A slice of normality returns to Penn Station.
After closing all restaurants and stores along the lobby three years ago, the LIRR announced last week that several businesses were on their way back to the Manhattan Transit Center next spring, including one that has sorely missed by hurried and hungry Long Island commuters – Rose’s Pizza.
Banners outside the closed storefronts revealed that a smoothie place, taqueria, salad place and Duane Reade pharmacy will open, along with the beloved pizzeria. “Stay tuned, more to follow soon,” the LIRR posted on its social media accounts, along with photos of the banners.
Though MTA officials pushed for more upscale restaurants and retail in Penn, commuters celebrated the return of Rose’s and other businesses with affordable options that fit their busy lifestyles. .
WHAT THERE IS TO KNOW
- The Long Island Rail Road announced several new retail tenants will come to its Penn Station lobby next spring, including Rose’s Pizza, a longtime staple in Manhattan’s Transit Center.
- Restaurants and shops closed in 2019 as construction began on a $600 million effort to raise ceilings along the concourse below 33rd Street and widen the pedestrian walkway pushing businesses back about 20 feet. The project is expected to be completed early next year.
- Although MTA officials pushed For more upscale restaurants and retail in Penn, some commuters and advocates say they want fast, affordable options that fit their busy lifestyles.
Long Beach commuter Chris Doherty posted comments on LIRR Instagram posts – for months – pleading for the railroad to ‘bring Rose’s back to Penn Station’. He got his wish.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it…I had a lot of haters telling me it was never coming back,” Doherty, 29, said in an exchange on Instagram, her go-to platform for trolling the LIRR at About the “iconic” pizzeria. “It was a reliable place that was always there when needed. Whether you missed your train or just saw a show at MSG, you could grab a slice and a beer and forget about life for a while.
The pizzeria had long been a staple among LIRR runners, who enjoyed its to-go dining options, including pizza by the slice and cans of big boy beer. The restaurant has generally received good reviews, including 3.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. But it and every other business along the LIRR space at Penn closed in 2019, as the railroad scrambled to expand its concourse under 33rd Street.
The $600 million project involved raising the ceilings of the cramped station and nearly doubling the width of the walkway to 57 feet, from 30. This was accomplished by pushing the storefronts back about 20 feet.
Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the retail space at Penn, including that occupied by Rose’s, agreed to the new arrangement in exchange for allowing them to take over retail space at Penn that had previously belonged to the LIRR. Vornado officials declined to comment.
Attempts to locate the owner of Rose’s were unsuccessful.
The LIRR unveiled some of the upgrades, including 18-foot-tall ceilings, in September and expects to complete the entire project early next year.
On Thursday, several commuters did a double take when they passed Rose’s former home and saw the banner announcing her imminent return. Port Washington resident Melissa Williams remembered the restaurant as “a great place to come and grab a slice of pizza if I was late for work.”
“I remember my kids liked to come with me sometimes because we would buy pizza, like on Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” said Williams, 55, who has worked remotely since the pandemic began and has never made only rare trips through Penn. “I was surprised there was literally no service or restaurant or anything.”
MTA officials have long expressed interest in more upscale businesses at Penn, such as those available at Metro-North’s Manhattan home, Grand Central Terminal. But several commuters and blue-collar LIRR advocates have made it clear they prefer more accessible dining options.
Reacting to the announcement of upcoming restaurants at Penn, Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, said: “So far so good.”
“I just didn’t want everything to be high end. If you want a Starbucks, great. But give us a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Tim Horton’s or something. If you want a sushi restaurant, give us Rose’s Pizza as well,” Bringmann said. “That way, no matter who you are – whether you’re a construction worker or a businessman in a three-piece suit, you have a place to go that’s going to make you happy.”
Even more new restaurants and other retail establishments are expected to open when Penn Station undergoes a $7 billion redevelopment project that will include the removal of much of the upper level. Project officials said work could begin in 2023 and take about five years.
Bringmann said he’s not too concerned about Penn moving from one construction project to another, especially if there’s a place to eat while the work is underway.
“For our commuters, I think the hardest part is over,” Bringmann said.