New Yorkers are known to disagree about a lot of things. Who’s got the best pizza? What’s the fastest subway route? Yankees or Mets? But all 8.5 million New Yorkers are likely to agree on one thing: Penn Station sucks. … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety. Nine percent invisible I'm roman mars new Yorkers are known to disagree about a lot of things. Who's got the best Peter, what's the fastest subway rout, Yankees or Mets. But I would bet that if you pulled every new Yorker, all eight million five hundred thousand of them, they would agree on one thing and stations socks, but They happen in our friend and reporter in New York, who also hates pen station. There is nothing joyful about pen station. Windowless airless crowded, Six hundred and fifty thousand people have to suffer through it on their daily commute. That's more try than the region's three airports combined. Luckily, though, one of them we're incantation now We tagged along with our unlucky friend Jonathan, been heave. Our he's a producer for this american life and commutes from his home in Jersey to
experience of pen station is like being it up Friday, sale at Walmart every day all Like the whole time, people are pushing you squeezing through a tiny stairway to get down to the tracks. It's the only place in which people are like. Actually touching your ass and you're, not supposed to say anything about it. The air is often hot stuffy. It feels like whatever wizard of OZ is behind, like that they are just watching in their little tower and watching like then crush each had a look at them want to each other It's awful it's off and it's my best way to get home everyday poor guy, and you can also see some pen station hate and popular culture about New York legacy episode of broad city, where one character Abbe its dont, because her boyfriend would rather and a relationship then take a train out of pen station pen station attempt
discussing it's kind of a dual breaker for me. But here's the worst thing about pen station drab, low ceiling, spiralling on optional building was once the opposite of all of those things with vast space building itself was the fourth largest building in the world when it was finished. That's Jim Jones describing the original pen station should a great book about it called conquering Gotham. The original pen station in New York City opened and nineteen to It was majestic imagine the Parthenon, but for trades the facade was a line of massive DORA columns, you walk through them to send down a grand staircase and into a waiting room designed to remind you of a roman temple. He's very high ceilings and very soon pack, your light coming through, and that
Should you into all of these staircases that took you down into the train tracks guy behind all of this was Alexander facade. The head Pennsylvania, railroad with the Euro, You know, pen station Cosette was fit the problem that had pledged to New York for years, namely it was a complete pain in the ass to get from New Jersey to minimum people. Communing from Jersey had the swept across the Hudson River on a slow, very soak. A sought built the first ever train tunnel to run under the Hudson River is considered one of the greatest engineering feats ever I know we say that all the time, but we really mean at this time and Cosette built pen station terminal too. Brown, his monumental achievement, the architecture celebrated, but the past and the future. It was a combination of this very ancient. Grandeur and this extremely just realized a form of transportation. These really powerful pranks
newspapers called pen station. The eighth wonder of the world people call a lot of things. The eighth wonder the world that we really mean it Vista everyone loved it every one that is, except for one other railroad family, that owned a little station right across town vis, then made the existing grand central station, which was owned abide. Vanderbilt family look really shabby the time when the original pen station was built. Grandson, station was not anywhere near as ground as it is now, but the Vanderbilt just couldn't be outdone by this other train station. Clearly how embarrassing so in grand Central needed a little touch up the random decided to tear it down and build a newer, shiny or grander grand central station. The one we know today. So there was this very early connection between the two. So
and station and grand Central started out as enemies. But as the years passed, they were like the last two drugs at the party trying to keep the night from coming to an end. The country was in a very different sort of mine, said that new was good and flying with good and cars were good and trains were bad. Transition was only forty years old at this point, but already its days were numbered at war to passenger trains. Just word as popular anymore, Pennsylvania Railroad was just bleeding money. The company couldn't afford the upkeep of pen stations grandeur everything.
Had been glorious about. It really got sort of covered with crime, and it was dirty and they didn't fix a broken windows and they're all these pigeons flying around. It's really hard to wash pigeon group of forestry Archclaus you. So people did not feel that this was this glorious plays. They felt it was really from it. For a lot of people, pen station had become a money. Sucking albatross investigation that also sat on nine acres of precious midtown Manhattan. Real estate. Remember this is New York City Real estate in New York is in the air space. Pennsylvania railroad executives knew that they can make tons of money if they could read out the space above the station to a big tall buildings. There were proposed to build a parking garage amphitheatres of forty story office tower.
But the one that one out was the futuristic sports and entertainment palace known as Madison Square Garden. The deal that Pennsylvania Railroad cut with the developer Irving felt was to keep the ex blow pen station and sell the rights to the airspace on top and blow up pen station. In the process, Here's where I wish. We could say that the whole city banded together to save the station but actually no one really cared except for a small group of activists. Architects, forget our architecture in New York agony the terrible acronym Definitely a cause I can support. Peter Sampson was one of those architects. I went over to his house on the upper West side, and we looked through old photographs from the only much to save pen station is me: This was my sign right here, that said, phone sell, our city shot the date August. Second, nineteen sixty two there two hundred rowdy architects,
We would have to wear flexible clothing, was otherwise they wouldn't take us seriously. Just kidding the rowdy part. These were architects. The men were suits the women were white gloves and pearls We each photo pride ourselves on I'm doing better lettering than the next sign. They marched up and down Seventh avenue shouting polished on demolish save our heritage. Things like that is what we would say. Keep in mind, we know none of us wherever picket line. Before you don't say still. The protest made the front page of the New York Times, architects, five pence station, but it was too late. Tumblr. Twenty eight nineteen sixty three at nine, a M jackhammers torrent, a pen stations, granite slabs militant, took a long time about three years. You rode Edward was a great animal because saw the black of the outside, and then you saw the inside, which was always beautiful pink.
