Penn Commuters May Reclaim Pedestrian Tunnel From Rats

The walk from Penn Station could be less crowded in a few years. As part of the redevelopment of Hotel Pennsylvania and the Manhattan Mall, the developer, a subsidiary of Vornado, has proposed opening the long abandoned “Gimbels passageway” that provided an underground pedestrian link between Penn Station and the Herald Square subway and PATH stations.

The passageway runs under the south side of 33rd Street, but has been closed for almost 20 years (its namesake, the once-iconic Gimbels department store, closed a few years earlier in 1987).  Given the enormous amount of foot traffic along the sidewalks in the area, and with more pedestrians on the way due to the ARC Tunnel and Midtown development projects like this one, the resurrection of the Gimbels passageway is perfectly timed.  The project would also widen the cramped tunnel to accommodate bigger crowds.

The passageway would provide a substantial public benefit, and the influx of private money should make it difficult for the city to refuse.  Ideally, the passageway would be truly public, rather than behind MTA turnstiles.  This would allow the greatest number of Penn Station commuters to use the tunnel and provide the maximum benefit for the crowded sidewalks above.

The environmental review will also include study of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks surrounding the block.  We are sure that the results will confirm what other studies have shown: that the sidewalks and crosswalks are dangerously overburdened.  The opening of the Gimbels passageway will go a long way to help alleviate that burden – we hope to see it in use after a generation of languishing.

6 Comments on "Penn Commuters May Reclaim Pedestrian Tunnel From Rats"

  1. Thomas Marchwinski | February 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm |

    I actually remember walking through this connection, back in the 1970’s and the mid to late 1980’s. It really was a good connection between Penn Station and the subway connections. It also, at least as I remember, was NOT behind MTA turnstiles. At the time, I remember connecting to PATH for some reason, and when Penn Station trains go down, this connection is very valuable. It did get a little spookey late in the evening, with not many people around, and gradually homeless population also increased. I think with stores and a more viable, lighted connection it would work, maybe its only closed late at night.

    The same thing happened in 30th Street Philadelphia, where there was a direct underground connection from 30th street to the Market-Frankford subway line, which was great because you did not have to go outside. Same here, for key subway connections. That connection remains closed, and you know go out on street to the subway stairway. We seem to have to reclaim our past for the future, it just shows how much was done years ago. Hope it opens.

  2. Hi. I originally broke this story on my blog, the RailfanWindow.com blog, and sent the tip to Gothamist. Their post is based on mine, which you can read here:

    Gimbels Passageway restoration is in the 15 Penn Plaza project plans

  3. Joe Russo | March 3, 2009 at 2:14 pm |

    This tunnel was the subject of a PANYNJ and Tri-State Planning Commission study to look at the possibility of installing an accelerated moving sidewalk between Penn Sta and Herald Sq. This was back in 1977/78. This technology ought to be considered now, although the developer’s interest in created more foot traffic may conflict with the foot traffic passing by at 3 to 5 mph and not stopping at the retail operations. These types of sidewalks are often used in Paris connecting long passageways between Metro and Regional stations.

    Under the stimulus package there should be some funds for a project like this. I am sure the system could be designed to allow easy on and off exiting to allow for patronage of the retail services.

    Another place where a moving sidewalk ought to be considered is in the now cleaned up passageway between 42nd St. and Times Sq. subway stations.

  4. I’ve been waiting for a long time to hear about this; it is so hard to get out of Penn to get to the 6th Ave line and the PATH, especially in bad weather. So if developers can find a way to do this so it benefits commuters and makes them some money, that would be great!

  5. Look on top of Penn station all the buildings around have bad problems with rats including a coop of 29th street.

  6. Ned Vranes | July 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm |

    This passageway SHOULD be reopened!!It was very convinient.Also I don’t understand why is huge passageway ander 6 th. avenue is closed???It was running from Herald sq. to , almost 42 str.

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