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STANDING ORDER: Legislators Demand Public Seating at the Moynihan Train Hall

12:01 AM EST on February 4, 2022

Passengers standing around the main waiting area at Moynihan Station, because they can’t sit. Photo: Dave Colon

Let my people sit!

A group of Manhattan elected officials is demanding that Amtrak and the MTA install more seating in the Moynihan Train Hall, which is famously bereft of public benches, a standard feature in transit facilities worldwide.

In a letter sent on Thursday, state Sen. Brad Hoylman and five other pols note that Moynihan is a mighty nice looking train hall, except for one glaring absence.

"To ensure everyone can enjoy this public good, we request the installation of additional seating," lawmakers Hoylman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, state Sen. Robert Jackson, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council Member Erik Bottcher wrote.

Like other observers, the pols are certainly aware that there is seating in a small waiting area for ticketed passengers only, but noted that it's too small to accommodate all comers, as when the station is thronged with travelers, such as during the 2021 holiday season.

"There is not nearly sufficient public seating available at Moynihan," the letter said. "During the holidays, hundreds of passengers were seen sitting on the floor, while scores of others roamed the station looking for places to sit. This is not only a peak-season concern as Moynihan serves tens of thousands of passengers each day. The small waiting area for ticketed passengers is not enough to meet the demand. We need seats in the main hall where most passengers wait for their train."

The train station became notorious for its lack of accessible public seating from the day it opened on Jan. 1, 2021. The lack of public seating in the new $1.6-billion replacement for ratty Penn Station is all the more glaring because it replicates one of the main deficiencies of ratty Penn Station. Though ex-Gov. Cuomo clearly wanted the Moynihan Train Hall to be known for his eccentric tastes — the word "Excelsior" is prominent throughout — the lack of benches remains the station's most well-known feature, as press coverage has never stopped showing.

The station's lack of seating has also been the subject of the occasional viral tweets, putting phrases like "dozens of travelers are sitting on the floor" and "there are no seats in the entire station" into the public domain.

The bench-free station has been held up as a shining example (in a bad way) of the city and state's use of hostile architecture to bring a Draconian sense of order to public places, even as transit advocates point out that welcoming public spaces providing seating is not just a nice aesthetic choice but a requirement for accessibility and dignity for travelers. In that vein, the letter also explicitly names the unspoken reason for why the public can't sit down in Moynihan, namely a belief that homeless New Yorkers will take up space that the powers that be have decided they don't deserve. Also something something terrorism.

"We are aware that a number of unhoused individuals frequent this neighborhood, which might cause some concerns ... that should be addressed with services and outreach, instead of an exclusionary design plan that punishes transit users," the letter states. The pols also said that law enforcement could play a role, but only in counter-terrorism.

Amtrak did not respond to a request for comment. The agency in the past has said it provides seating for ticketed passengers. Butt supporters said they'd just like to see everyone get a chance to sit down.

"It would be beneficial for more senior citizens if there was an area where you could sit while you're waiting," said Chris Perea as he waited near an escalator.

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