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Amtrak deal may revive Moynihan station

(The following story by A.G. Sulzberger appeared on the New York Times website on September 13, 2009.)

NEW YORK — After months of negotiations — and years after it first pulled out of the project — Amtrak reached a preliminary agreement to move to an annex of Pennsylvania Station planned for the James A. Farley Post Office Building, state, federal and railroad officials announced on Sunday.

The deal, whose specifics have yet to be finalized or released, would clear one of the biggest hurdles facing Moynihan Station, which was first proposed more than 15 years ago and has struggled ever since.

Under the agreement, Amtrak agreed to relocate its services to a new train hall in the old post office, something it has been reluctant to do because of costs. The project aims to expand capacity and create an eye-catching new entrance to Penn Station, which is now underneath Madison Square Garden and would be connected to the annex.

“We haven’t seen the details, it sounds like a lot of those are still to be worked out, but this is very good news,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group. “I think we wouldn’t have seen this announcement if there wasn’t a strong sense that things are coming together.”

The station would be named after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who pushed for the new station until his death in 2003, aiming to recreate the grandeur of the old above-ground Penn Station, which was demolished in 1963.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, who has been trying to resuscitate the project, said on Sunday that he and Gov. David A. Paterson had been negotiating with Amtrak for six months and had found the new Amtrak chief, Joseph H. Boardman, formerly the New York State transportation commissioner, “far more helpful” than his predecessor.

The breakthrough was made possible by the government’s agreeing to Amtrak’s request to share revenue from retail outlets in the expanded station and to make some design changes, said Josh Vlasto, Mr. Schumer’s spokesman.

The scope of the project — which once included relocating Madison Square Garden and building a half dozen new office towers — has been scaled back to focus on the train station annex.

Mr. Schumer said the next step would be to raise the rest of the money for a project he estimated would cost $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion (there is already more than $200 million in federal funds earmarked, Mr. Vlasto said). The Amtrak agreement would make it easier to get stimulus funds, Mr. Schumer said.

Monday, September 14, 2009

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