Yesterday, a new commuter rail terminal opened in New York City. Built beneath the historic Grand Central Terminal, the new Grand Central Madison was designed to give Long Island Rail Road commuters direct access to the east side of Manhattan. The new deep-level LIRR terminal was styled to look modern while still emulating the Beaux-Arts design of the original Grand Central. But the Beaux-Arts movement never accounted for tweets.
Glossy marble cladding covers Grand Central Madison’s walls. While the new terminal look clean and modern, the appearance can come off as stark and barren. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to fill the space by presenting inspirational quotes about New York City from famous New Yorkers to passengers at the mezzanine level, just about the platform. The ten quotes selected were inscribed along the wall in large letters, and then concisely presented in full at the end.
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Most of the words on the walls feel timeless and appropriate. For example, there’s a brief excerpt from singer-songwriter Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, which is about living in the city. “It was a good day to arrive in New York City. No one expected me. Everything awaited me.” Smith’s words feel inviting in a massive commuter rail terminal. However, we have to talk about Yoko Ono.
The Japanese artist and activist most well-known for her marriage to John Lennon, has a quote on the mezzanine wall: “New York is like an old friend. It has its moods. But I know them all.” It’s an honest description of what it’s like to live in New York City, but it’s a tweet. Yoko Ono is arguably one of the city’s most significant residents, but it’s a tweet. The MTA cited it as a tweet on the wall, including a down-to-the-minute timestamp like you’d see in a blog post.
The MTA made a few other weird choices. The agency decided to use a quote from Broadway star, writer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. The quote just happened to be from a 2022 interview with Time Out, a tourism and restaurant website, about his eight favorite “inspiration spots” in the city. I understand the MTA not wanting anyone to question the authenticity of these quotes, but the citations make the words seem instantly dated.
Absurd design choices aside, Grand Central Madison is a beautiful and much-needed facility. The new terminal will alleviate the foot traffic at Penn Station on the other side of Manhattan and boost the LIRR’s total capacity. The new terminal gives passengers easier connections to the subway, cutting commute times by an estimated 40 minutes. Right now, the LIRR provides a shuttle service every half-hour between the new terminal and Jamaica Station in Queens. Additional services will use Grand Central Madison in the near future.