MANHATTAN (CN) – On the first Monday of a new decade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out a plan to add eight new tracks to New York City’s Penn Station, a once-grand rail hub through which he estimated 200 million people pass per year and which the governor himself has compared to Dante’s circles of hell.
“Let’s make a New Year’s resolution that this year we’re going to do something great in the city of New York,” Cuomo told supporters and local officials who gathered for a luncheon at Manhattan’s Ziegfeld ballroom, hosted by the nonprofit Association for a Better New York.
Cuomo announced a proposal to acquire the city block south of Penn Station and add eight new train tracks serving an additional 175,000 people per day.
“Right now we have no capacity for growth in terms of mass transit,” Cuomo said.
He called expansion “the only way you’re going to reduce the congestion.”
Cuomo said converting the nearby James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall, underway since 2010 and slated to wrap this December, will add aesthetically pleasing terminal and retail space to the area.
“It’s going to bring back that New York greatness that people came to expect,” he said of the Moynihan project, which will reportedly add about 40 new staircases as well as new escalators, retail and terminal space.
Cuomo wants to work with Amtrak to link Moynihan, Penn Station and the new eight-track terminal as one “interconnected transit complex,” which he dubbed the Empire Station Complex and said would triple the capacity of people, volume and retail.
The terminal expansion would allow for the city to eventually renovate the existing Penn Station eyesore, Cuomo added.
He promised to move forward on the project without waiting for the federal government.
“This is a project that we can actually do on our own,” Cuomo said.
“I’ll keep fighting for it, but I’m not going to depend on it,” he added, to applause from the crowd. “We have to make our own future, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Cuomo did not specify a cost for the project.
Amtrak and the Catholic Church’s Diocese of New York are among those with real estate holdings in the targeted area around the current Penn Station, Cuomo said.
Praising New York’s history of development, Cuomo said the city needs to move away from car congestion and toward expanded public transportation, a goal that underlies his new proposal.
New York City didn’t draw people because of its God-given beauty, the way the Grand Canyon or the Adirondack mountains do, Cuomo told the crowd.
“What drove the development was our investment in the perfection of transportation systems,” he said. But then New York stopped building.
“The law of the economic jungle remains the same: You either grow, or you get left behind,” the governor said.
He added later: “That’s how we make New York New York. That’s how you grow; that’s how you build.”
Protesters outside held up signs calling for a transition to 100% renewable energy and a stop to fracking. They said Cuomo is failing the state on climate infrastructure.
The speech Monday came a day after Cuomo marched across the Brooklyn Bridge alongside other New York leaders in a solidarity march against anti-Semitism, attended by thousands.