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Grand Central Terminal

WNYC News

Community Board to Vote on One Vanderbilt Proposal

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WNYC
A task force will decide whether to approve zoning changes that would allow for a 65-story office tower at One Vanderbilt.

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Transportation Nation

First Look: Grand Central Terminal Transit, Re-Envisioned

Monday, September 08, 2014

A developer wants to build the city's second-tallest building across the street from Grand Central Terminal. But first, it has to pick up the tab for some transit improvements.
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The Brian Lehrer Show

Poetry in Motion

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You probably know his work from your subway reading -- he was commissioned to write "Grand Central" to celebrate the terminal's 100th anniversary and it was reprinted on the trains and on MetroCards.  

Billy Collins, former U.S. (and New York State) Poet Laureate, professor of English at Lehman College at the City University of New York, and author of Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems (Random House, 2013), talks about that poem and those in his new collection.

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Features

Horsing Around Grand Central Terminal

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

To help celebrate Grand Central Terminal's 100th anniversary, some horses will be grazing and walking around the Beaux-Arts station. It's part of an installation and performance piece by artist Nick Cave.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: The Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Friday, February 01, 2013

Grand Central terminal, viewed from the catwalk (photo: Maya Bernstein)

Last year, Jim O'Grady, Stephen Nessen and I got to take a cool tour of behind-the-scenes places at Grand Central -- the secret engines seven stories below that had to be guarded from Hitler, the hidden staircase behind the opal clock, the clock tower, and yes, the catwalks (pictured).  Here are the highlights: (video: Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Grand Central Turns 100

Friday, February 01, 2013

Grand Central Terminal kicks off its centennial celebration today. Share your stories and hear from WNYC reporter Jim O'Grady on-site and Kurt Schlichting, professor of sociology and anthropology at Fairfield University and the author of the book, Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Two Candidates; Immigration; Grand Central

Friday, February 01, 2013

As Grand Central Terminal celebrates its centennial, learn how it survived a century and share your stories of what makes the landmark unique in your eyes. Plus: Republican candidate for mayoral nomination George McDonald; Rutgers professor Hooshang Amirahmadi, who is running for President of Iran; and how President Obama's immigration reform proposal differs from that of the Senate.

Transportation Nation

VIDEO + PICS: As Grand Central Bustles, A New Station Is Clawed From The Rock Below

Thursday, January 31, 2013

http://youtu.be/ULIx8QVZbKU

(New York, NY - WNYC) Michael Horodniceanu, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's master builder, was sweating as he stood in a cavern blasted from the layers of schist below Grand Central Terminal, which marks its 100th year on Friday. He was considering the question of which, in the end, would be thought of as the bigger job: building the original terminal or the the tunnels that the authority is bringing into a new $8.24 billion station it is constructing beneath the existing one.

"This one," he said. "Because people have been building above ground for a long time. We've been digging for a long time--we have about 6 miles of tunnels just in Manhattan. We've been digging under the most expensive real estate you can find in New York."

What's he and hundreds of sandhogs are creating is a project called East Side Access: 350,000 square feet of track, platforms, escalators and concourses that will, for the first time, connect Long Island Railroad to the East Side of Manhattan. It will double the size of Grand Central Terminal without enlarging its footprint, and it is expected to shave 40 minutes off the commutes of about 160,000 passengers per weekday. Currently, Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan must travel to Penn Station, on the West Side, and double back.

The project is $2 billion over-budget and its 2019 completion date puts it six years behind schedule--another reason Horodniceanu is sweating.

This is people-intensive work," he said. "We use the best technology but, in the end, it takes people." As he spoke, a worker operated a backhoe that clawed rock from a watery pit. The pit was lit by a high-intensity kleig light, which barely held back the subterranean gloom.

Scene from the massive East Side Access project beneath Grand Central Terminal. (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Every day 750,000 visitors pass through Grand Central Terminal, making it the largest hub for train traffic in the world. Of East Side Access's impact on Grand Central Station, Horodniceanu said, "What we are doing now is we are basically preparing it for the next 100 years. "

On left, Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction, takes an elevator to an excavation site 160 below Grand Central Terminal. (photo by Jennifer Hsu)

(photo by Jennifer Hsu)

(photo by Jennifer Hsu)

(photo by Jennifer Hsu)

(photo by Jim O'Grady)

(photo by Jim O'Grady)

(photo by Jim O'Grady)

(photo by Jennifer Hsu)
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Transportation Nation

How Grand Central Terminal Survived the Wrecking Ball - And Lived to 100

Thursday, January 31, 2013

(New York, NY - WNYC) Soon after Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, it was viewed as an one of the great public spaces in America, an icon of modern travel. By the 1940s, a popular radio drama bearing its name would open with a blast from a locomotive whistle and an announcer crying, "Grand Central Station! As a bullet seeks its target, shining rails in every part of our great country are aimed at Grand Central Station, part of the nation's greatest city."

