FlyingTypers Logo
   Vol. 19 No. 78
Thursday December 31, 2020
Now A GPO Working On The Railroads
General Post Office 34th Street

Penn Station circa 1910     There is a celebration this week in New York City. The nearly three quarters of a million people that are mostly commuters going to and from work in New York & New Jersey have been forced to travel pre-pandemic through Pennsylvania (Penn) Station in Manhattan, a daily subterranean dismal railroad encounter since the misdirected destruction in 1963 of the monumental Beaux Arts 1910 version of Penn Station (right). These commuters will get some relief beginning later this week when a new passenger experience begins on January 1.

A Tale of Two Buildings

     Just across the street from Madison Square Garden that today sits on top of what was Penn Station is a second equivalent to Penn Station building (pictured) that opened in 1921 and was designed by McKim, Mead & White, in fact the same architects that created the original building. Both masterpieces of construction and imagination complemented each other having been inspired by the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.
     The surviving building was and has been in use since it was created as the Main General Post Office (GPO) for New York City and is named in honor of James Farley, who served as Postmaster General during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.

Airlines Went Postal at Takeoff

     But, thanks in large part to the late, great Senator Patrick W. Moynihan, the story really gets interesting and connects all of us in the airline business.
     During the early days of aviation as the airlines were being formed and even before they carried passengers, every airline that was founded during the startup years of the early 20th century had one solid revenue base: they all carried mail and express.

Kelly Air Mail Act of 1925

     The USA Kelly Air Mail act of 1925 paid fledgling airlines to carry mail—$3.00 a pound for the first 1,000 miles . . . and the airlines were born. The Kelly Act was about putting mail and parcel carriage up for bids, taking air mail control away from the Post Office preferring private enterprise.
     But USPS did command some vital terms of contracts, including which airports were to be used; that is where our new Penn Station Building that used to be the New York City GPO steps into the picture.

Fastest from Airport to Post Office

     The edict in the mid 1920s was that the contract to carry and deliver the mails was given to the carriers that could deliver fastest to the GPO located as mentioned across the street from Penn Station.
     The early winner in airport location was Newark Airport that began as little more than a farmer’s field in New Brunswick nearby the City of Newark, New Jersey. But City of Newark and New Jersey politicians, especially Mayor Meyer Ellenstein were very fast on their feet recognizing aviation and were firmly onboard with money to support the aviation business.
     Based on carrying mails and building what at the time during the 1920s were amongst the greatest airport facilities in the world with early Unit Terminals for Eastern Airlines, United and others, Newark Airport served in fact as the world’s busiest airport from the day it opened formally in its present location in 1928 until December 2, 1939, the day LaGuardia Airport opened in Flushing (Queens), New York.

Expressway from Newark to Penn GPO

     Since success with the airlines was dependent on being fastest to the Manhattan GPO, no doubt Newark Airport benefitted greatly from the opening of the Holland Tunnel (1927) to New Jersey in lower Manhattan and also from building an elevated Pulaski Skyway (1930) above the many canals, rivers and railroad crossings that dot the landscape from Newark to Elizabeth, where the Holland Tunnel connects New Jersey with lower Manhattan.
     Once in Manhattan, the ride to the GPO was achieved in minutes, in fact the entire journey took less than 40 minutes from airport to GPO.

Brooklyn Landing Trip Took Hour

     At the time New York City’s only airport was Floyd Bennet Field located about a mile from where JFK Airport is today.
     So as aviation dawned and U.S. Postal mail subsidies paved the runways for fledgling carriers to form and bid for contracts, a mail van could drive from rampside Newark Airport to the GPO faster and with much less delay and commotion than a similar journey from Floyd Bennett Field.
     Floyd Bennett, named for a WW I aviator, is located (and still today) at the foot of Flatbush Avenue so every mail delivery trip in the 1930s, even with an armed escort and sirens blaring, had to navigate past several miles of trolley cars, horses and carts, street vendors and shopping districts just to get to The Brooklyn Bridge. Once across the BB, the mails then had to navigate all the way across Manhattan’s West Side through cross-town traffic to the GPO. On a good day the trip took over an hour.

Ticket Reads New York So Take Me There

 Mannie Berlinrut    Repeatedly New York City tried to wrest the mail contracts away from Newark and finally in a major publicity gag, Mayor LaGuardia, insisted upon arrival at Newark one night in 1932: “My ticket says New York, and I want you to take me there.”
     My friend, the late E. B. "Mannie" Berlinrut, who was the only reporter when TWA had booked the Mayor’s flight with the ticket reading:  “Chicago to New York (Newark)”, obligingly granted the Mayor’s wish and flew Hizzoner to Floyd Bennett.
     “After the flight that I covered for The Newark Evening Call newspaper,” Mannie told me, “I flew back alone aboard that tiny DC-2 and saw the lights of New York City coming up and knew that would not be the last time Newark would hear from New York about aviation.”
     Well, they did and he did, and as mentioned earlier, LaGuardia Airport opened for business December 2, 1939.

