Monday, September 14, 2009

In New York, Moynihan Station plan gets new lease on life

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Amtrak once again is willing to move to the current James A.Farley Post Office Building, across the street from its existing Penn Station facility in Manhattan, as part of a deal with the state of New York and regional transit authorities. Amtrak’s agreement revives efforts to convert much of the postal facility into a “new” Penn Station, to be named after the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.), an ardent Amtrak champion.

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Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he and state Gov. David A. Paterson had been negotiating with Amtrak for six months and found Amtrak’s current President Joseph Boardman “far more helpful” than previous Amtrak executives.

Specifics still are yet to be divulged, but under the current agreement Amtrak would share cost of the relocation, not carry the cost by itself. One change is that the parties have agreed to Amtrak’s request to share revenue from retail outlets in the expanded station and to make some design changes, according to a spokesman for Sen. Schumer.

Estimates of the project’s cost range between $1.1 billion and $1.5 billion; federal earmarks of $200 million are already identified for the project, and Schumer’s spokesman said the pending agreement would make it more likely for Amtrak to access federal stimulus funds.

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The proposal has its opponents, including those who believe Amtrak should not distance its existing station operations from much of thecity’s subway system. Any move by Amtrak west across Eighth Avenue would maintain direct links to New York City Transit’s A, C, and E subway service, but would make connections to trains on Seventh and Sixth avenues more difficult.

The current Penn Station, located beneath Madison Square Garden, also serves as the primary terminus for Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit train services.