Friday, January 4, 2008


There are things I shouldn't know. Things I should be spared, because I will have a reaction. I guess this is why I tend to live in oblivion, because I can't handle certain truths.

Up until yesterday, I never knew what the old Penn Station looked like. I'd seen a few scattered pictures in the current station, but never knew the whole story. Part of me didn't want to know, afraid of what I'd discover, but as I looked through the junk on the MTA website, I clicked on "books." What a mistake. The link led me to a book called, "The Destruction of Penn Station." The MTA website didn't have much info, so I looked it up on Amazon, where I read an excerpt and saw photos.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the original Penn Station, here is a bit of background (via Wikipedia) for you.

"The original Pennsylvania Station was an outstanding masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style and one of the architectural jewels of New York City. The above-ground portion of the original structure was demolished in 1964 and replaced by the present Pennsylvania Plaza complex, including the fourth and current Madison Square Garden."

Since I wasn't born when this happened, I am late in my reaction. Had I been there, I would have carried a large sign at the protest to save the station. It would have read, Bastards. You fucking bastards!

The more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. It's like, so, tear down something that can never ever be replicated, and build what looks like a bowl and a box of cereal? Fucking bastards. It's been over 40 years since this atrocity and I can only hope that the people who are responsible for this are dying a slow and painful death. Maybe I'm being too harsh because obviously they had no class, they had no charm, they had no vision, they had no style. But they were the ones who got to decide the fate of a building that lived for less than 60 years?

I used to hear the phrase "preserved for future generations" and never give it a second thought. But now I fully understand. I am the future generation they were talking about. A generation that would never get to enjoy and marvel at a masterpiece of human ingenuity.

The thing that makes the destruction of this glorious, awe-inspiring building so bad is that we did it ourselves. It would be one thing if it was destroyed by a foreign enemy during war time, but this was voluntary. We did it. Out of ignorance, a lack of respect for history, and sheer stupidity. Yet another reason to hate sports. Fucking bastards. Penn Station (via Wikipedia)

For more photos and facts about this tragedy, you can click here.
To see what little of the original Penn Station exists today, click here.

"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."
- "Farewell to Penn Station," New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963

3 comments: said...

This is a well executed, informative blog entry. Kudos to the author. Step 2 is finding out what the plans are for the new Penn Station to see if they meet your approval. Perhaps you'll have a chance to picket after all!

dave in milwaukee said...

A big part of the criminal conspiracy was the way the corporate owners (the Penn. RR and then the MSG people) deliberately allowed this magnificent building to turn to shit over the last ten to fifteen years of its life, long before the first wrecking crews ever arrived. These guys knew exactly what they were doing all along. The building itself was rock-solid and could’ve stood for hundreds of years. But the owners let it become a filthy, soot-covered and birdturd-encrusted eyesore so that it would be easier to hoodwink the public into thinking that the station was an obsolete dinosaur that was standing in the way of “progress” (i.e., bigger corporate profits). I was a little kid in NY in the 1960s and remember all the excitement that was being stirred up about the modern, exciting “new” Penn Station and MSJ that were coming soon.

JB said...

Good work. I too was born after this unparalleled act of progress-cloaked vandalism was perpetrated on our Rock of New York.

I would have stood in front of the earth moving machines awaiting that they kill me, or awaiting arrest by the 50 --preferably the latter. I woulda taken this unthinkable act in honor of the past, of those who tried to honor their future, honor us today, bequeathing unto us such an graceful edifice of devine poetry.

Fucking Bastards indeed.