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NYCTRC Statement – May 26, 2010 – 15 Penn Plaza Transit Improvements

Statement of the New York City Transit Riders Council to New York City Planning Commission on the Application by Vornado Realty Trust for Proposed Transit Improvements at 15 Penn Plaza

May 26, 2010
My name is Dr. Jan S. Wells and I serve as Associate Director of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC).  I have a PhD in Urban Planning and am a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

The NYCTRC was created by the State Legislature in 1981 to represent the users of the New York City Transit system.  The Council consists of fifteen volunteer members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, the Public Advocate and the five Borough Presidents.

I am before you to express the New York City Transit Riders Council’s enthusiastic support for Vornado Realty Trust’s proposed transit improvements which are part of their plan for a new office tower on the site of the existing Pennsylvania Hotel at 15 Penn Plaza between 32nd and 33rd Streets.

These transit improvements that Vornado has agreed to make include the opening and rehabilitation of the old “Gimbel’s Passageway” between the 33rd St. PATH station and NYCT subways on the east and NYCT subway lines and Penn Station on the west.

This is an action that we have long called for!  This link has been sorely missed since its closing in 1986.  The corridor was an important connection for travelers and its return would add a substantial component to regional mobility.  The addition of a covered, well-lit, security monitored, accessible passageway, complemented by the activity of retail space along the south wall, is a win for everyone.

We are also pleased with the other proposed transit improvements: the widening of the 7th Avenue platform and stairs; the four new subway entrances; the new ADA elevator; and the improved circulation in the stations with new and widened stairs.  These measures are greatly needed and the opportunity to see them implemented with no cost to the MTA or the City should not be missed.

The Council urges you to endorse the Vornado application.  While the above- ground vision for a signature office building is not within the purview of the Council, we are excited about the possibility of the Penn Station area becoming a stronger commercial district, particularly in light of the Moynihan Station redevelopment that is now moving forward, the ultimate development of the MTA’s Hudson Yards and the coming ARC station under 34th Street.