Thirty years later, developers wanted to take a wrecking ball to Grand Central and replace it with an office tower.

In truth, the place was seedy. That's according to Kent Barwick, a former head of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and a key player in the effort to prevent the destruction of the terminal to make way for an office tower. "It was pretty dusty and the windows were broken," he recalled of Grand Central back then. "It was dark and and littered with advertising everywhere. And there wasn't any retail except for a couple of newsstands that had near-poisonous sandwiches and undrinkable coffee."

(We've done some terrific coverage of Grand Central in the past year:  a tour of the Grand Central clock tour with The Invention of Hugo Cabret author Brian O. Selznick here and a cool behind-the-scenes video of Grand Central's secrets here.)

The Fight Is On

The terminal was owned by the Penn Central Railroad, a company in decline because of America's move to the suburbs and car-dependent travel.  The much vaunted Interstate Highway Bill also spelled death for long-distance rail travel. In 1975, Penn Central was careering into bankruptcy and desperate to squeeze a windfall from its prime Manhattan real estate. So it proposed to do to Grand Central what it had done to Penn Station: sell the development rights to a company that would tear down the Beaux-Arts masterpiece and erect a steel and glass tower.

But Grand Central, unlike Penn Station, was landmarked.

The owners sued in state supreme court, claiming the new landmark law was unconstitutional. The railroad won, and moved to demolish Grand Central. The preservationists scrambled.

Barwick and his colleagues at The Municipal Arts Society called a hasty press conference in the terminal at Oyster Bar. Barwick's boss, Brendan Gill spoke first. "If we can't save a building like this, what can we do?" he asked.

The preservationists knew they were fighting to save not only the building but the landmarks law itself. And they knew from press descriptions of them as "a troop of well-known New Yorkers" that some of their opponents were painting them as elitists who wished to suspend New York in amber. Former consumer affairs commissioner Bess Meyerson spoke next, and addressed the issue.

"It's not really a question of change," she said. "If any city understands change, it's our city. But I think it's high time that we ask that very important question, 'Change for what?'"

Cause célèbre

The next speaker was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose presence transformed preservation from a stuffy to a glamorous pursuit. "I think if there is a great effort, even if it's at the eleventh hour, you can succeed and I know that's what we'll do," she said.

The New York Times prominently featured her in its coverage the following day, noting her "eleoquence," as well as her "two-piece tan dress adorned with heavy long gold chain." The effort to save Grand Central was, from that moment, a national issue.

Barwick recalled that Onassis also wrote a letter to Mayor Abe Beame, and that the letter began, "'Dear Abe, How President Kennedy loved Grand Central Terminal.'"  Barwick laughingly added that, "I don't know, and I don't need to know, whether President Kennedy had ever expressed himself on that subject."

Not long after, Beame told the city's lawyers to appeal the state supreme court's decision, an appeal the city won. The case then moved, in 1978, to the U.S. Supreme Court.Penn Central again argued it should be able to do what it wanted with its property. New York's lawyers said the city had the right to regulate land use through the landmarks law.

The verdict

The justices sided with the city. Grand Central Terminal was saved and, in the early 90s, underwent a restoration that brought back its luster. Penn Central Railroad eventually became Metro-North, which last year saw near-record ridership of 83 million passengers.

Barwick said that today, the city can't imagine being without Grand Central Terminal. "You see New Yorkers all the time, staking a claim in that building, pointing up to that cerulean sky and saying, 'Hey. this belongs to us,'" he said.

Grand Central Terminal turns 100 years old tomorrow.

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Transportation Nation

How Grand Central Terminal Transformed America

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Grand Central Depot, completed in 1871


New York's Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year. But when it opened, "it was neither grand nor central," said writer Sam Roberts, the author of Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America. He talked about the origins of the iconic transit hub on Wednesday's Leonard Lopate Show -- and how it wound up transforming Midtown, spurring the growth of the suburbs, and even contributing to westward expansion.

But its origins were rooted in Cornelius Vanderbilt's competitive streak, said Roberts. The man known as "The Commodore" had taken control of the New York Central Railroad ("ruthlessly," said Roberts, "in the way robber-barons did in that day").  Meanwhile, Penn Station was being built on the other side of town by the rival Pennsylvania Railroad company, and the Vanderbilts "wanted to say 'we have the best and biggest railroad terminal in the world,'" said Roberts.

"They didn't own the land, but they did own the New York State Legislature," he added, "which made it a lot easier."

