Coulee Dam that I have previously seen. But such could be of interest here to view the scale at which public works projects were conducted during FDR's years in office - and the paltry rate at which the like is conducted today - rails and elsewhere.

Regartding 'American Experience'; they have great shows, but they are aired so late (try 9-11P), and so limited with Comcast On-Demand, that this guy, who has bedtime at 830-9P, does not get to see all that many of such (I haven't got a DVR - wouldn't know the first thing about how to use it if I did).

Oh well, gotta get my $45 worth, as the only PBS show I regularly watch is McLaughlin Group.

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yukon11
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You have to wonder what the cost, today, would be for building the 1910 Penn Station (all 8 acres of it). The cost, back then, was about 100 million. Today, my inflation calculator says it would cost, roughly, 2.4 billion.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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For those here who are not about to be bothered with DVR's such as myself, the 'American Experience' Penn Station 'doc' is presently available at Comcast On-Demand. If I were some kind of somnambulist, I guess I could have watched when aired here at 9PM.

Here is The Times review of the production:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/arts/television/oh-penn-station-where-are-you-now.html

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mpaulshore
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Mr. Norman: In your eagerness to implicitly criticize PBS and Chicago station WTTW for their alleged failure to serve the needs of people who go to bed in the mid evening, you failed to notice that WTTW will be rerunning The Rise and Fall of Penn Station three times in the week following its initial broadcast: Wednesday the 19th at 3 p.m. (on their WTTW Prime channel), Saturday the 22nd at 9 a.m. (on their WTTW Prime channel), and Sunday the 23rd at 3:30 a.m. (on their WTTW HD channel).

It's actually typical--and has been for many years--for PBS stations, at least in major metropolitan markets, to rerun popular shows several times in the week following their initial broadcast, on the same channel or on associated channels.

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Gilbert B Norman
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I'm all set, Mr. Miles Paul Shore, but thank you for your concern and the report that WTTW will be airing the doc during other time slots.

I'll be watching the production during my regular TV viewing hours tonight of about 7 to 9PM; it is quite rare when I watch anything as it is being aired. What does surprise me is that some cable systems only offer on-demand as an extra. Case in point; my Sister who resides in the NY area and has Cablevision, I learned has a monthly charge for each channel a customer wants to watch on demand. But with Comcast, on-demand is all built in for any channel on your plan.

Finally, if I do wish to complain about something, as distinct from commenting, I would note the paucity of PBS programs that are available through On-Demand; that would enable me to get more value for my $45 annual membership (plus another $40 to their sister commercial radio station WFMT 98.7).

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HopefulRailUser
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That was a terrific show. I wish I could have seen that building. An amazing accomplishment to dig those tunnels. Very dangerous work. And they still function today.

--------------------
Vicki in usually sunny Southern California

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sbalax
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We watched it tonight. Like Ms. Vicki, I was especially impressed by the challenges of the tunneling.

I was happy that they didn't give much time to the project my father worked on -- the "new" MSG. The LA Times had an article a week ago about another of his projects, The Forum, in Los Angeles (actually Inglewood), that has found a new life.

Frank in dark and warm SBA (70º at 8:30PM.)

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DonNadeau
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quote:
. . . immediately preceeding is an 'American Experience' production regarding the Grand Coulee Dam that I have previously seen. But such could be of interest here to view the scale at which public works projects were conducted during FDR's years in office - and the paltry rate at which the like is conducted today - rails and elsewhere.
FDR didn't have to deal with an EPA. [Smile]

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@DonNadeau

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Gilbert B Norman
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I must note that I'm glad that I watched the show.

I had been unaware that the East River tunnels had proved more problematic than had the Hudson's - after all, the East is a comparative millstream, albeit with strong tidal currents.

I think that there appeared acceptance on the part of the producers that the then prevailing economic facts of life dictated that the structure would be razed and replaced with those more productive, and that what really counts is that the transportation infrastructure remains and likely represents the most utilized in the Western Hemisphere (well, almost; give or take the few dg W longitude of London) and can be ranked on the World's scale.

That's all for now; off on an eight day road trip to Florida, which includes Cleveland Orchestra and Detroit Symphony concerts - and Auto Train 'Voyage 21'.

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DonNadeau
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Am very pleased to report that the Penn Station program is now available at PBS online ~

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365179328/

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@DonNadeau

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Gilbert B Norman
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From Best Western Marion IL--

Apparently there are delayed viewing options for those who have 'cut the cord', or in the case of some friends in Amana Iowa never hooked it up, to watch this production which, again, I thought was quite good. I really was expecting sob such as 'those vandals' and whatever, but rather I noted the economic necessity for the demo.

