At the opening of the new Moynihan Train Hall in January, architectural critic Paul Goldberger said, “It took a couple of decades, but it has finally happened in a way that is remarkably true to Senator Moynihan’s great idea. There is still a long way to go but we are moving in the right direction toward a recognition that great public space belongs to everyone, that a great city deserves a noble public rail.”
The new hall has been opened in the beaux arts McKim, Mead and White designed shell of the 1914 James A. Farley postal building behind Madison Square Garden at a cost of 1.6 billion dollars.
The Skidmore, Owings and Merrill-designed space uses the original post office’s skylights and skeletons of steel ribbing and cross beams (originally used by postal inspectors to keep on eye on the work going on below) and elegantly evokes the original grandeur of the original Penn Station, demolished to public outcry in 1963. The name is a nod to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who was an early advocate for a new home for Penn Station and who once shined shoes in the original structure as a child during the Great Depression.
Amtrak travelers as well as LIRR riders will find their trains departing and arriving from the new hall instead of at the nearby and still active Penn Station within Madison Square Garden. Penn will still be receiving LIRR trains at certain times of the day and will remain the home of New Jersey Transit for now.
What Amtrak travelers will also find is the luxurious new Metropolitan Lounge for first class travelers plus a modernized and tech-friendly waiting room for business and economy class ticket holders.
The first-class lounge, designed by FX Collaborative, features a grand entry and reception desk (more evocative of an airline lounge than a railway terminal desk), luggage storage lockers, furniture with integrated power and task lighting, a business center with printers, a social pantry and food and beverage service area, a bar with high-top seating, an expansive balcony with café-style seating overlooking the main train hall, private restrooms and PIDS boards throughout.
Amtrak guests are provided with High-Speed Wi-Fi service using cloud-based State-of-the-art Access Points (APs) to the Internet.
First class Amtrak travelerswho previously used a much smaller lounge in Penn Station will find the vast and luxe-centric lounge a breath of fresh air that seems to herald a luxurious golden age of rail travel from times past that has come back to vivid life.
The jewel in the crown of the Metropolitan Lounge is the café veranda overlooking the skylight expanse of the hall interior. Travelers can practically hear the haunting sound of train arrivals announced over the old PA system.
When asked if Amtrak will recreate this brand new watermark of luxury lounge in other cities, an Amtrak spokesperson told Business Traveler, “It is important to bring consistency and as part of a larger lounge station refresh initiative, Amtrak will continue to standardize these designs and elevate the offerings of all lounges to enhance the customer experience with the current and next generation customer in mind at a magnitude that is aligned to customer demographic for the station and physical space limits.”
With the opening of the Moynihan Hall as well as a new administration helmed by a self-avowed Amtrak fan and a reluctance by some to travel by air during the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, a new golden age of rail travel on Amtrak’s Northeastern Corridor and beyond may be on track.