March 18th 2010:

Crains New York Business announced,

Skidmore Owings & Merrill selected to design first phase of work to convert Farley Post Office into a new train station.

The project received $83.3 million in funds from the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act last month.

From the Regional Plan Association website; Moynihan Station Project Timeline

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan first articulated his vision for a great new Penn Station in the landmark Farley Post Office building in the early 1990s.

1993: Amtrak unveils architectural plans for overhauling the Farley Post Office building into a grand new Penn Station, an idea first advanced by then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The central court of the Farley building would be transformed into a new concourse for Amtrak intercity passengers. This plan is possible because the Postal Service has announced that it is moving mail-processing work out of that building.

November 20th 1993:

Brooklyn Academy of Music held their gala in the James A. Farley Post Office.  I was commissioned to create a decor of light on the exterior of the colonnaded, grand staircase entry of architects McKim Mead and White’s building.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

Picture Research for "Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents"

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents, a projection sequence of more than thirty glass slides and Mylar paintings, encompassed the two-block long classical facade of Manhattan’s main post-office.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

"Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents", two moments in the projection sequence

An exploration of the building and its role as a “civic stage”, the primary images were paintings of dense colorful theatre curtains – rising and falling, and expanding… ever opening… horizontally rotating around the columns and brushing the grand stair. Other images played in the six-minute montage; 30′ postal workers, a love letter, maps and mail sorting bags.

On that windy, bitter cold night gala attendees such as Leontyne Price, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz rushed up the Postal steps in the swirl of projected light.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

Hand-painted projections: theatre curtains and Bryant Park chairs

Little known colliding cultural facts appear on the surface of the grand building, for one, the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds is not an official motto of the U.S. Postal Service but an abbreviated quote from ancient Greek historian Herodotus describing Persian postal messengers. A Mr. Mitchell Kendal from McKim, Mead and White is said to have selected it for the NYC building.  The inscription itself was carved by Ira Schnapp;  stonecutter, engraver, and graphic designer from Austria who would later design logos and lettering at DC Comics!

An aficionado of the Manhattan landscape who has written for such diverse publications as Public Art Review and New York Magazine, Mark Kramer has observed, “With possible exception of the Park Service, the Post Office is for most Americans the most beneficent face of the Federal Government”.  The long lines of customers at holiday time, tax return deadlines, grant application due dates are still a zone of frenzied activity, but sadly, the once proud 24-hour Post Office has reduced its hours, Mon-Fri 7:00am-10:00pm; Sat 9:00am-9:00pm, and Sun 11:00am-7:00pm.  Electronic communications have replaced the pen, paper and envelope.

Original Penn Station

May 1962, Original Pennsylvania Station - across the Avenue from Farley Post office

From 1910 to 1961 the Post Office mirrored the imposing Pennsylvania Station on Eighth Avenue.  Now, the building is poised to shed its identity as the civic portal of written communication and fulfill the role of transportation hub.

The renderings of the “New Penn Station” are eloquent, modern and airy within the confines of the old Farley P.O.

The Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents glass slides lie dormant in archival boxes, ready to adapt and re-install as a celebration of the refreshed civic facade and center of activity – Moynihan Station.