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Grand Central Envy Grows Among Penn Station Regulars

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TWC News: Grand Central Envy Grows Among Penn Station Regulars
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As commuters at Grand Central prepare to enjoy more high-end eating options at the landmark terminal some commuters over at Penn Station are wondering why they're being left in the dust. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

One's a landmark, and the other, to quote an MTA Board member, is "a pit." Grand Central has soaring public space, miles of marble and a fancy food court - while Penn Station has low ceilings, swarms of stressed-out commuters and rows of fast-food joints, which caused MTA Board Member Mitchell Pally to take shots at the city's busiest rail terminal twice this week.

"All we have at Penn Station at the moment are doughnuts," Pally said. "It is no longer acceptable to have Penn Station in the state it's in."

The criticism comes as the MTA prepares to turn half of Grand Central's former main waiting room - Vanderbilt Hall - into another dining destination run by a Danish restaurateur. It's set to open in 2016.

"You'll have a variety of different type of cuisines, different price points and different types of experience. You can grab and go, or you can sit down at a counter or you can sit down at a white tablecloth," said MTA Spokesman Aaron Donovan.

That's one more thing that makes Penn Station commuters a little jealous of that other terminal.

"It's getting more of a place that you want to go. Here, Penn Station's becoming more a of a place where it's all 'Let's pass by. Oh, I gotta go through Penn Station one more time,'" said one commuter.

"My job location is close to Penn Station, but I'd like it to kind of mimic what Grand Central has," said another commuter.

MTA officials say that comparing Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal is like comparing apples to oranges. They're just not the same.

And here's why. The MTA has a direct hand in the businesses brought to Grand Central since it was renovated in the late 90s, while those duties are divided among the MTA, Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and private real estate developers at Penn Station.

"Over at Penn Station, you have a collection of retail spaces which are controlled by a variety of public and private entities, each of which was going to have their own vision for the space and sometimes they may be at odds with one another," Donovan said.

Not to mention the culinary preferences of Penn Station commuters.

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