Attend Penn StationPalooza!

Next Thursday, Jan. 26, the three main alternative proposals for restoring some sense of dignity to Pennsylvania Station will duke it out at a forum to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.. in the Great Hall of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art’s Foundation Building.

The event is sponsored by ReThinkNYC and will pit the architect Vishaan Chakrabarti of the Practice for Architecture & Urbanism (PAU), who wants to refashion Madison Square Garden into a big skylight to enlighten the station; architect Alexandros Washburn, a former city design czar, representing the Grand Penn Community Alliance, who proposes to replace MSG (whose lease is up in a year) with a grand classical space inspired by the old Penn Station; and architect Richard Cameron, architect of Atelier & Co., where he originated the idea of rebuilding Penn Station according to the design of Charles Follen McKim, of McKim, Mead & White, in 1910.

That station was torn down in 1963-’67, an act of cultural vandalism that inspired the architectural historian Vincent Scully to declare, “We entered the city like gods; now, we scurry in like rats.”

The architectural historian Lorraine B. Diehl, author of The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, will also lecture on the original building’s history.

Cooper Union’s Foundation Building is at 7 East 7th St. Free tickets for either an in-person seat or registration for the Zoom presentation of this three-ring Penn StationPalooza can be reserved at this ReThinkNYC link. Scroll to the bottom. Samuel Turvey, of ReThinkNYC, is leading this forum. You may find my numerous posts on this topic by typing “penn brussat” into Google.

As readers of this blog well know, I favor the rebuild option, which, if accomplished, would enable New Yorkers and their visitors to “enter the city like gods,” not like “rats.” Bringing beauty back to America requires a project of this sort. “Make no small plans,” wrote architect Daniel Burnham, who led the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – which led to the City Beautiful Movement, which created the civic architecture that led to the American Renaissance. If we want to bring beauty back into our cities and towns, we must build an example that will impress the entire world – and such an example would be to rebuild Penn Station.

My second preference is the proposal by Alexandros Washburn, which is a late-comer to the sweepstakes, and whose proposal is tremendously beautiful. It might be less expensive, but what it lacks is the Penn Station Waiting Room, which was like stepping inside the anteroom of God, and achievable only by rebuilding the old station, which is eminently feasible, both to build and to finance.

Please attend this forum. Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York State who holds the future of New York City in her hands, needs to know how much New York and indeed the nation and the world want this to happen.

Again, to attend this event, next Thursday, Jan. 26, click here.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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8 Responses to Attend Penn StationPalooza!

  1. Christopher Bleyer says:

    Why was Penn Station torn down? It was probably torn down because sociopaths take such delight in destroying what is beautiful.
    Why didn’t architects unite to prevent such a majestic building from being destroyed? Architects probably didn’t unite because they are kept divided in a Machiavellian way.
    Architects, like everyone else, see with their brains. These brains can be conditioned by our media, our educational system, and by those in power to see what is beautiful as ugly and what is ugly as beautiful. We should be ever vigilant that the thoughts in our heads are our own and not someone else’s.
    If architects of the 1960’s could have been wise and courageous enough to get beyond their petty egos and differences, they would have united to save this magnificent piece of architecture.
    The story of Penn Station is a life lesson to never stop trying to protect that which is beautiful.

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  2. Pingback: Pennsylvania Station rebuilt? | Tentaclii

  3. LazyReader says:

    Penn Station wasn’t eminently feasible to finance in its heyday. The gargantuan station was difficult to maintain and owners initially thought to build a high rise above it to rent out office space.

    Since pandemic fears have permanently disrupted city economy, it’s lost 800,000 residents whom constituted 10% of its rail commuters and 30% of its tax revenue…. this doesn’t bode well to exacerbate plans to build a train station that lost money in the so calledvGolden age rail transportation. Business Insider article says the MTA is losing $200 million a week. Since, in good times, it was losing $150 million a week, I don’t see much difference that can’t be fixed by reducing service not spending 2-3 billion resurrecting a museum to an steadily obsolete transportation infrastructure city refuses to pay to fix.

    1937 opening of the Lincoln Tunnel led to hundreds of buses roaming the streets of Manhattan after bringing commuters and other travelers from New Jersey. To reduce congestion, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey built a midtown bus terminal near the Manhattan entrance of the tunnel in 1950. That terminal cost $24 million, less than $210 million in today’s dollars.

    With various expansions, the terminal served as many as 8,000 buses carrying 260,000 passengers a day in 2019. In addition to 65 New Jersey Transit bus routes, the terminal serves well over a dozen private (though sometimes subsidized) commuter and intercity bus companies. But to some the aging facility is “one of Manhattan’s most miserable locales.”

    Why nit give it classical makeover. Accommodate an auxiliary bus terminal elsewhere. This is far less expensive

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    • Why not just put a plaque on a small pedestal engraved with Emma Lazarus’s poem instead of erecting such an oversized statue welcoming immigrants to America? You just don’t understand why mankind builds things, Lazy. Obviously, small purposes demand small gestures. But Penn Station was and could again be something different.

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      • LazyReader says:

        Humanity builds things….
        – out of practical applications needs of public like Infrastructure
        – Economic like businesses, venues, shopping centers
        – as monuments to events or people

        Lastly they build to capitulate their own narcissism. At 7 billion dollars…Penn Station is exactly that. Camero estimated the cost at around $2.5 billion, which seems like the most farfetched part, as the recently completed Fulton Center focused just on subway infrastructure was $1.4 billion and the World Trade Center transportation hub was 4 billion years ago.

        Beyond that economic futility of building a monument to a bygone era. Operating and maintaining New York’s transit system costs $10 billion a year more than fare collections…before pandemic.

        The point being, city fought with state for years arguing who should pay for what.
        Main emphasis is if the city squabbles over it and state refuses to pay for it. Then maybe it should not exist. More importantly if New York can let its trains and rails rot, what that say about Penn 2.0

        The point being the city will not possess the financial resources to care for an exact replica, they couldn’t afford the original. So what exactly is accomplished building this. Even in good economy….

        It’s monument to narcissistic thinking, not a train hub.

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  4. Pingback: Attend Penn StationPalooza! | Architecture Here and There – Knowledge of world

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope you will be there David-I will hold you a front row seat-we’re all hoping to knock out the Governor & Co.
    Your Biggest Fan-
    Richard

    Like

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