Airlines Went to LaGuardia

Robert J. Aaronson     Newark Airport was washed up, the airlines departed in droves as EWR shut down like a light switch, and in fact remained that way in the backwater of New York/New Jersey aviation for more that 35 years, until the aggressive management of the New York & New Jersey Airports under people like Port Authority Director of Aviation Robert J. Aaronson and others finally turned that situation around in the 1980s.
     But for Newark it was great while it lasted and carrying mail to Manhattan with that postal subsidy lasted long enough for the passenger business to take hold and the rest, as it is said, is history.

Fast Forward to Today

     Today Floyd Bennet Field is part of the U.S. Park Service.
     In 2021 a great portion of the heyday airport that used to be at Newark still exists, including an exquisite building created in 1934 that housed the world’s first Air Traffic Control Center.
     I wrote a book to try and save that building in 1978, when Newark Airport was using it as a flight kitchen, a postal facility and a weather station. Great Airports, Newark 1928-1978 brought the rich history of New Jersey aviation to the fore.

Geoffrey Arend at old Newark Control Tower

The Unsung Hero

Great Airports Newark and LaGuardia     Port Authority Aviation Director Bob Aaronson, mentioned here earlier, took action during the early 1980s to not allow planners to further alter or even perhaps knock the building down because it sat at the end of one of the airport’s main runways.
     Quietly, with great skill and determination Mr. Aaronson granted the place a reprieve until funds were finally secured to save the building and move it elsewhere on the airport, where it serves as the airport managers’ office today.
     And here lies another twist connected to our story of Penn Station.
     Our book on Newark got the ball rolling to save Building One at Newark Airport.
     Later our book Great Airports LaGuardia actually saved The Marine Air Terminal, the home of the overseas flights for New York City until Idlewild Airport (JFK International), opened in 1948.

Laurance Rockefeller, James Brooks, Geoffrey Arend, Cynthia Grassby Baker and Elizabeth Hanford Dole

     We were recognized and honored with the highest award of the U.S. Department of Transportation, FAA and The National Historic Trust, for “Outstanding Contribution to Aviation History & Preservation” in a Washington ceremony in 1986. The connection to these activities of course was the destruction of the aforementioned giant Penn Station that impacted everyone, big and small, who loves New York.
     Losing Penn Station made everyone keenly aware of the need to protect our heritage for future generations. So, the rebirth of the great first generation passenger stations at airports here and everywhere else in the U.S. came in one manner or form from the uproar over the loss Penn Station, one of the greatest U.S. train stations of all time.
     Makes the coronation this week of what’s left that can be called Penn Station in Manhattan very sweet indeed. When we can all go out and travel and live again, if you ever find yourself in the Newark Airport air cargo area, and have a minute, go find Building One, you will not be disappointed.
      At LaGuardia where $8 billion USD is spent to rebuild the entire airport, the only building that cannot be touched is the Marine Air Terminal. That jewel of a place, where we had our offices and shepherded the MAT preservation effort for 25 years, is still there and is home to the mammoth mural “Flight” created by James Brooks. When one comes to New York, this is a place not to be missed.
     So as of January 1, 2021 ‘The Moynihan Train Hall’, where the airmail made the airlines, will open the skies for train riders as part of the new Penn Station featuring expansive 92-foot-high skylights.
     Somewhere in that beautiful revitalized 255,000 square foot reimagined space for travelers in Manhattan, where commercial aviation spent many of its most formative years, today – across the decades – moves us still.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 19 No. 75
Air Cargo Future Full of Presents
Chuckles for December 14, 2020

Vol. 19 No. 76
A Christmas Story
Chuckles for December 24, 2020
Take A Laugh Break

Vol. 19 No. 77
The Year That Changed Our World
2020 In Pictures

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller

fblogoSend comments and news to geoffrey@aircargonews.com
Opinions and comments expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher but remain solely those of the author(s).
Air Cargo News FlyingTypers reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and content. All photos and written material submitted to this publication become the property of All Cargo Media.
All Cargo Media, Publishers of Air Cargo News Digital and FlyingTypers. Copyright ©2018 ACM, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
More@ www.aircargonews.com

recycle100% Green