No Regard for History: NYC to Bulldoze Grand Central Station

Will Grand Central Station go the way of the old Penn Station?

Will Grand Central Station go the way of old Penn Station? (photo: Slate.com)

The vaulted ceiling with stunning astronomical art work. The open, airy space. The giant windows with wrought iron works that create the iconic sun-streaming-in photographs of by-gone eras. The beautiful marbled halls and concourses. And of course, the beloved old-timey clock in the middle of the great hall that millions have designated as their meeting place.  All must go. In a shameful acquiescence to greedy developers and aided by most New Yorker’s architectural and cultural ignorance, the city council has voted to tear down the historic landmark to make way for, you guessed it, a retail shopping complex anchored by Wal-Mart and a 70 story high-rise with great river views. In a city of dwindling architectural gems (The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, and the New York Public Library- now desecrated with the name of Steven A. Schwarzman emblazoned on the facade, are among the few remaining) Grand Central Terminal is just one more casualty in the ever-morphing city scape.

“Frankly, New Yorkers just don’t like old-fashioned architectural grandeur” said mayor Bill De Blasio when reached for comment. “Most New Yorkers prefer dingy, foul-smelling, poorly-lit, and cramped public spaces, particularly when it comes to our transit system. I mean, have you ridden the subway lately?  I sure haven’t- it’s a dank and disgusting place. And have you ever used an elevator from street to platform on the A line? Pick one of the few stations that even has an elevator, and I guarantee a real treat. It’s like sticking your head in a public toilet with a horrific smell of vomit and urine, the doors can’t open soon enough and you’ll feel like you need a shower when you get out. I’d like to clean it up, but the people of the city just won’t have it. They like the way it is and some even say it builds character, oddly.”

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Grand Central has come under threat of extinction. Back in 1954, an enterprising urban developer named William Zeckendorf proposed to demolish the place and build yet another high-rise tower in it’s place. His plans for an 80 story building were scrapped thankfully when there was enough public outcry. Millions of city dwellers, tourists and travelers have since passed through or stopped to admire the iconic building in the years since.

Former City Councilwoman Christine Quinn seems to agree with Mayor De Blasio. Bud Fox News reporter Silence Bellows sat down with Ms. Quinn at Barracuda, her favorite Chelsea hang out, where she had this to say:

I don’t know what the fuss is about- though actually, not too many people even know or care this is happening. I mean, they tore down Penn Station back in ‘64 and look how that’s turned out. People love the new Penn for some reason I can’t figure out. It’s the busiest train station in North America and the most confusing place on the planet if you want to figure out where you’re actually supposed to go. The low ceilings, the bland and creepy 1970’s tubular design that makes you feel like you’re in some kind of alien spaceship out of a Philip K. Dick story. There’s even a K-Mart and a few greasy food vendors. And from what I hear, people love the single-file staircases going from the ticket hall to the train platforms. I never go in there if I can help it- it seems so thronged with people who bump and grind into each other. Don’t get me wrong, I like a little bump and grind, but not with complete strangers on their way home from work. It’s a ghoulish sight to observe the masses of people in the dark and dismal ticket hall as they wait with bug-eyed anticipation for their train to show on the big board- and when it shows up, it’s a melee to get to those stairs first.

St_Pancras_railway_station_London

New Yorker’s would never tolerate this… (photo: London St. Pancras Railway Station, wikimedia.org)

Penn_Station_LIRR_concourse

….when they have this. (Photo: Pennsylvania Station, wikimedia.org)

The Bud Fox News editorial board doesn’t agree. In a city whose primary contribution to urban architecture are the omnipresent scaffolding and gum-and-dog-scat-ridden sidewalks, we believe the last remaining vestiges of a more cultured day must be preserved. The city that once thrived with variety and novelty is being reduced to the same homogeneity as the rest of suburban America with unique mom and pop shops, quirky bodegas and quaint and fine dining restaurants shutting down and moving out as greedy landlords pave the way for yet another retail bank, cell phone carrier, or drug store to move in.

As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis so eloquently opined:

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.

Well said, Jackie O.  Well said.

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