I am honored to have my painting included in the letter to the editor of the Daily News (4-17-2018) in which is pointed out the beauty of the idea of rebuilding the old Penn Station. See letter, linked here: “Voice of the People,” Bring back old Penn’s full glory.
Two or three years ago when I was commissioned to do this painting, I loved the idea of trying to recreate how the old Penn Station actually looked. Rush hour in September circa 1940’s was the request. After all, my patron, the writer of the letter to the Daily News, is a New Jerseyan who commutes in and out of NYC amid the dreadful ambiance of the modern Penn Station. He chose an aerial view looking from the northwest towards the Lower East Side and the financial district.
Although I was very young when it was demolished, I remember Penn Station…it was huge, dirty and very exciting, with dim shafts of daylight streaming in through windows taller than any I had ever seen or imagined.
Together my patron and I went up to the roof of the New Yorker hotel to help me imagine how the station might have fit into the vast skyline, albeit greatly altered since then, and to the roof of Penn Plaza/Madison Square Garden (the “toilet bowl,” as the staff refer to it, because viewed from the roof its shape is reminiscent of a water tank and bowl.)
There are no color photos of the old station, because color photography was still very rare. There are several lithographs, each with different color. There are many black and white photos showing the view from the east side of the station. One photo, a night scene from the roof of the New Yorker Hotel, worked as a base for my composition.
Crucial to my project were color slides of the demolition of Penn Station by photographer, Norman McGrath, a lot of research into the materials used (including a trip to the New England quarry where McKim, Mead and White found the pink granite) and the surrounding 1940’s cityscape, and a few quick lessons in perspective by my friend and designer of this website, Susanne Schropp.
Bring back old Penn’s full glory
Madison, N.J.: Gov. Cuomo’s goal for Penn Station apparently is to leave Madison Square Garden in place but to use space created by demolishing the 5,600-seat Hulu Theater that sits under the Garden to create a glass wall on the station’s Eighth Ave. facade. Glass kiosks on Seventh Ave. and midblock would bring in natural light. The needs and potential of Penn Station, the busiest transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere, can never be realized as long as the station is compressed under a sports and entertainment facility. Public safety, pedestrian circulation and more complete access to natural light are all compromised by Madison Square Garden’s continued presence. An appropriate location for a new Garden needs to be found.
The Vishaan Chakrabarti proposal to sheathe Madison Square Garden in glass, convert it to a train station and admirably open the track levels to natural light, mentioned in the April 12 Nick Sifuentes Op-Ed, “The moment to rethink Penn,” would not fully realize Penn Station’s potential.
The best proposal is to rebuild the original iconic 1910 Beaux-Arts Penn Station, which was inexplicably torn down in 1963. The station could be rebuilt on the existing original foundations using modern, more cost-effective construction techniques with appropriate upgrades for expanding train and pedestrian traffic. The broad economic benefits, esthetics and brand of a Grand Central Terminal, Washington’s Union Station and Denver’s Union Station — the original Penn’s architectural peers — would immediately attach to the district.
New York will never get the inspired station and quality of life it deserves to serve its populace and to compete with international financial centers London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo as long as Madison Square Garden sits atop the station. A transformative resurrection of the original Penn Station would redefine urban renewal and serve as an important symbol of resiliency for the New York metropolitan region throughout the world. Samuel A. Turvey, chair, Steering Committee to Rebuild Penn Station