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Four architects lay out their vision for a brighter, cheerier, more functional transit hub.
Four architectural firms unveiled grand designs for a new Penn Station and Madison Square Garden at an event this week sponsored by the Municipal Art Society of New York.
The words raised a sad chuckle of resignation in the audience both times, because everyone knew exactly what Scully was talking about. Relegated to a hole in the ground underneath MSG, Penn Station remains one of the most important transit hubs in the country, serving more than 600,000 passengers daily on NJ Transit, the Long Island Railroad, Amtrak, and the city’s subway system. And according to the architects who presented proposals for a reimagined Penn, the station will never be better until the Garden, whose foundation is sunk into the station itself, is pried off its back.
From the broader perspective of the city’s financial future, limiting the permit provides an extraordinary opportunity for long-term economic development in the surrounding district. And the Garden, which has moved several times before, should profit from another new home, linked to mass transit, in a booming district where the arena would be not a decrepit relic but the best sports and entertainment facility in the city. The question of whether the permit will be renewed for 15 years will go before the City Council in June.

SHoP Architects proposed moving the Garden to the site of the Morgan postal facility to the south (reasoning that the mail is on its way out, anyway), and proudly proclaimed the firm’s comfort with the nuts and bolts of financing and wrangling a project this huge.
The fight over the future of this incredibly valuable real estate in the heart of midtown Manhattan is just beginning. There are few transit terminals in the United States as dismal as Penn Station, even after a renovation in the 1990s that made matters slightly less dire. That ethereal building was replaced, in a multipart deal that seems foolish in retrospect, by the squat drum of Madison Square Garden and a couple of blocky office towers. This makes it the busiest transit facility in North America, perhaps even the Western Hemisphere. The current plan to relocate some of Penn's traffic to a new Moynihan Station, housed in the old Farley Post Office Building across Eighth Avenue from Penn, has been plagued with delays and fails to address the majority of the passengers who make their way through the crowded waiting rooms and platforms. The four architects invited by MAS to contribute were Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and SOM.
That plan collapsed for a number of reasons that did not involve MSG, but did involve many of the same people now pressuring MSG to move, including The Municipal Art Society, which created enormous obstacles to achieving the relocation.

Whether it results in a future Penn Station that is fit for gods, or merely for rats, remains to be seen.
She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog. It was an affront to the cityscape that spurred the architectural preservation movement in the city and in the country at large.
No one who cares about transportation in the Northeast Corridor is happy with the way things are.
Each came up with a wildly aspirational revisioning of not only the station and MSG, but also of the area for blocks around.

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