Penn Central Case Law Summary

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Submitted By cat3fisch
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In 1965, New York City enacted its Landmarks Preservation Law, which protected historic landmarks and neighborhoods from destruction or alterations to their characters. This Landmarks Law also established the Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose purpose was to identify and designate the city’s landmarks (and districts) as well as regulate changes made to these designated structures. Penn Central Transportation Company owned the Grand Central Terminal, which had been designated as a landmark under the application of the Landmarks Law in August of 1967. In January of 1968, Penn Central entered into a renewable 50-year lease with Union General Properties, Ltd. (a corporation of the United Kingdom) to allow UGP to construct a multistory office building in the air space above the terminal; UGP would pay Penn Central $1 million for each year of construction and $3 million each year after that. Penn Central and UGP jointly applied to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to build the proposed office building atop the Terminal. The first plan, Breuer I, called for a 55-story building to be cantilevered above the existing façade, but was denied as the Commission thought a building of such great height would not only look outlandish on top of an 8-story historical landmark, but would also diminish the prominence of the landmark itself. The second plan, Breuer II Revised, called for a removal of the Terminal’s 42nd Street façade to build a 53-story office building, but was also rejected by the Commission, as it would destroy the exterior architectural features of the Terminal. After the rejection of their proposals, Penn Central and UGP filed suit against the City of New York, stating that the city, under the guise of the Landmarks Law, had “taken” their property and had not provided just compensation for this property, violating the Fifth and…...

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