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NYC's landmark Grand Central Terminal turns 100

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers marked the 100th birthday of Grand Central Terminal and ended up celebrating the legacy of another emblem of the city, former Mayor Ed Koch, who died early Friday and who supported efforts to spare Grand Central from demolition.

The always bustling terminal was even more crowded than usual as tourists and commuters leaned in to hear birthday speeches under the twinkling constellations that adorn the main concourse's soaring ceiling.

The ceremony started with a moment of silence for Koch, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg then praised both his predecessor and Grand Central.

"We almost lost this extraordinary building, if you remember, back in the '70s," Bloomberg said. "And as a matter of fact, at that time the whole city was crumbling, and then we elected Ed Koch."

Bloomberg said Koch "really would have wanted us to celebrate his life and the life of the city he loved. So I think it's only fitting that we're gathered here today to celebrate the life of another New York City icon, Grand Central Terminal."

Friday's party took place exactly 100 years after the keys to Grand Central were first given to the stationmaster on Feb. 1, 1913.

Conceived as a palace of train travel, the majestic Beaux Arts building now houses the Metro-North Railroad, a commuter line serving New York's northern suburbs, with connections to the subway system. It is also a shopping and dining destination and one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.

But as several speakers recounted, Grand Central was in danger of being demolished in the 1970s to make way for a new office tower. It was saved by preservationists including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Caroline Kennedy said her mother was a native New Yorker who cared deeply about the city and mourned the loss of buildings like the old Penn Station, torn down in the 1960s and replaced with Madison Square Garden.

"She understood how great public spaces can help build community," Kennedy said.

Kennedy read from a letter Onassis wrote to then-Mayor Abe Beame in 1975 urging him to support saving Grand Central. "It would be so noble if you were to go down in history as the man who was brave enough to stem the tide," Onassis wrote.

Robert Tierney, chairman of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, said noted that a newspaper recently ran a 1970s photo of Onassis and Koch, then a member of Congress, "leading the charge, leading the fight to save this building." He called it "a poignant memory."

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