Grand Central (photo by Charlie Herman/WNYC)

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Grand Central Terminal at 100

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, it immediately became one of the most beautiful and recognizable Manhattan landmarks, and to celebrate its centennial, Sam Roberts of The New York Times looks back at Grand Central's conception, history, and the cultural effects the station has had on busy commuters and tourists. His book Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America looks at the way the station spurred suburban expansion and fostered the nation's westward movement via the railroad.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Past, Future, and the Sea in Between

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Al Gore explains what six key things will shape the future—from shifting military power to scientific breakthroughs to climate change. Sam Roberts marks the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal. Peter Hook, a founding member and bass player for Joy Division, takes us behind the scenes of the band’s three years together. And we’ll start off our show with Fabien Cousteau and marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw, who discuss the biggest threats to the health of the world’s oceans and waterways.

Transportation Nation

Tunnel Linking Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal Could Be Delayed (Again) - UPDATED

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

(New York, NY - WNYC) Long Island Railroad riders might not see service to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan until 2019, a year later than expected.

Joe Lhota, chairman of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told business leaders on Long Island that the tunnel project has bogged down beneath a railyard in Sunnyside, Queens, where contaminated soil and an unexpected abundance of underground brooks and springs have slowed digging. He said the authority has brought in tunneling experts from Europe to help solve the problems.

The project, called East Side Access, will bring Long Island Railroad trains beneath the East River to Grand Central Terminal. Now, all LIRR trains go to Penn Station, on Manhattan's West Side.

Lhota called East Side Access the first major expansion of the LIRR in 100 years. He said that, on completion, it would shave about 40 minutes off commuting time for Long Islanders who work on the East Side of Manhattan and would increase capacity of the railroad by 41 percent.

“There are 800,000 people per day that go through Penn Station,” Lhota said, according to Long Island Business News. “And 60 percent of those are Long Island Rail Road riders. East Side Access should relieve a lot of that burden.”

The project, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2015, has been delayed several times. (The NY MTA's website still lists an obsolete end date of 2016.)

NY MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg later walked back Lhota's remarks. He said, "Chairman Joe Lhota did say this morning that a very preliminary study that he saw has a risk of the deadline going into 2019. We’re in the process of re-evaluating the deadline on East Side Access and will report to the board on it at the end of May."

Lisberg said NY MTA engineers are looking at "several different types of studies" to determine whether to stick with or push back the current 2018 deadline. "It’s complex tech stuff and the experts don’t always agree," he said.

The NY MTA has said previous delays were caused in part by conflicts with Amtrak, which is also working on construction projects at the Sunnyside Railyards in Queens, slowing digging for East Side Access. Lisberg said those problems have been solved. "In January, at one of our meetings, there was discussion of problems with scheduling work in coordination with Amtrak," he said." Now we’re very well coordinated."

And now comes this statement from the MTA press office:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reevaluating the risks in the construction schedule for the East Side Access project, and plans to present its findings to the Capital Program Oversight Committee later this month. One preliminary analysis of risk factors has indicated the completion date may move to 2019, as East Side Access construction intensifies in the busiest passenger rail yard and the largest passenger rail interchange in the nation.

 The analysis is not complete, and the MTA is identifying ways to mitigate those risk factors to allow the project to be completed as early as possible. The MTA continues to work with its partners at the Federal Transit Administration to update the East Side Access funding agreement to reflect the new schedule.

Amtrak and the MTA are working closely together on East Side Access and improvements to the East River tunnels and the Harold Interlocking to accommodate the roughly 500,000 passengers who rely on 1,200 train movements through the region each day. Senior executives at Amtrak, the MTA and NJ Transit regularly meet to coordinate construction activities and do everything possible to keep work moving forward.

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WNYC News

Grand Central to Celebrate Centennial

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grand Central has started planning for its 100th birthday next year.

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WNYC News

Look | Exploring Grand Central's Secrets With the Author of 'Hugo'

Friday, January 06, 2012

WNYC

When Brian O. Selznick wrote "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a graphic novel about an orphan in 1930s Paris, he imagined the secret spaces of the Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris. For inspiration, he visited Grand Central Terminal, which we recently explored from its sub basement to its tower.

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Transportation Nation

Exploring Grand Central's Secrets, With the Author of Hugo Cabret

Friday, January 06, 2012

Photo: Brian Selznick in Grand Central's Clock Tower (photo Maya Bernstein/WNYC)

When Brian O. Selznick wrote "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a graphic novel about an orphan in 1930's Paris, he imagined the secret spaces of the Gare Montparnasse, in Paris.  For inspiration, he visited Grand Central Terminal, and drew his interiors in pictures that were three inches by five inches. But the scenes in the book -- hidden tunnels, secret rooms, the giant clock tower -- were all drawn from Selznick's imagination, and then turned into the movie "Hugo," by Martin Scorcese.

But just recently, for the first time, Selznick got to explore Grand Central's secrets, with Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein.

