Year 2015. “Many consider the destruction of New York’s original Pennsylvania Station in 1963 to have been the architectural crime of the twentieth century. But few know how close we came to also losing its counterpart, Grand Central Terminal, a hub every bit as irreplaceable. Grand Central’s salvation has generally been told as a tale of aroused civic virtue, which it was. Yet it was, as well, an affirming episode for those of us convinced that our political culture has become an endless clown-car act with the same fools always leaping out……
…..Still unsatisfied, New York Central proposed in 1961 to build a three-level bowling alley over Grand Central’s Main Concourse, which would have required lowering the ceiling from sixty feet to fifteen and cutting off from view its glorious blue mural of the zodiac. This, too, was stopped. Foiled again, New York Central resorted to plastering the terminal with ads and bombarding travellers with canned Muzak, complete with commercials, over the public address system.
Meanwhile, in the angry atmosphere that followed the demolition of Penn Station, New York City finally got a Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated Grand Central a landmark in 1967. But the terminal still wasn’t safe. Now haemorrhaging money as Americans turned away from trains and the passenger rail system began to collapse, the New York Central merged with its old rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad. The chairman and CEO of the new “Penn Central” was one Stuart Saunders, former CEO of the Pennsy, and the man who had torn down Penn Station to build the latest Madison Square Garden.
Bear with us here, as we trace how the troubled new railroad nearly succeeded in tearing down Grand Central — for it says much about how we conduct business and politics in America today.” by Kevin Baker in Harper’s Magazine