After decades of advocacy and construction, a skylight originally designed to shine on postal workers sorting mail will brighten the way for train travelers heading in and out of New York City.
Gov. Cuomo led a socially-distanced opening ceremony before a group of a few dozen people Wednesday at the new Moynihan Train Hall, which expands Penn Station’s passenger areas across Eighth Ave. into the Farley Post Office building.
The project — in the works since the early 1990s — opens to the public Friday.
It features a wide-open indoor space beneath a vaulted 92-foot-high vaulted skylight that stretches over one acre and is meant to evoke the architectural style of the old Pennsylvania Station, whose demolition in 1963 was so regretted it spawned the city’s historical preservation movement.
The hall is named for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who in the years before he died in 2003 was the greatest champion of the $1.6 billion, 225,000-square foot project.
“This was actually the sorting room for the post office — this is where they sorted mail,” Cuomo said at the ceremony.
“The great skylight was not just a beautiful piece of architecture — it brought the light into the building so they could see the mail and read the envelopes and do the sorting. Senator Moynihan said, ‘What a beautiful statement. What a beautiful piece of architecture. How do we use that for the public?’”
“Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a man of true vision,” Cuomo said. “He saw the potential in an underutilized post office and knew that if done correctly, this facility could not only give New York the transit hub it has long deserved, but serve as a monument to the public itself.
“As dark as 2020 has been, this new hall will bring the light, literally and figuratively, for everyone who visits this great city,” he added.
The hall, which features a mix of old and new with massive video screens and marble floors sourced from the same Tennessee quarries used when Grand Central Terminal was built in the early 1900s.
It will serve Amtrak riders as well as MTA’s Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit passengers, and connects to the rest of Penn Station via passageways beneath Eighth Ave.
A soaring, Art Deco-inspired clock, designed by Pennoyer Architects, hangs above the hall and various pieces of art adorn several areas of the cavernous space, a far cry from the labyrinthine halls and cramped quarters of Penn’s subterranean concourses.
A triptych of back-lit stained glass pieces featuring break dancers floating across a blue sky by Kehinde Wiley as well as works by Stan Douglas and Elmgreen & Dragset will be permanently displayed in the hall.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped steer millions in federal funds to the hub, said Moynihan would be well-pleased by the completion of the project, which will “leave the Penn Station of the past in the dust.”
“One of the first missions Senator Moynihan gave to me when he retired was to make sure that Penn Station was renovated,” he said. “In fact, when I suggested the station be named for him, I knew the result would be something he would be proud of.”
Construction on the entire project began in 2010, and work on the $1.6 billion phase of the project that includes the hall began in 2017.
Cuomo said while the architecture and symbolism of the site harken back to the past, he believes the re-imagined space is really about the future.
“We built this as a statement of who we are, and who we aspire to be,” he said. “Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York and that is the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children and to future generations.”