Members of the media listen to speakers during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Moynihan Train Hall in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. The $1.6 billion project replacing Manhattan's cramped and dark Penn Station with a light-filled train hall is set for completion this week, with the first trains rolling out on New Year's Day. The new 255,000-square-foot station is named after U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat who championed the project and died in 2003. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
View All (8)

NEW YORK (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and transit officials cut the ribbon Wednesday on a gleaming new train hub that will give travelers an alternative to cramped, dingy Penn Station across the street.

The Moynihan Train Hall takes up 255,000 square feet (23,690 square meters) of what formerly served as a mail sorting and loading area in the James A. Farley Post Office building, once New York’s main postal center from the early 20th century.

Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road will use the new hall, which connects to Penn Station under Eighth Avenue to the east and provides access from Ninth Avenue to the west and to the Eighth Avenue subway. It’s named after late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a public transit advocate who pushed for the project in the 1990s.

In contrast to Penn Station's subterranean network of claustrophobic, windowless hallways and concourses, the new train hall is spacious and illuminated by a 92-foot-high skylight featuring more than an acre of glass.

At Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting, Cuomo called the $1.6 billion project “a work of art” and an extraordinary accomplishment given that its construction finished on time despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It won't be a trauma and nightmare to go in and out of New York City,” Moynihan's daughter, Maura, said. “This is gracious and elegant and civilized, and our city needs it very badly.”

During normal times, several hundred thousand travelers per day pass through Penn Station on Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit trains and New York City subway lines.

The rest of the building has been turned into a commercial/retail center. In August, Facebook announced it was leasing more than 700,000 square feet there.

Cuomo and others credited Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, whose Senate tenure began as Moynihan's was ending in the late 1990s, for securing federal funding for the project.

In an email, Schumer called Moynihan “a relentless advocate” for the project and called the new hall “a grand, skylit, modern transit portal for LIRR and Amtrak riders that will leave the Penn Station of the past in the dust.”