A new book about Grand Central Terminal hits shelves this week, as MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman speaks with its author, The New York Times urban affairs correspondent Sam Roberts.
As Roberts details, New York’s iconic train station, which turns 100 in February, has a rich history and lore. His book, “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” explains the terminal’s inception and growth. The construction was spurred by the worst train collision in New York City history that left city planners searching for a better way to address the booming, turn-of-the-century metropolis.
Their designs stood the test of time. Grand Central is the largest rail terminal in the world with 43 platforms, fed by 43 tracks and 48 underground storage tracks.
Commodore Vanderbilt built Grand Central almost in the middle of nowhere and Midtown came to its doorstep. Midtown grew, Park Avenue grew—all because of Grand Central Terminal
In 1913, 23 million passengers used Grand Central Terminal. Today, close to 100 million use it per year. Not only does the Terminal serve as a hub for the Subway and Metro-North divisions of the Metropolitan Transit Authority but it’s also a tourist hotspot. Roberts writes that 10,000 people visit the terminal daily, for its restaurants alone. The posh dining options, including Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse and Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant, even found their way into mainstays of pop culture like the television show, “Mad Men.”
“Commodore Vanderbilt built Grand Central almost in the middle of nowhere and Midtown came to its doorstep. Midtown grew, Park Avenue grew—all because of Grand Central Terminal,” Roberts told Pi Roman.
Today, the station continues to develop. Metro-North, based out of Grand Central, became the nation’s busiest commuter railroad in 2011. The station and terminal are also expected to increase visitor numbers when the Long Island Railroads East Side Access project is completed in 2019.
“[I]t was much more than a transportation story. It was a story about New York City,” Roberts said of his book about Grand Central.