Here is the famous Times editorial:

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FB0D1EF93A59137B93C2AA178BD95F478685F9

Otherwise, time for chow then hit the road.

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mgt
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Thoroughly enjoyed the programme. Are the plans to incorporate the General Post Office building into the present Penn station still alive? My wife and I were very impressed with that edifice which we visited last year en route to the High Line.
Interesting that the demolition of the Euston Arch at the end of 1961 had a similar effect on the architecture preservation movement in Britain. Undoubtedly it saved St Pancras station, magnificently restored and adapted, now the terminus of cross channel passenger service from destruction. Its preservation also demonstrates that such structures, as with Union Station in Washington D.C., can still serve a valid role in the 21st century.

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DonNadeau
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@ mgt Yes, there's has been much discussion about converting the adjacent post office into a station facility. It too sits atop the platforms.

@ Mr. Norman The name Amana should ring a bell. Amana electric freezers, electric refrigerators, and electric air conditioners were all developed in the Amana colonies along the former Rock Island line from Chicago to Colorado.

I've never been in an Amana home, but don't doubt that the teenagers you might find there sitting in front of their electric flat screen TVs would find your refusal to use electronic devices like DVRs and PVRs quite quaint and archaic. [Smile]

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@DonNadeau

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Ocala Mike
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Many years ago (60's), the bride and I visited the Amana Colonies, and we ate at a "family-style" restaurant for dinner. We didn't order anything, but the food just kept coming and coming. Wonder if they still have that setup today? I don't think I've ever had any better food, either.
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Gilbert B Norman
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From Hilton Garden Inn Tifton GA--

No; Mike the food at Amana Colony restaurants does no longer just keep coming.

Mr. Nadeau, my friends there, both 75, have a desktop computer and 'dumbphones' just like me; their daughter, 33, who resides in Cedar Rapids has all the electronic playthings.

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palmland
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GBN, hope you will give us a report on SunRail on your Florida travels. I see the new Winter Park station opens next week.

Wave as you pass thru SC on auto-train.

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DonNadeau
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@ palmland Very familiar with Winter Park due to family in area. Love that this will be its new station, not some Amshack:

http://ow.ly/tUIEn

@ Mr. Norman With eyes deteriorating all too quickly with age, I may soon be buying a "dumb phone" too -- something with big numbers. Even now, it's a strain to do all the "smart" things on my current iPhone. Please enjoy your time in Florida.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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Tanner929
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Was able to watch the PBS American Experience program “The Rise and Fall of Pennsylvania Station". It was good but basically went over the material of Hillary Ballon book on the history of Penn Station and Peter Moore’s photographs of the demolition of the station. The majority of the program centered on the engineering advances but ignored or did not go into details on why the station failed and why though grander had always seem to have held a lesser status then Grand Central Terminal.

The narrator states that Pennsylvania Station was built in the heart of Manhattan, but this was not really true, both stations where at the border of growing areas Penn Station and its railroad corporation never realized the real estate revenue that the New York Central did with the development of Park Avenue when electricity enabled the tracks to go underground. Even today the area west of the station was industrial and today has been stifled by among other things political power grabs, over a hundred years have passed since the PRR laid the tracks there is still a hole above them.

Another mention that was overlooked “success” of the commuter rail lines. Have you ever noticed how often in histories of America’s great train stations are centered on the romantic long distance routes while the commuter lines had been delegated to the lower levels? The overcrowding at the current Penn Station is not for riders waiting on Amtrak but rather the LIRR and Jersey transit riders that scurry through its tight corridors.

Recently the New York City council has tried to push out Madison Square Garden in order to design a new station and real estate development. The plans for a 5th generation of the arena has looked into since the 1980’s, the 1987 stock market “correction” ended those plans but since then the MSG corporation has renovated the arena culminating this summer just in time for the New York City council to play hard ball negotiations.

http://nypost.com/2013/10/27/msg-deserves-better-from-city-council/

This ended with a 10 year extension to its lease.

http://nypost.com/2013/07/25/msg-is-given-only-10-years/

The council and New Yorkers should look at the parallel between the Great American Railroads and the corporation the council is looking at like an endless sugar daddy that would not even flinch at writing off a ten year investment to build another arena from scratch. While no one has much sympathy for a cable company “Cablevision” this industry is currently in flux and its gravy train may be ending unless they find new revenue streams. New York sports fans know the Garden is run by Charles Dolan Jr the ner’ do well son of the Cable-vision founder, young Charles has overspent his way into mediocrity in Hockey and his basketball team leads payroll but at the bottom of playoff wins. While the Dolan’s are easy targets the same could be said of the Vanderbilt’s and owners of the PRR at the turn of the 20th century.

