Public officials took sledge hammers to a ceremonial brick wall in front of the Farley Post Office Monday afternoon. The groundbreaking is for the first phase of Moynihan Station, which will be constructed under the post office steps facing Eighth Avenue.
Governor David Paterson said New York never really recovered from the loss of the original Pennsylvania station, which was built in 1910 and demolished in the 1960's. He called it a cathedral -- and a gateway opening the region to economic growth.
"Senator Moynihan understood this," said Paterson, "and he had a vision of a greater gateway, one that would bring even more prosperity to this region and that's what we are going to begin today."
The project will expand Penn Station and become the railhead for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
Senator Chuck Schumer said constructing the Empire State Building during the depression was an example of spending for the future during an economic downturn.
"Yet we must build smartly," said Schumer, "and with great focus and, unlike the Empire State Building, our efforts should concentrate on building the critical infrastructure that will lay the groundwork for private investment when the economy rebounds."
The $270 million project has received $83 million in Federal stimulus money. The first phase is expected to be complete by 2016. Officials hope the project will also accelerate development on the West Side of Manhattan.
Moynihan Station was championed by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1990's. It was intended to replace the original Penn Station that was demolished so that Madison Square Gardens could be built on the site.