Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sorry Charlie, This Ain't Pork

In his Sunday "newsmaker" presser, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, called for using economic stimulus funds to revive the moribund Moynihan Station project, which would convert the New York General Post Office across Eighth Avenue from Pennsylvania Station into a new station facility.

The project, which has been discussed since the 1990s, would certainly quality as "shovel-ready" and would help create jobs, especially in construction. Also, it would give New York a station with architectural features evocative of the original Penn Station that was demolished in the 1960s.

But, here's the rub. According to The New York Times, Sen. Schumer doesn't want to use New York State's share of the stimulus to pay for the project, a glorified commercial real estate development designed to attract upscale retailers and restaurants. He wants the money to come out of the piece of the pie designated for Amtrak or high-speed rail projects.

To quote a certain governor with great legs and a wardrobe to go bankrupt for, "Thanks, but no thanks." The Moynihan Station will do nothing to reduce travel times. If anything, it will lengthen them since the new facility will be further away from the heart of the Midtown business district and other key Manhattan locations. And, taking the money from Amtrak would essentially be robbing that perennially cash-strapped company, which has said it wants no part of Moynihan Station, preferring to stay put in Penn Station, where it is closer to the action.

So what the Senator, whom I consider a political ally, is doing is attempting to turn the economic stimulus into a porkfest for the sake of a little publicity. For shame. It is tantamount to playing into the hands of Louisana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who used the high-speed rail appropriation to make the case that President Obama's economic stimulus was laden with pork.

Sen. Schumer should have paid more attention in Hebrew School when the rabbi told him pork isn't kosher.


  1. For your information The Landmark is called the James A. Farley Post Office Building, not the General Post Office...although Farley was the Postmaster General.

    Project was always a waste of money and will serve no purpose. The project was a waste when we were having a economic boom.

  2. I agree that money should not be taken away from Amtrak to pay for Moynihan Station.

    Here's a comment I recently posted on another blog:

    I disagree with spending all that public money on renovating the James A. Farley Post Office into the new Moynihan Station.

    Who would this new station serve? Most people who use Penn Station work *east* of Eighth Avenue. The fastest and most direct path to the Penn Station platforms will remain the staircases and concourses that are under Madison Square Garden, between Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue.

    Commuters run out of Penn Station in the morning to get to work on time, and then run back down into Penn Station in the evening to catch their train home. They don’t have much time to spare walking all the way across Eighth Avenue, up into Farley, and then down to the platforms.

    The only people who would use Farley are those who give themselves extra time in the morning and evening, and who might make use of the expanded retail option or public spaces in Farley. I don’t see them as being a significant number. Look at the EIS. Most of the trips generated into Farley are because of the retail, not because of the station itself.

    The most recent plan for Farley/Moynihan had New Jersey Transit (NJT) being the occupant, not Amtrak. But as I have outlined above, NJT riders would not be very likely to use the new station when there is a perfectly good, brand new, convenient NJT concourse right at 32 St/33 St and Seventh Avenue.

    Instead, it would make much more sense for Farley/Moynihan to be occupied by Amtrak. While many Amtrak passengers are making quick jaunts on the Northeast Corridor, I would imagine there are a fair share of Amtrak passengers who are taking longer trips, and who arrive at Penn Station early. They could use a beautiful Farley/Moynihan to pass the time until their train is called. Additionally, Amtrak uses a lot more infrastructure - baggage counters, ticket counters, waiting areas, etc, that would benefit from the space in Farley. But even so, I don’t think I’d support spending hundreds of millions of public dollars on a project to put Amtrak into Farley/Moynihan.

    What I support is what you noted that can not happen any time soon - the private developer proposal that “would have redeveloped the post office and torn down Madison Square Garden and built a new station as well as two huge new office buildings.” That plan would have resulted in the best of everything - a brand new, more efficient, bright, amazing Penn Station between Seventh and Eighth Avenues for the LIRR and NJT commuters (and for Amtrak customer platform access too of course), and a renovated Farley/Moynihan to be a grand open public space in the style of classic railroad terminals, presumably for Amtrak customers, and also for anyone else who has the time to spend before their train leaves. It would also serve people working and living in the neighborhood. And it would be built using private developer money, at least in part, but hopefully in large part.

    But since that project is most likely on indefinite hold, I would rather spend vast public money on real transit capacity improvements, of which Farley/Moynihan is NOT. Farley/Moynihan itself will not bring more trains per hour into New York City. Let’s spend the big public money on bringing more people and trains per hour into and out of and throughout New York City. The ARC project is a step in the right direction, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of the details of the project as currently planned.