Some commuter friends from Jersey and Philly were lamenting how New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, once among the world’s grandest railroad stations, had become the Seventh Circle of Hell.
And they’re not alone: The New York Times’ Julie Bosman called the destruction of the original station and construction of the new one as among our city’s greatest architectural disasters. Even New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper designates the restrooms wretched and in need of rehab. This is a big downer if you’re a commuter.
In contrast, I absolutely love my weekday commute through Grand Central Terminal, 10 blocks away from Penn Station. It inspires me. It gets me fired up and motivated to conquer the world.
It is one of the grandest halls in the world, with an astronomical ceiling mural, a giant four-face brass clock in the center of the hall, and dazzling chandeliers. It has dozens of world-class restaurants (finally, a Shake Shack), the classiest bar in New York (Campbell Apartment), and the most nostalgic old-school bar with succulent oysters and fried fish (the Saloon within the Oyster Bar). There’s a never-ending rotation of cultural events (recently J.P. Morgan Chase’s squash tournament), live musicians (even in the morning), the largest-ever Apple Store, and the Grand Central Market food bazaar.
I’m also inspired by the people. They tend to be passionate professional from all walks of life, bustling in and out of New York. There also are tourists and nearby residents who pass through for special events and attractions, some simply to experience the architecture. The energy is contagious. To look good while bustling, I can get one of the best shoe-shines in the city as I exit my train.
Grand Central Terminal is nostalgic. My own dad spent much of his life commuting through it, as I do now. Every day’s commute reminds me of when I was a toddler and he’d bring me along on the Metro North train to go into work at his music studio in Midtown. And who doesn’t love trains, especially with 44 platforms and 67 tracks? My children do, and so do I. A few train engineers over the years have let my son and me activate the whistle on the ride in (a huge thrill).
My relationship with Grand Central Terminal underscores the benefits of pairing beautiful architecture, trains and vibrancy into your daily routine. But I’m only one person; around 750,000 others pass through it each day, sometimes more. In lieu of Penn Station, Grand Central underscores the importance of preserving and fostering great architecture and public spaces.
I am grateful for Grand Central Terminal and the inspiration it provides to me and our region every day.
For a visual tour, check out the Flickr search results for “grand central terminal”.
A version of this post also ran in MediaPost. Photo: Werner Kunz.