Thursday, April 15, 2010


I believe everyone accepts the fact that Grand Central Terminal in New York is one of the City’s jewels, and one its best public relations symbols. It is listed in most tourist guide books and, according to its website, 21.6 million tourists visit the station every year.

But when one commutes through the station daily, as I do, the majesty of Grand Central diminishes, and it becomes just another spot in the City jammed with people. You want to get in and get out as fast as you can.

In fact, I’ve become so blasé, after 25 years of commuting, that it puzzles me daily, as I walk up the stairwell leading to the West Balcony and then out to Vanderbilt Avenue, why there are so many people shooting photos of the central area of the station, as if it were a famous movie star they had seen live for the first time.

It is just a big space with lots of people and a famous name, I thought to myself. Am I missing something? I have got to ask someone why it is so photogenic.

And so I did. I walked up to what turned out to be a mother and daughter — with cameras in hand — from Salt Lake City, Utah, and I said, “Do you mind if I interrupt you for a minute? I assume you are visitors, and I wanted to find out why you are shooting photos of Grand Central.”

The daughter, approximately 25 years old, immediately answered, “It’s unusual to find anything this big in the middle of a city, and that makes it fascinating.”

“Ok. What else?” I asked.

“The ceiling with parts of the galaxy in gold is beautiful!” the mother added.

“Yeah. You’re right. I rarely look up,” I noted.

“And then I love the chandeliers!” the daughter said.

“What chandeliers?” I responded.

“The ones that line the sides of the station. See [as she pointed], up there!” she answered.

“You know … you are right! They are beautiful.”

“And we love watching all the people. You couldn’t get that in Salt Lake City!”


Blasé is bad. This was a wake-up call. The electricity of Grand Central, a constant reminder of the electricity of New York City (750,000 people pass through the station daily), probably fails to captivate most New Yorkers. But obviously its public relations value should not be underestimated!

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