The recently unveiled ceiling inside of the new Penn Station is pretty underwhelming

All of New York is waiting for construction at Penn Station to finally end.

At the moment, the heavily-trafficked space is the embodiment of chaos: the ceilings are low, there is barely any light, there is just about nowhere to get coffee outside of the relatively new Moynihan food hall (which is about a mile away from the Long Island Rail Road tracks) and, let’s be honest, the area under construction does not smell great.

It seems like officials are aware of the collective anxiety surrounding the project, which is why we assume they tend to make a big deal out of every small portion of the enterprise that reaches completion. 

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) unveiled the first section of the new ceiling at Penn Station’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Concourse. We’ll go straight to the point: the whole thing is very underwhelming.

New Penn Station
Photograph: Marc A. Hermann

Sure, it’s certainly nicer than the decrepit ceiling that defined commutes until last year, but there’s nothing special about the decor per se. 

The infamous “head knockers,” the low-hanging 6’8” beams that folks hated, are out. In their stead, travelers will notice 18-foot-tall ceilings supported by a structural framing system that the city seems to be very proud of—although we’re not entirely sure what it does.

According to an official press release, “crews are improving lighting, including the installation of a new luminous ceiling, improved air flow, modern finishes, more intuitive way-finding and enhanced accessibility at the station.”

Perhaps the most exciting portion of the announcement involved an update regarding the project’s overall timeframe. According to officials, the LIRR Concourse should be “substantially completed” by March of 2023. That’s not too far away!

“The moment LIRR customers have been waiting decades for is coming closer,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “During the pandemic, we started the process of fixing Penn by opening the major new entrance at 33rd Street and Moynihan Train Hall. Now, customers are getting a glimpse of what, when finished, will be a completely transformed and expanded LIRR Concourse at Penn Station.”

Here’s to hoping commuters’ experience within one of the most trafficked transit hubs in the world will soon majorly improve.

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