The low-hanging beams in a section of Penn Station between 7th and 8th Avenue weigh 10 tons, they're set at 6 feet 8 inches high and are known as “head knockers.”
After more than 100 years, they're coming down this week.
The cramped Long Island Rail Road concourse along 33rd Street has been under construction since 2019, a $559 million project that will double the height and width of the corridor, which makes up about 20% of Penn Station. The new concourse will be 57 feet wide and 18 feet high.
The MTA had to build a new roof and supports under Madison Square Garden before the two head knockers — which date from the original 1910 Penn Station — could come down. Workers have been cutting the beams into smaller chunks and lifting them up to street level.
“These are the main culprits in making Penn feel so dungeon-like, among other culprits,” MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said Tuesday. “And so unappealing for human beings.”
Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin joined Lieber to celebrate the raising of the roof. "Let the sun shine,” Benjamin sang to the tune of "Aquarius" by The 5th Dimension. “And that's what we're doing."
Additionally, the agency has been able to "reclaim" space and increase the ceiling height by removing "abandoned water and gas lines" and other underutilized space under street level. For instance, in an update about the project, the MTA wrote, "Below 33rd Street and 8th Avenue, an existing utility box (known as the 'western utility box') stretched 13 feet beneath the surface yet contained only two pipes."
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
Stores in the concourse have been closed since construction began. The MTA and Vornado, which owns the retail space, have not said what stores will be there when the corridor reopens, but it’s likely the K-Mart will not be coming back.