What you need to know about Penn Station before it’s a distant memory

TRD breaks down the numbers — from the iconic station of yesteryear to the station of the future

Feb.February 01, 2016 11:00 AM

A rendering of Farley Post Office, which will be redeveloped into a train hall for Amtrak.

When the first train set off for New Jersey at the newly opened Penn Station back in 1910, a throng of 2,000 people rushed to buy tickets and ogled at the ornate architecture. Porters in red caps were on hand to direct travelers, the New York Times reported at the time. Fast-forward more than 100 years and the station, which was controversially demolished in the 1960s and rebuilt, is a commuter’s worst nightmare. Back in the 1990s, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously proposed turning the neighboring Farley Post Office into a train hall to alleviate congestion at Penn, but since then elected officials and developers have failed to implement that vision. In 2005, Vornado Realty Trust and the Related Companies were selected to handle the redevelopment. While their plans came close, they ultimately never got off the ground. Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo is attempting to jump-start the redevelopment yet again. Last month, he announced that officials would seek a new round of bids to redevelop both Penn Station and the post office. Jill Jonnes, a historian and author of the book “Conquering Gotham,” which is about the building of the original Penn Station, said about the eternal plans to renovate the station, “What would be a real triumph of redesign is if when you emerged from a train you actually knew where you were.”


The number of NY governors who have pushed to redevelop Penn Station. They are Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson and, now, Andrew Cuomo.

$3 billion

The total cost to build the new project, which Cuomo has dubbed the Empire Station Complex. By comparison, the government shelled out $114 million for the original station and the newly bored tunnels back in 1910. That’s the equivalent of about $2.7 billion in today’s dollars.

$100 billion

The amount Cuomo plans to spend on infrastructure upgrades statewide. In addition to Penn Station, he’s also earmarked $4 billion to overhaul LaGuardia Airport and $1 billion to redevelop the Javits Center. Meanwhile, the long-delayed transit hub at the World Trade Center site, dubbed the priciest train station in the world, will cost roughly $4 billion.

210,000 sq. ft.

The size of the train hall at the Farley Post Office, which will be connected to Penn Station via an underground pedestrian concourse. The post office will increase the station’s concourse space by 50 percent and connect to Penn Station through two underground concourses. The first phase of that project is already in the works.


The number of people — including passengers and visitors ­— who pass through Penn Station every day. Grand Central sees 750,000 people a day. While Penn has more passengers, Grand Central’s retail hub attracts more non-commuters.


The number of years since Related and Vornado were selected to redevelop the station. The latest announcement from Cuomo essentially boots them off the project, but they have a leg up in submitting a new bid because they know the project intimately.


The total number of retailers and restaurants occupying Penn Station’s 77,000 square feet of retail, according to a count by the MTA and Amtrak, which control the space. As part of a plan to modernize the station, 10 fast food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, were closed last year. The developer selected to overhaul Penn Station will control all of the existing and new retail.

$500 million

The amount that the Farley Post Office’s 1.5 million square feet of air rights could fetch if sold by the state. Developers Vornado and Related had proposed several plans for the post office, including using it as a new home for Madison Square Garden, but none of them were adopted.


The number of sculpted stone eagles, out of 22, that survived the demolition of the original Penn Station in 1963. Two of the 5,700-pound, five-foot-tall birds currently flank the existing entrance to Penn Station. The others are scattered at sites on the East Coast, including the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington D.C., and the Market Street Bridge in Philadelphia.

17 million

The number of bricks used to construct the original Penn station in 1910. The station also used half a mile of pink granite and 60,000 cubic feet of stone. The new station’s facade will consist mostly of glass.

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