Celebrating “a cathedral for commuters”

Grand Central Terminal is 100 years old and NPR provides part of its story:

Seven is one of the 750,000 people who walk through Grand Central every day. To put it into perspective, that’s more people than the entire population of the state of Alaska — a handy fact you can learn from Daniel Brucker, an enthusiastic New Yorker who’s managed Grand Central Tours for the past 25 years…

Fortunately, the Vanderbilt family, who owned the New York Central Railroad, had the money. And what they built was a 49-acre rail complex with more tracks and platforms than any other in the world. The buildings on Park Avenue, to the north, are built over it. And it’s an almost unfathomably busy place — during the morning rush hour, a Metro-North commuter train arrives every 58 seconds.

“It’s like a cathedral that’s built for the people,” Brucker says. “We’re not going through somebody else’s mansion, through somebody else’s monument. It’s ours. It’s meant for the everyday commuter, and it’s a celebration of it.”…

“It is the largest interior … public space in New York,” Monasterio says. The windows on the east and the west side, those windows used to open, they used to draw air from the east side, through the terminal, over and out the west side.”

Having been there a few times myself, it is a remarkable building. Public spaces that are so crowded, functional, and well-designed are rare.

It would be interesting to hear more about how Grand Central fits into the fabric of New York City. On one hand, it seems like quintessential New York: classical exterior, busy space, busy yet functional. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly fit with Midtown Manhattan and the modern skyline. It is a relic of the past, a building that had to be saved through the first federal conservancy act from the 1960s.

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