The tour -- not open to members of the public -- took them to Grand Central's deepest sub basement, its lost and found, along its catwalks, and up into the clock tower.  And at each step along the way the station gave up its secrets, secrets eerily similar to the story of Hugo Cabret, a small boy who keeps the clocks running, steals to eat, and struggles to repair a lost automaton, his last connection to his dead father.

That struggle leads him to Isabel, an orphan raised by the station's toy seller, who mysteriously owns the key that will unlock the automaton.

Illustrations from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Copyright 2007 by Brian Selznick. Used with permission from Scholastic Press.

 

Click for the audio and slide show on the slide show here.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Texting While Driving Up 50%, House To Hold Hearing on CA Bullet Trains

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top stories on TN:

What Cuomo's tax bill says about transit. (Link)
And: Cuomo says he'll include transit in his infrastructure fund. (Link)
Bloomberg is still optimistic that the governor will sign the taxi bill. (Link)

Waiting for a bus in L.A. (photo by Laurie Avocado via Flickr)

A federal audit says Los Angeles's transit agency failed to fully research its impacts on riders and communities, especially when eliminating bus lines, adding service or changing fares. (Los Angeles Times)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing this week on California's high-speed rail project this week. (Link)

The pre-tax commuter benefit rewards drivers more than transit riders. (New York Times)

And: if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, the benefit expires. (Washington Post)

New Jersey's Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program has become popular that it may be expanding to other types of communities -- diluting the original intent of the program. (NJ Spotlight)

Texting by drivers is up 50%, even as states pass laws against it. And what’s more, many drivers don’t think it’s dangerous when they do it — only when others do. (AP via Washington Post)

Ford kills a line of small pickup trucks, says demand is for full-size. (Marketplace)

The new Apple store at Grand Central Terminal is a good deal for New York's transit agency. (NY Daily News)

Deaths on Caltrain tracks are increasing--horrifying train engineers, who are the last people to see the victims alive. (Bay Citizen)

More on Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor problem. (New York Times)

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Transportation Nation

Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grand Central Terminal (NY MTA photo)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Grand Central Terminal fills up during holiday season -- but what do you really know this iconic public space?  WNYC's Stephen Nessen took a behind-the-scenes tour. Now you can find out details about the iconic opal clock in the center of the terminal, take a look FDR secret train car and peek inside the control room of the train station where a train arrives every minute.

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C'mon Irene: Live-Blogging the Hurricane

SATURDAY, 3:24 pm: Empty Grand Central Terminal

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Now here's something you don't see every day, courtesy of the MTA Flickr stream.

Click into the post to see the photo.

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Transportation Nation

With Apple Store and Shake Shack, Upscale Retail Gaining a Foothold at Grand Central Terminal

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Shake Shack restaurant will be coming to this spot in the Dining Concourse at Grand Central Terminal.

(New York, NY - WNYC) Apple and Shake Shack have gotten preliminary approval to set up shop in Grand Central Terminal. The relatively upscale retailers continue the terminal's decades-long march from dingy transit crossroads to a combination of train station, ornately restored public space and glitzy retail mall.

The Apple store would occupy 2,300 square feet of a mezzanine in the Main Hall. It would not have glass walls but keep the mezzanine's open design.

The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Finance Committee approved the new tenants this afternoon. If the board votes in favor of the deal on Wednesday, Apple would sign a ten year lease starting at $800,000 dollars a year and escalating to more than a $1 million a year. The move is part of the authority's drive to wring more income from its real estate holdings.

The MTA paid $5 million dollars to buy out Metrazur, the restaurant that previously held the spot. That caused some unease with New York City Transit Riders Council member Andrew Albert.

"You could probably replace every existing tenant in Grand Central with national chains because they have the ability to pay more," he said to the MTA's Director of Real Estate, Jeff Rosen. "Is that the direction we are going?"

Rosen said the MTA was committed to keep a mix of business at the terminal. He named several stores that operated only at the terminal or oa handful of other locations, including a spice shop and florist.

Shake Shack would be in the center of the lower level Dining Concourse. Its lease would be for ten years and range from $435,000 to $567,000 a year. The restaurant is known for its long lines so the MTA has already designated an area for people to stand and wait: an up-sloping ramp near the Oyster Bar restaurant.

Further unease, of a sort, was felt by board member Pat Foye, who represents Long Island. He noted that as Grand Central Terminal gets fancier, Penn Station stays the same, which he darkly referred to as "the cheeseburger gap." Foye wanted to know why the cuisine for sale at Penn Station, which serves passengers from the Long Island Railroad, was limited to simple foods like pizza and cheeseburgers while visitors to Grand Central can nosh on fresh salmon and endive salad before ascending a marble staircase to peruse iPads and Macbooks.

Mr. Rosen said the authority was looking into whether retail could be improved at Penn Station.

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