Now, a coalition of federal, state, and city lawmakers is calling on the MTA and Amtrak to install benches in the cavernous main hall, which currently doesn't have any seating.
“During the holidays, hundreds of passengers were seen sitting on the floor, while scores of others roamed the station looking for places to sit. This is not only a peak season concern as Moynihan serves tens of thousands of passengers each day. The small waiting area for ticketed passengers is not enough to meet the demand,” read a letter to the chairman of both the MTA and Amtrak, sent by Rep. Jerrold Nadler; State Senators Brad Hoylman, Richard Gottfried, and Robert Jackson; Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; and NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher.
“We need seats in the main hall where most passengers wait for their train," they added.
The letter was first reported by Streetsblog.
While ticketed passengers taking the Long Island Rail Road or Amtrak have access to luxurious seating on the ground floor and on the upper floor — which includes tables, benches, and power outlets to charge devices — passengers waiting in the main hall have nowhere to sit, but on the floor.
Accessibility advocates have complained since the $1.6 billion station opened that it discriminates against them.
“It’s something that’s long overdue and should’ve been part of the original plan,” Jessica Murray, with the group Rise and Resist, which advocates for more elevators in mass transit, told Gothamist. Murray is also chair of the advisory committee on transit accessibility at New York City Transit.
“This problem goes beyond inconvenience. We are sure you agree that all New Yorkers, especially older adults, people with disabilities, and adults traveling with young children, deserve a clean, safe and comfortable place to wait for their train,” the politicians noted in their letter.
They also acknowledged the unstated reason that benches are likely not in the newly renovated train hall is to prevent homeless people from spending time there.
“We are aware that a number of unhoused individuals frequent this neighborhood, which might cause some concerns,” the legislators stated in the letter. “This is a valid issue that should be addressed with services and outreach, instead of an exclusionary design plan that punishes transit users."
The lawmakers also recommended that Amtrak and the MTA work with law enforcement officials to “ensure that counter-terrorism design is incorporated” into any changes to the station.
A spokesperson for the project said last year that under phase two of the Moynihan Train Hall, which is expected to include more eateries and a bathroom, there might be more seating, although it's not clear whether there would be seating for the general public, or just paying customers.
“It’s hard to focus on the aesthetics, when I know what lies behind it; pure hostility to the public and to disabled people in particular,” Joe Rappaport, executive director of Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, which has filed several lawsuits against the MTA for its lack of accessibility in subway stations, told Gothamist.
After initially referring questions to Empire State Development, which led the renovation, Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told Gothamist. "Together with co-occupant MTA, and under the auspices of ESD’s ownership, we remain committed to our respective customers."
"We agree that Moynihan Train Hall is a spectacular terminal designed with seating for ticketed passengers and we will continue to work with Amtrak, MTH’s primary occupant, to review the facility’s future needs for space," John McCarthy, the MTA's head of external relations, said in a statement.
This story has been updated with comments from Amtrak and the MTA.