And know with its partner the MTA a company that has had a recent run of scandals and cost overruns, has looked into razing the entire MSG complex and building “futuristic,” “state of the art” Pennsylvania Station. Excuse me but that what was said about the current basement station.

http://www.designntrend.com/articles/4533/20130529/new-penn-station-designs-renderings-architects.htm

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/05/29/four_plans_for_a_new_penn_station_without_msg_revealed.php

The two terms very often are not conducive to longevity, lets look at Terminal 8 sitting dormant at JFK Airport, Anyone ever stand and admire the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal lately? Why not rehabilitate the plans for the Moynihan Post Office, what will become of that once the USPS finally shuts down? The station is already under landmark statues, what other use could it possibly be used for?

Like the dying railroads of the 1950’s the railroads thought more of form and style rather than infrastructure the MTA wants to become Donald Trump the wires, tracks and switches fail during inclement weather, like the White House Turkey Pardon an annual event is a train or track failure at Penn Station on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it be less expensive to move or extend the platforms and build a public place that in 25 to 50 years be looked at again as a bookend of Grand Central?

Would love to get some feed back on these thoughts. I’m not your typical train enthusiast who study’s the trains, locomotives and routes but rather my interests are more on the Stations and Terminals.

Thanks.

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palmland
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Tanner, from your comments it sounds as though MSG remaining in place is a done deal, at least for another 10 years. If so, it appears the only option is to get out of that underground rat's nest is to move over to the Moynihan Post Office project. I don't begin to understand the financing for such a project, but it seems to me our country is happy with mediocre public buildings in our towns that sprout up now. I would love to see the restoration of the post office because unlike most train stations in this country, Penn station serves a vital public purpose and should be a place that is functional, attractive and gets a 'wow' from travelers entering, much like GCT. Why is it we don't blink an eye at the huge new glass box airport terminals but run for cover when someone talks about a similar project for commuter and intercity rail stations, even when it's a place with real architectural and historical merit.

Similar decisions await my favorite terminal building which, now adapated to a museum center, is self sustaining but still faces an uncertain future.

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Gilbert B Norman
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From Marriott Biscayne Bay Miami--

Mr. Tanner, while your thoughts do differ from the typical pro passenger train sentiment expressed at this forum, likely you are aware I'm not as much enthuiast as are many around here. When I can get to a computer that does not cost $.40/min I'll give your thoughts more justice than I am prepared to do now.

Wednesday is 'Voyage 21 on Auto Train 52(26).

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Tanner929
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Thank you Palmland, Railroad stations and terminals to me are America's castles, those built by the railroads where monuments to themselves as well as a show of strength of the industry, much like banks use to be. The unused marvels of Detroit and Buffalo sit as many former great manor houses of Britain and Ireland became have become America's ruins.

I enjoyed the piece on Cincinnati Union and its museums, I had heard they brought the trains back or is that still in the planning?
Richmond Va, turned its Union Station into a Science Museum and restored its Main Street Station which still serves Amtrak.

Many other cities found they just couldn't find it in their hearts to tear down there stations, many sit vacant or have turned into hotels, restaurants or shopping area's.

Train travel has changed, gone are the days when travelers needed to wait at the station, most commuters arrive in time to board, but a great public space like the Moynihan Station could be would like Grand Central have a large percentage of people being there to just look and say wow! The plans for moving the station to the post office has been on the table since at least the late '80's but more money has been spent on studies than actual deeds so who knows.

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Tanner929:
I enjoyed the piece on Cincinnati Union and its museums, I had heard they brought the trains back or is that still in the planning?

Last couple of times I was there the waiting room is a side room off the main museum lobby/foyer. The room itself was fairly drab, and a doorway led to a bridge out and then stairs down to the tracks.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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palmland
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Tanner, As Geoff indicated, the waiting room is still used for the nocturnal passage of the Cardinal. The waiting room is actually pretty nice with its original leather wallpaper with intricate designs. Originally (1933) it was the men's lounge and was considered quite luxurious. A chamber of commerce brochure on the new terminal described it as "A man's room...with complete services so necessary to masculinity, at hand." How innocent those times now seem. We are very fortunate it was saved and still used. Somehow a men's room now used as an Amtrak waiting room seems appropriate. It's well worth a trip to Cincinnati to see the museum and then take a guided tour of the terminal. The 'Tower A' that sits atop the terminal was used for the operators controlling the trackage and is now a weekend mecca for railfans.

The murals alone are worth a visit.

