Just a bit over three years ago there was an MWC event which may still be the group’s favorite outing of all time. But since 2011 there are quite a few new MWC’ers and it seems like a great idea to share the specialness of that first outing with everyone. You’ve probably guessed it by now – we’re talking about nothing less than a behind-the-scenes tour of GRAND CENTRAL STATION.
Yes, it’s Grand and it is certainly Central and and it’s New York’s very own. And even though Grand Central just celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013 it’s superlatives remain. It is still the world’s largest rail station with 44 active platforms serving 67 train tracks. It’s monumental and cavernous spaces are known not only for their size but the painstaking, meticulous detail and craft that graces every surface. The total size of the station covers 48 acres. Almost 300 train departures leave from Grand Central every day. Close to 20,000 items are left annually in Lost-and Found! GCT generates its own electricity – and was the first all-electric train station.
There are offices and tennis courts and stores and galleries and restaurants and secret passages and extensive networks of underground tunnels. Urban legend has it that there’s a resident GCT population. The station goes 10 stories underground. There’s the famous subterranean Track 61 which was where FDR’s private railroad car would arrive (and is still there!) – and was used to transport the handi-capped President’s customized Pierce-Arrow automobile which could then be driven directly via underground tunnel into the adjacent Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Those tunnels are still on standby for emergency evacuations !
In addition to being an engineering and architectural marvel, this amazing Beaux-Arts pile is cloaked in magnificent craft and precious materials. Oceans of marble, iconic herringbone-patterned Gustavino tile, the famous opal-faced clock on top of the information booth and the largest example of Tiffany glass all decorate this democratic palace of transportation. The not quite correct astronomical ceiling tops it all off. No wonder almost 22 million people visit Grand Central every year – not as travelers – but as tourists and at least half of whom seem to be in the “Whispering Gallery” at any time of day. Eagle-eyed urban explorers are keen to find the hole in the ceiling which was created in the late 1950’s so a rocket ship could be displayed. If you have binoculars you can also find the grimy smudge on the ceiling which is maintained to document the discoloration and wear and tear created over time.
A very sizeable city-within-the-city, Grand Central Terminal is regarded as the beating heart of our City and has had a starring role in many movies (Ghostbusters, The Fisher King, Arthur, North by Northwest, Men in Black ….etc.). In 2019 a long-awaited extension of the Long Island Railroad (from Penn Station) will be completed. It’s hard to believe that this building – so central to New York’s view of itself and its history – was slated for demolition in 1975. Thanks to the Municipal Arts Society and the activism of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and others, saving Grand Central gave teeth to NY’s Historic Preservation Commission, an iconic win after the soul-crushing loss of Penn Station.
So,lucky for us, the MTA’s sublime man-about-station Dan Brucker will lead us on a tour of this one-of-a-kind place on Wednesday, January 28th. Knowing all there is to know about Grand Central is Dan’s lifework and there is no one who knows more about it than he does. The MWC will be treated to a super-tour which will include climbing the clock tower and looking out from the clock’s numeral VI onto Park Avenue, a visit to Track 61 and more, and more and more. Be advised that this is a “working tour” – you will get dirty, you will climb steel-rung ladders and you will walk a considerable distance. Wear comfortable clothes (pants are a good idea) that can take a bit of wear and tear, your footwear should be closed-toe and stable (leave your stilettoes at home), and only bring a small purse (or maybe just a wallet in your pocket). After about three hours of this – we’ll try and snag seats at the Oyster Bar’s lunch counter and ask for the locals-only sandwich menu!