Honoring the 60th Anniversary of AGBANY’s Penn Station Picket – Archive Project Event Honors Veterans, Leaders of Famed Protest
December 1, 2022
By Brad Vogel, Executive Director
On August 1, 2022, the eve of the 60th anniversary of the famed August 2, 1962 picket line outside old Pennsylvania Station opposing the building’s demolition, the Archive Project hosted an event to mark the occasion.
The event, A Toast to the Penn Station Picketers, was held at Tracks Bar & Grill, just across 31st Street from the site of the long-since demolished Beaux Arts station edifice by McKim, Mead & White. Archive Project executive director Brad Vogel served as master of ceremonies, and speakers included Archive Project board member Adrian Untermyer, Archive Project founder and chair emeritus Anthony C. Wood, well-known civic leader Kent Barwick, and Peter Samton, a former organizer of the group that planned and executed the renowned protest to preserve old Penn Station, Action Group for Better Architecture in New York (AGBANY). Samton’s remarks, in particular, proved a moving and poignant reminder of why preservationists fight for things worth fighting for in New York City. It was powerful to hear from someone who was there six decades ago.
Toasts sent in by fellow AGBANY picket organizer Diana (Kirsch) Goldstein of San Francisco and from Joan Davidson in honor of her brother Richard Kaplan and friend Raymond Rubinow of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, who were in the picket line, were read to all those assembled.
As Goldstein wrote for the occasion: “We knew we would not win and that Penn Station would be torn down but we felt a moral obligation for the architectural profession to publicly protest. And we hoped that our protest movement would change the public attitude towards preservation in the future so that other buildings would be protected.”
Norval White, AGBANY picket organizer, along with Samton, Goldstein, and Jordan Gruzen, was also honored by various attendees.
Tables full of picket photos by photographers such as David Hirsh and copies of documents relating to AGBANY and the picket littered tables inside Tracks. Mr. Untermyer also led small tours of the picket site and the new Moynihan Station nearby. Members of the evening’s host committee, Archive Project supporters, and members of the general public partook of refreshments and engaged in convivial conversation. Members of the public also highlighted issues with the current plans for mass demolition of historic structures in the vicinity of the current iteration of Pennsylvania Station.
One unmistakable theme emerged clearly from the anniversary event: the 1962 AGBANY picket has inspired and continues to inspire historic preservation activism up to the present.