[IMG]  - Cincinnati Union Terminal by palmland7, on Flickr[/IMG]

As to the Cardinal - I have to believe it would be a lot more useful as an overnight train Cincinnati to New York and then a day train Cincinnati to Chicago with thruway bus connections from Louisville and perhaps Columbus.

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Geoff Mayo
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My apologies for calling it drab - must have been the fact it was the middle of the night!

A day train from Cincinnati to Chicago is not a bad idea, particularly if the improvements to the Indianapolis-Chicago service go ahead.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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Tanner929
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Hey Palm, ironic the portrait celebrates industry as, like many of the last great train structures where completed as the Depression hit hard and coming out of that era things changed so much. Yes at the time Men's and Lady's areas where very segregated, if you look many older high school buildings had Boys and Girls entrances carved in stone. I remember seeing an arial photo showing how close CUT was to Crosley Field. With a tip of the cap to Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, it is amazing how much todays structures have been built over the past two decades to replicate things that had been torn down.
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palmland
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Tanner, in the Cincinnati Museum Center (CUT) there is a large HO scale model of the rail activity in the area. In addition to a nice model of the Terminal, there is also one of Crosley Field - which I recall seeing from the morning arrival of the National Limited many years ago.

I think the retro ballparks began with that wonderful Camden Yards stadium for the Orioles. As you may know the right field is marked by the massive brick B&O Freight Station - what a great place to watch the game. In a former life I had the chore to manage its clean up from a century of stored B&O records including early 20th century Official Guides and stock certificates. CSX sold the property, including Camden station, to the city shortly after. Unfortunately the trend for that type stadium seems to have faded and we're now going to very modern and in some cases, like the new Miami Marlins stadium, slightly garish parks.

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Tanner929
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Palmland, ah ballparks and Trains are a romantic yet short legacy of America. The Amtrak Northeast corridor is a legacy of original pro sports. Yes begining with Camden Yards ball retro ball parks where the rage especially in cities that old towns many replacing those awful multipurpose stadiums Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It is a shame New York could not rehabilitate Yankee Stadium, The original stadium was equal to the Pennsylvania Station as a young boy walking through the tunnels something special. The 1976 renovated version was no where near the debacle the "new" Madison Square Garden and Penn Station but at least was n the "hallowed" area's where on the same ballfield. The new stadium has none of luster just a full scale overpriced imitation.
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Gilbert B Norman
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The linked New York Times article appears within today's Arts Section:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/08/arts/design/the-case-for-new-hudson-river-rail-tunnels.html

Fair Use:

  • Across the country, competition is stiff for the most dilapidated bridge, tunnel or train system.

    But a plan for a pair of new passenger tunnels under the Hudson River, called Gateway, surely ranks one, two and three in terms of urgent rail projects.

    Passenger traffic under the Hudson River — and by association a hefty chunk of the nation’s economy — relies on a couple of broken-down, century-old tunnels strained to capacity. They serve Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains that at rush hour have come to resemble the Marx Brothers’ stateroom scene.
As the Critic, as distinct from Reporter, notes, Amtrak accounts for only some 5% of the passenger count using Penn. The remaining NJT and LIRR passengers have every step mapped out and are maybe within the premises five minutes. That a "monument"/"temple", whatever is built for their benefit is simply hard to justify. As the article notes, the $4B Calatrava Subway Station at World Trade Center is already under criticism for its opulent waste. It was commissioned under post-9/11 emotions, and somehow "survived" as pragmatism set in for the other WTC structures.
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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
As the article notes, the $4B Calatravas Subway Station at World Trade Center is already under criticism for its opulent waste.

$4bn for a single station?! [Eek!]

You could have had about 50 miles of (true) high speed rail for that price tag: bridges, long twin tunnels under a capital city, vast viaducts over deep and wide river valleys, and stations (above and subsurface) included.

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Geoff M.

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Here is pertinent Fair Use quotation from the article that Mr. Mayo addresses;

  • The Port Authority’s stegosaurus-skeleton of a Path Station shortly opening in Lower Manhattan — a $4 billion shopping mall and ego trip by its designer, Santiago Calatrava — may suggest otherwise, but upgraded rail service and improved public space in the form of safe, efficient and dignified transit hubs go hand in hand. They’re both environmental and social justice no-brainers

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Well, let's hope this horrendous boondoggle of a station fares better than Mr. Calatrava's other multiple failures.

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Geoff M.

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I read the Penn Station article in today's paper, while I was on the Staten Island Ferry. It should be interesting to see how this pans out. The Governor of New Jersey did not come out looking well in the Times' coverage.
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