Readers Write: Penn Station and Grand Central Madison bloopers

Readers Write: Penn Station and Grand Central Madison bloopers

There is nothing to celebrate concerning the opening of the Long Island Rail Road’s new $700 million entrance at Penn Station on 32nd Street and 7th Avenue.

Just like previous investments including the $1.6 billion Moynihan Station, $300 million West End Concourse and $600 million 7th Avenue 33rd Street entrance and enlarged main concourse, which total $3.2 billion, they do nothing to eliminate periodic cancellation and consolidation of LIRR, NJ Transit and Amtrak trains utilizing either the East River or Hudson River Tunnels due to signal, power, broken rails or other malfunctions.

These investments provide no improvement for reliability of service or additional platform and track capacity. Periodic overcrowding at the platform levels will continue This results in overcrowded trains with insufficient seating capacity. Some riders end up standing in the vestibules and aisles. The mad rush to board late arriving trains for the trip home will continue..

Amtrak initiation of East River Tunnel rehabilitation starting in 2024 will result in one of four tunnels being removed from service 24/7. If a train stalls in one of the three remaining tunnels, thousands of commuters will be late. To preserve existing service, some LIRR rush hour trains will be canceled or combined. Until this work is over by the promised 2027 date, it is impossible to guarantee safe and reliable on time service with a full schedule of trains, including a seat, to and from Penn Station for LIRR commuters.

Ten months after the LIRR began full-time East Side Access service to the $11.6. billion Grand Central Madison, virtually all of the facility storefronts still stand vacant. Not even a newsstand or Dunkin Donuts to be found. This is a sad commentary on MTA Chairman Janno Lieber, MTA Office of Capital Construction and MTA Real Estate in management of the Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Madison project.

The original completion date was 2011. Full-time service began in February 2023. MTA Real Estate had years to find tenants for the 32 vacant storefronts. Now MTA Real Estate promises to issue a Request for Proposals in early 2024 to find a master tenant to manage all 32 vacant storefronts. By the time this process is completed, commuters should be prepared to look at the art work covering up all all the vacant storefronts until December 2024.

How many other vacant storefronts are there at other 472 NYC Transit, 125 Long Island Rail Road, 124 Metro North Rail Road and 21 Staten Island Railway stations? MTA Chairman Lieber should put out an RFP to hire a private real estate management firm. They would do a better job than MTA Real Estate in leasing all of these assets. It would generate badly needed revenue and provide riders with basic amenities.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management.


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