It was like the flesh was opened up with a knife. For three years most of the original pen stations remains door, column, granite and travelled teen details. All of that had been. And into a new Jersey swamp. And of course, they gave us a new pen station, one that was summarily hated by everyone. In nineteen sixty eight architectural historian, Vincent Scully, famously remark that, whereas before one entered the city like a God, one skulls and now, like a rat. After the destruction of translation, mere Robert Wagner created the first Landmarks Preservation Commission and a nineteen sixty five. The group help asked the city's first ever landmarks law, so that something as drastic as the destruction of pen station could never happen again with the whip,
org laws were flawed. It was a joke, new Yorkers or so blood. That's Roberta rats. She wrote award winning stories about the problems with the city's landmark laws for the New York Post in the nineteen seventies. For those of you who are too young to know that their near posts used to be a really good newspaper, there are a number of problems with the landmark laws: the Bay One, though, was that the landmarks Commission didn't mean all that much they met six months every three years. So if you miss your window to get your favorite New York City, building, landmarks, tough luck and, in the meantime they Bulldozer operated at will grant says a lot of buildings were lost even after the landmark laws were passed, the singer building, which was once the tallest building in the world and the old metropolitan opera house and the Mr Hotel and then a nineteen. Sixty eight pen stations, old rival, grand central station was poised to be yet another pile of rubble.
People like permanently bill robbing hot of uneven, would probably have alive I'd love grand central station, hands down. It is my favorite place in the city. Welcome progressive German can't bar is just as excited as I am to be here. He's been involved in saving Newark, Citys historic buildings for decades. We're standing under grand central, beautiful vaulted green ceiling, which is decorated with constellations find anybody. Do this rhetoric, in every other person pussy. We can find anybody doing this rare community without finding somebody taking a picture or one region. Grand central feels like a throwback to what I feel like the open station must have been like. Just like the original penetration Grand Central was a hard building to keep. We can't borrowing point.
To a small patch of black in the far corner of the ceiling for the will of the rear. There seems to be a piece of dirty large stone in the piece of dirty ceiling at the guts shows, but the silly was like which is essentially nicotine coded almost everybody smote all the time that black ceiling square was left on purpose to remind people what grand Central was like back in the day in the nineteen sixty grand central history was almost a carbon copy of pen stations. They were losing money because the building was so expensive to maintain in future People were taking trains just like Ben Station railroad executives decided they needed to sell the airspace on top of the station and invite developers to build, saying, hey, wonder fifty five story office tower be nice. On top of this baby, which would demolished grand central facade and most of its interior. But here
where the story of Grand Central and pen station diverge remember those landmark laws that happened in the years after the original pen station was demolished well as week as they were, they didn't to get grand Central designated. As a landmark said, the city denies the railroad executives plans the owners of grand central we're, not pleased they wanted the money they were going to get from selling their air rights the space above Grand Central, so they sued the city. The case was a long one. It went on for nearly a decade and it bit of a nail: Biter Grand Central, nearly lost and nineteen. Seventy five, when a state judge ruled against the city's designation of it as a landmark, the new mare, a beam, almost an appeal. The ruling saying that the city was poised to lose millions in court costs. So can't bar
can others created the committee to save grand Central with one member who was a bit of a game changer. I think it is a great effort, even if it's at the eleventh hour, you can succeed in. I think- and I know that that enter Jacqueline Kennedy Owner Kennedy Analysis fronted, save grand central press conference held in nineteen. Seventy five, by the mean Simple art society, Kent Berwick was at the press conference. He says that with Jackie, oh so prominently involved, the fight went from New York battle to a national one. People began to write in I'll fire dollar drawn. The case, went all the way to the Supreme Court and unjust in twenty six nineteen, seventy eight, the highest court in the land ruled favor of New York cities, landmark laws just as William Brennan Road of grand central architecture quote
Such examples are not so plentiful in New York City that we can afford to lose any of the few we have and we must preserve them in a meaningful way in club, in other words, grand central, would not suffer the same fate as its old friend and foe pen station So the landmark laws, with a lot of help from Jackie Onassis squeaked out to win all these years later, one of the Ways- people comfort themselves about the loss of the original pen station is with this idea that the law All that came out of the destruction of penetration saved grand Central Selina, it's okay because it died for cause I dont think grand Central would have been saved without translation pence. Asian sacrificed itself. So a grand central could live. That was Peter Samson. You heard from him earlier. He was one of the architects that fought and fail to say pen station, but the Thai, but
We in the destruction of pen station and the ceiling of grand central is action they kind of tenuous for Roberta Grass. It was Jackie. Oh, the landmark laws but saved grand central. It's all very romantic to assume that the demolition of something so historic s pen station would have precipitated a strong landmark swore it just isn't. A sacrificial lay like pen station can only do so. Much people have actually fight and win like they did with grand Central for laws to have teeth were burnt, That's was actually one of those people. Reporting she did on. The landmarks commission is just one. The things that led to the landmark laws ultimately being strengthened and, of course, the Supreme Court. Upholding those laws and the grand central case set an employer
precedent for saving future landmarks. These days, it's still a fight to save a building, but the laws of their and their stronger now than they once were. So if you're, a beautiful old building in New York, you dont have to rely on a celebrity endorsement, or around tat group of architect activists, chanting, polish, don't demolish to save you
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-15.