Let There Be Light . . . And Accessibility

Elevator World April 2024 Cover.
This story originally appeared in the April 2024 Issue of the Elevator World Magazine.

VT a key part of transformed NYC station’s busiest entrance.

Chances are the vertical-transportation (VT) professionals involved in the recent transformation of New York Penn Station’s busiest entrance at 7th Avenue and 32nd Street in Midtown Manhattan — a key part of a station that sees the rough equivalent of the population of Atlanta pass through each day — dreamed about the project while it was going on. Because of what was involved — meeting tight deadlines, maneuvering huge escalator sections in the dark of night and keeping countless workers and pedestrians safe — those dreams could have, at times, verged on nightmares. But these VT workers are professionals, and they forged through with determination, relentlessness, focus and energy, enabling Amtrak and Vornado Realty Trust to unveil the new entrance, as planned, prior to the 2023 U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The result of a public-private partnership between Amtrak and Vornado, the renovation spanned four years and featured notable upgrades such as three, new, state-of-the-art escalators from KONE and an American with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator installed by Brooklyn, NY-based Precision Elevator Corp., part of the American Elevator Group of companies. The escalators increased capacity and efficiency of movement between the station’s mezzanine level and the entrance, while the elevator ensures accessibility for all, regardless of physical ability.

Additionally, sidewalks were widened along 7th Avenue in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation. An old 1967-era concrete overhang was replaced with a new glass canopy designed by Lord Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners. This lets in plenty of natural light, and is accentuated by new illuminated Penn Station signage.

Amtrak handled the concourse enhancement, including the VT, while Vornado oversaw the design and street-level improvements. Amtrak held a ribbon-cutting at the new entrance on November 19, 2023, observing that the enlarged and fully rebuilt entrance expands its width by 50%. “We are proud to roll out the welcome mat to our new, modern entrance for the 600,000 New York Penn Station visitors,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said on the occasion. “Having a direct, accessible entrance at 32nd and 7th will improve the customer experience for all passengers as they can now take an elevator, walk down wider stairs and have an added, third escalator to help them enter the station.” The entrance is used by NJ Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak passengers.

The ADA-compliant elevator is situated where 32nd Street ends at 7th Avenue at the renovated station. Precision Elevator President Kristof Okulewicz tells ELEVATOR WORLD project specifications include:

  • One holeless, hydraulic, dual telescopic, oil hydraulic, Class-A loading passenger elevator
  • Two stops and openings: One front at the Plaza level and one rear at Level B
  • Rated capacity of 4000 lb
  • Capacity per American Public Transportation Association (APTA) of 6000 lb (heavy-duty transportation system elevator design guidelines)
  • Speed of 100 ft/min
  • Travel distance of approximately 19 ft

The Precision Elevator team consisted of Scott J. Jenson (sales and complete project management), David Gelman (contract negotiation and assisting the project manager during the initial project stages), Gregory S. Albertson (mechanical contractor safety awareness and engineering contractor orientation) and Leon Feldman (complete field management).

Gelman says the job was both challenging and rewarding. He says:

“Working in one of the busiest train stations with extreme foot traffic while keeping the public safe and away from construction areas was a bit of a challenge. The vast majority of Precision Elevator projects are private development, and to be able to complete a project in such a public sphere that benefits everyday New Yorkers is especially satisfying to us.”

Precision Elevator relied on an array of suppliers to deliver the completed elevator system. They included:

  • MCE Motion Control Engineering (a Nidec brand): Controller, battery-lowering unit
  • Claddagh Electronics Ltd.: Cloud monitoring
  • Canton Elevator and Architectural Products (a Nidec brand): Hydraulic elevator package, jack unit, power unit, sling, platform, rails and brackets, plumbing materials, oil line
  • Atlantic States Lubricants: Hydraulic oil
  • GAL (a Vantage Company): Car and hoistway doorequipment
  • A&D Entrances: Cabs and entrance
  • C.J. Anderson & Co.: Car and hall fixtures, limit switches
  • MEGA Elevator Parts: Conduits, wiring, traveling cables

For KONE’s part, the OEM installed three of its APTA- compliant, full-outdoor-use TransitMasterTM 180 escalators with 1,000-mm step width and a rise of 18 ft, 7 in. KONE tells EW its team had to develop a safe and efficient rigging plan to accommodate the tight jobsite conditions. Truss sections had to be aligned and installed in the middle of the night (when foot traffic is lighter) with workers bringing sections both out from the street and through Penn Station. The KONE (and Precision) teams worked alongside multiple subcontractors performing different portions of the work on an accelerated schedule in order to have the station open to the public before Thanksgiving. Since Madison Square Garden is situated directly above Penn Station, the teams had to deal with additional foot traffic during events there.

In addition to its investment in Moynihan Train Hall, Amtrak has made more than US$300 million in capital improvements in and around Penn Station over the last five years. During fiscal 2023, Amtrak dedicated more than US$114 million to its ADA Stations Program, which has already made 118 stations around the nation fully accessible and another 65 stations semi- accessible.[1]

Nigel Dancey, Foster + Partners studio head, observed:

“We have been master-planning, studying and improving NYC’s public realm with Vornado to create a more inclusive and dynamic urban experience. This project is an important step toward a wider transformation that looks to enhance the quality of the spaces between buildings and make the busiest transportation hub in North America welcoming and inviting for all.”[1]


[1] Ginsburg, Aaron, “Penn Station Opens New Accessible Entrance With Glass Canopy at 7th Avenue and 32nd Street,” 6sqft New York City, November 20, 2023.