By Mike Schneider
Music filled the terminal today as Newark Penn Station celebrated its 80th anniversary.
Newark Penn Station was formally dedicated on March 23, 1935, designed by the very same architects that gave us New York’s Penn Station. No, not the modern one that everyone seems to hate. The old one that was considered America’s most beautiful, until they tore it down in 1963.
But Newark’s Penn Station survives, along with some of the early visitors.
“I was here for the first train that was in operation in 1935,” said Joseph McGeary. “So fast, but there’s no change at all for the station itself.”
The station has grown to service tens of thousands of people every day, the busiest in New Jersey.
“55,000 NJ Transit passengers pass through here every day. A lot of people, this is their first stop heading to a Devils game or concert at the Prudential Center or if before they’re going over to NJPAC for a concert,” said William Smith, Spokesperson for NJ Transit.
There are NJ Transit trains, PATH trains, Newark light rail trains and Amtrak trains, and buses. Greyhound operates out of here, and NJ Transit’s current bus fleet welcomed back some old-timers back today, courtesy of the Friends of the NJ Transportation Heritage Center.
The fact is this old station lives in something of a time warp. It’s got 80 years of history behind it. But people use it each and every day. It’s very much part of the present. Then again for this city, it’s also something they dream about as an integral part of their future.
“Penn Station is the hub of the city,” said Newark Councilman Eddie Osborne.
Osborne goes way back with this station.
“My grandfather used to own a news stand back in the 50’s right there on Mulberry Street. I remember as a kid coming here. I guess it was pretty new back then,” said Osborne.
And he also worked here.
“Construction, we remodeled all the stone work around here,” he said.
And those improvements haven’t gone unnoticed.
“I’ve been using it for 58 years going into the city, going down the shore. I just couldn’t live without it,” said Ronnie Batista.
“It’s pretty good here. The police are good. They’re always here all the time, making sure everybody is safe,” said Tasha Truesdale.
“It gets me to where I’m going, that’s the most important thing,” said Grace Eisape.
Transit officials acknowledge the place isn’t perfect. Improvements are still underway. And then there are the social problems, demonstrating how Newark Penn Station is sometimes a last refugee for those down on their luck. But a local renaissance is underway, from the Pru Center to NJPAC, to our new home for NJTV, under construction just steps from the station.
It’s enough to inspire this family visiting from Kenya.
“I’m just a tourist and it’s very nice. We wish you the very best and another 80 years to go,” said Bhupesh Lakhani.
When asked how Penn Station compares to stations back at home, Lakhani said, “We don’t have train stations there. So this is of course one of the best.”
And that’s one more satisfied customer, after 80 years of service.