A study in contrasts between New York Penn Station's shiny and messy was in full view in different parts of Manhattan on Monday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, flanked by other political leaders including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, celebrated the opening of the west end concourse of the Penn-Farley Complex at a crowded ceremony along the new wing, at the site of the former James A Farley Post Office building.
The concourse will provide direct access to 17 of the station’s 21 tracks, and will connect the future Moynihan Train Hall to Penn Station underground via 33rd Street, with a direct connection to the 8th Avenue subway.
The wing will integrate with the planned Moynihan train hall, named after the project's champion, the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
"It's the beginning of a transformation," said Cuomo, three days after he announced the closing of a funding agreement for the $1.6 billion, 255,000-square- foot train hall, which will serve Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road commuters.
"It will be the big sister to Grand Central. It will be larger than Grand Central," said the governor. Officials expect final completion by the end of 2020.
Under the agreement between Empire State Development Corp. and Related Cos., Vornado Realty LP, and Skanska USA, the joint venture developers will fund $630 million, New York State will provide $550 million and quasi-federal Amtrak will contribute $420 million.
The new wing is aimed at relieving the Penn Station overcrowding, which is expected to intensify beginning next month when Amtrak's around-the-clock, eight-week emergency track repair project will force delays and scheduling reductions for Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuters.
In lower Manhattan, meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Long Island Rail Road committee -- LIRR is an MTA subdivision -- discussed contingency plans for the pending commuter agita and also debated who should pay for what at Penn Station. Amtrak owns the station and the tracks.
"Yes, it should have been addressed by now, but it hasn't," said LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski. "We cannot have derailments at Penn Station."
Amtrak's work, said Nowakowski, will especially affect commuters normally scheduled to arrive at Penn Station between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
MTA officials last week annouced a mitigation plan for commuters that includes ferry service and shuttle buses to and from Long Island; connections to New York City subway stations; and half-price overnight truck tolls to encourage nighttime truck use and minimize congestion on the Long Island Expressway.
At the Penn Station ceremony, Cuomo asked the MTA board to reduce fares for LIRR commuters who hold monthly, weeky or daily passes and whose trains terminate at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunter's Point in Queens instead of Penn.
The governor also called on the MTA board to explore potential discounts for subway riders on diverted trains.
New Jersey Gov. Christie has announced such an initiative for NJTransit commuters who lose their direct commutes to Manhattan because of the move.
In another comment that paralleled Christie's, Cuomo has called for the MTA, one of the largest municipal issuers with roughly $38 billion in debt, to withhold Penn Station rent payments.
MTA acting executive director Ronnie Hakim reiterated the sentiment at Monday's meeting.
Board member Veronica Vanterpool called rent-withholding "a bit hasty at this point," and said both both MTA and NJTransit should push Congress for better funding.
"Do we have an accurate accounting of how the lease payments to Amtrak have been applied? Until we have that information, I think it's a bit premature."
Cuomo said the new train hall will increase Penn Station’s total concourse floor space by more than 50%.
The Farley Building will also house 700,000 square feet of new commercial, retail and dining space within the mixed-use facility.
"This will have a direct impact on the West Side of Manhattan," said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who expects the growth to benefit the nearby Hudson Yards development.
Schumer implored both Democrats and Republicans in Washington to fight President Trump's planned cuts to transportation-related programs such as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants.
"P3s [public-private partnerships] are nice, but they won't build very much," said Schumer. "You need public dollars to get things done."