Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday pledged to take action to fix “scary” Penn Station during a tour of Grand Central’s long-delayed and severely overbudget “East Side Access” terminal.
Speaking to reporters after a “test ride” on the Long Island Rail Road into the new terminal — scheduled to open late next year — Hochul appeared to liken the railroad’s only existing Manhattan stop to a haunted house.
“It feels like a real trick when you’ve got to go into that Penn Station!” the governor explained. “You have to make your way through dark areas. Ah, it’s like a setting of Halloween. Scary! And a place that you do not want to be any longer than possible.”
Hochul said she would not wait until the completion of a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River to renovate Penn.
“Penn Station itself needs to be redone,” she said. “And I’m not waiting until 2035 for the tunnel to be done to start talking about the Penn Station experience, which is substandard.”
Disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been pushing a massive renovation of the station and redevelopment of the area around it before his resignation in August. Hochul did not elaborate on whether she would pursue the same proposal.
The $11 billion East Side Access terminal is expected to cater to 150,000 daily riders when it opens in December 2022, according to officials.
The facility is 150 feet below ground, will increase the LIRR’s capacity by 45 percent, and allow Metro-North to run trains in and out of Penn Station, Hochul said.
The MTA began construction on East Side Access in 2007, four years before Cuomo became governor. The project was initially projected to cost $2.2 billion — one-fifth of its final price tag.
In 2017, the New York Times called the project “the most expensive subway mile on earth” — and reported that MTA officials once discovered 200 of the 900 people hired to work at one project had zero job responsibilities.
MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said the transportation authority is committed to having the terminal up and running next year.
“Right now we’re in the stage of not only getting 29 separate systems and 20,000 devices, complicated technology of a modern facility in order. That’s really the work that remains to be done,” Lieber said. “We’re now entering the period where we’re training the entire LIRR workforce who’s going to operate the trains here, maintain the systems, make sure they’re safe.”
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