Streams

 

Historic Preservation

The Takeaway

Mecca: More Manhattan Than Ancient

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca begins this week. But those making the journey will struggle to find remnants of the ancient city the Prophet Mohamed knew. 

Comments [2]

WNYC News

Chapter Closes for Rizzoli Bookstore

Thursday, April 10, 2014

WNYC

Preservationists versus progress on 57th Street. Progress wins.

Comment

WNYC News

3 Brooklyn Sites Up For Landmark Designation

Sunday, September 22, 2013

WNYC

Three sites in Brooklyn and one in Westchester County are being considered for designation as historic landmarks.

Comments [1]

WNYC News

East Village Preserves Its Less Crusty Past

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The East Village has housed news immigrants, beatniks and the homeless — and the storied neighborhood that was once widely considered one of the most down and out areas in Manhattan is now home to 330 buildings in the city's newest historic district.

Comment

Transportation Nation

MAP/VIDEO: How To Survive, And Occasionally Thrive, In New York Penn Station, The Continent's Busiest Train Hub

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Passengers moving through the Connecting Concourse on Penn Station's lower level.

(New York, NY - WNYC) New York's Penn Station is rail hub as ant colony: tight-cornered, winding and grimly subterranean. Like ants, 600,000 passengers per weekday course through it, pausing only to stare at an overhead information board until their departure track is revealed and then, toward that specified bowel, they descend.

Even the transit executives who run the place understand that it needs a makeover: they've hired Los Angeles construction firm Aecom to draft a renovation plan, expected by the end of the year, called "Penn Station Vision." There's talk of moving back walls, upgrading signs and improving the lighting. But that won't happen until Amtrak decamps across Eighth Avenue into a new space at the Farley Post Office, which is at least four years away.

In the meantime, what can a traveler do to make her time in Penn Station more bearable? [VIDEO BELOW]

Typical fare on the lower level.

That's the question I set out to answer with Nancy Solomon, an editor at WNYC who's been commuting from New Jersey to the West Side of Manhattan through Penn Station for more than ten years. Our tour of the station on a sweltering summer afternoon revealed a bi-level, nine-acre public space that, in some places, barely functions. "The station is doing what it was never, ever designed to do, which is accommodate more than a half-million commuters," says Ben Cornelius, a former Amtrak worker and TN reader who toiled in Penn Station for six years. "It was designed to be a long-haul, long-distance train station, not a commuter barn."

Yet, Nancy and I turned up a handful of grace notes: a hidden water fountain, a sanitary restroom, decent sushi. And to our surprise, we stumbled upon a large, and largely overlooked, piece of the original Penn Station.


More than most municipal facilities, Penn Station is haunted by the ghost of its earlier incarnation--a Beaux Arts masterpiece by legendary architects McKim, Mead and White.

Postcard of the original Penn Station.

That station rose in 1910 and fell, against a howl of protest, in 1963. Its dismantled columns, windows and marble walls suffered the same fate as a talkative two-bit mobster: they were dumped in a swamp in New Jersey. On the levelled site rose Madison Square Garden and a nondescript office tower; station operations were shunted to the basement, where they remain. Here's one way to navigate it:

Penn Station users: What do you do to make it more bearable? Where do you eat, rest, go looking for shortcuts? We want to know!

Read More

Comments [10]

WNYC News

Piece Of Original Penn Station Hides In Plain Sight

Monday, August 06, 2012

There is a wide entryway in Penn Station that’s painted red with a stylishly carved leaf pattern. It frames the Long Island Railroad waiting room on the lower level and stands in stark contrast to the utilitarian style of the rest of the building. That’s because it’s a remnant of the old Penn Station.

Comments [3]

Transportation Nation

Piece Of New York's Original Penn Station Hides In Plain Sight ... Inside Today's Penn Station

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Entryway that is the only known piece of the old Penn Station to survive inside the current station. (photo by Jennifer Hsu / WNYC)

(New York, NY - WNYC) At first, MTA spokesman Sal Arena insisted that no part of the architectural glory of the old Penn Station survived in the stripped down bunker of today's Penn Station. But the carved leaf pattern in a large steel entryway on the lower level seemed so at odds with the rest of the station's no-frills style that we asked him to re-check that.

Arena obliged. Then wrote back, "I stand corrected."

TN has learned that this entryway--part of the original Penn Station--was walled off in 1963, when the above-ground part of the station was razed. The destruction was decried by many as an act of "historical vandalism." (Public ire at the leveling of the 1910 building is credited with launching the modern preservationist movement.) Madison Square Garden and a blocky office tower replaced the formerly grand public space; the train hub was shunted into the corridors beneath them.

There the entryway lay hidden for 30 years.

Postcard image of the original Penn Station.

In the early 1990s, Penn Station underwent a major renovation, its first since the original building was demolished. That's when workers took down the wall and discovered the entryway. "It was found exactly where it is now," Arena said. "The contractor cleaned it, painted it and put in windows." It is now a deep umber color.

As far as we can tell, the entryway went back into service quietly--no announcement was made about the salvaged piece of history. It's safe to assume that a large part of the station's 600,000 weekday travelers pass by without an inkling of its provenance. In places, the paint on the entryway's columns is worn away from the hordes of commuters brushing past it, wanting only to leave Penn Station.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, called the discovery a "cool" but minor find. "It's the sort of thing that's a curiosity, an oddity, one of those pieces of history that you need a plaque to explain," he said.

He noted a remnant of the past that can also be found outside the present station: two stone eagles from the vanished building that flank an entrance at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue. Bankoff said they're handsome, if hard to see, and small consolation for the "interplay of space and light" that was lost when the original station was torn down and tossed into a trash heap in New Jersey.

Except for a pair of stone eagles and a strangely tenacious red entryway.

Detail of glass and steel entryway from the old Penn Station. (Photo by Jennifer Hsu / WNYC)

COMING SOON: A feature story about the some of the small conveniences in the present Penn Station that can make passing through it more bearable. We'll also be asking for your Penn Station tips.

Read More

Comments [12]

WNYC News

Preservationists Push Historic Designation for South Village

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The area known as South Village is made up mostly of 19th century merchant houses, turn of the century tenements and small theatres that have produced some of New York's most influential artists.

Comment

WNYC News

Council Likely to Reject Landmarking for Bowery Building

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A City Council sub-committee voted against designating a nearly-200 year old Federalist building on the Bowery a landmark. The vote was a rare reversal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which had agreed to landmark the building in June.

Comments [7]

Features

Landmark Commission Votes to Approve Brooklyn Skyscraper Historic District

Monday, September 12, 2011

On Tuesday, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to vote to approve the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, which would give landmark status to 21 downtown Brooklyn buildings.

Comment

The Takeaway

Preserving America's Earliest Recordings

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

These days, almost every computer and cell phone has software to download or record and save our favorite songs. Of course, it wasn’t always so simple. Thomas Edison created the first phonograph in 1877, an invention that recorded sound on tinfoil-covered cylinders. But many of the recordings from Edison's day were lost to history — until the founders of Archeophone Records stepped in. 

Comment

Transportation Nation

Saarinen's Ghost Haunts Dulles Metrorail Project

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dulles International Airport

(Washington, D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia is not just an airport; it's also, according to design and planning guru Roger K. Lewis, "one of America's greatest works of modern architecture."

Dulles' main terminal was designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen. Along with the St. Louis Arch and JFK Airport's TWA Terminal (now the JetBlue terminal), Dulles Airport is one of his most well-known accomplishments.

But while Saarinen's Dulles terminal is almost universally celebrated, it's also causing some headaches for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Read More

Comment