Latino suicide tarnishes the applauded remodeling of Penn Station, New York’s “Cinderella” station The State

Latino suicide tarnishes the applauded remodeling of Penn Station, New York's “Cinderella” station

The controversial clock was added at the end

Photo:
Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy

From the January 1 New York has one of the few great reasons to celebrate amid the pandemic that has caused death, population exodus and many business closures: the reopening of a Penn Station that for years was condemned to neglect.

But also there was at least one tragedy en route to that remodel: in the final stage, when the pandemic was just beginning, on March 17 executive Michael Joseph Evans Palacio hanged himself, apparently a victim of exhaustion and insomnia due to the pressures of the calendar of the great work.

Evans was born in Cali (Colombia), but his family moved to Dallas (Texas) when he was just a baby. At the time of his death he had just turned 40 and was already president of the public-private consortium Moynihan Station Development Corp.

He had spent most of his career working on converting the “James A. Farley” post office into the gleaming, bright, newly opened train station, at a cost of $ 1.6 billion dollars.

Apparently the Art Deco clock, which is now suspended from the “open sky” ceiling in Amtrak’s 255,000 square foot waiting area and Long Island Rail Road, It was the last pressure to fill his nerves. That piece was not part of the original renderings of the station.

Evans, Oxford graduate and passionate about public service, he was forced to fight when officials demanded a central clock less than a year from the monumental project’s scheduled completion date, said his partner, Brian Lutz.

Although Lutz said Evans had no history of mental illness, according to friends and colleagues he did. he had difficulties with his family during her life in New York and never openly spoke to her parents that she was in a relationship with a man. In fact, although his obituary mentions numerous relatives in Colombia and the US, she ignores Lutz, who was her partner for over 16 years.

In the last weeks of his life, Evans tortured himself for “material delays”: stone from Italy; switches for the building’s fiber optic network; Illumination artifacts; LED displays and “progress clock”, depending on a hand-scribbled note found on his desk the day before his suicide in March, less than a week after turning 40.

Moynihan Hall “could be in danger,” he wrote. “The schedule was very aggressive to start with.”

The concept of a giant train hall across from Madison Square Garden was born decades ago, when the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan first proposed repurposing the giant post office. Evans started working on the project in 2011 and tried to keep it on budget and on time. This included several meetings with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Michael was a dreamer”, Lutz, his partner, insists. They met when they were both students at Oxford. “He believed in public service and the possibilities it presented to do great things for humanity. He was fascinated with public space. He also believed in the goodness of people ”.

Although the station opened on time, nine months after Evan committed suicide in the bedroom of his Chelsea home, his abrupt departure continues to shake up the history of the remodel. A plaque in his name has been placed on the work, calling him “leader, visionary, friend.”

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