Faint Praise

Unlike the trains now operating at austerity levels of service, Moynihan Train Hall has arrived exactly on time, ready to uplift.

Lucas Blair Simpson/Courtesy SOM

At the start of the year, fewer people than ever were riding the train into and out of Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station. Claustrophobic and artificially lit, with a uniquely asphyxiating air about it, Penn Station is the last place anyone wants to be in a pandemic. But just across Eighth Avenue, a new train hall attracted New Yorkers from all over, inviting them to momentarily shed their protective lockdown shells and soak up what we once recognized as “city life.”

Moynihan Train Hall opened on January 1 to a buzz that rarely accompanies new works of public architecture. The press was awash with praise about Moynihan’s bright and airy, classic-yet-modern, grand-but-not-austere—in a word, sunny— disposition. The project, which significantly adapts the Farley Post Office Building, has been over 25 years in the making, since it was first proposed by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but its carefully choreographed press rollout would seem to backdate those origins to the turn of the last century; that is, to a time of great public architecture, premodern Beaux Art…

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