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Check Out Our Grand Central Station Essay

The Grand Central Station

This is a train station located on Park Avenue and 42nd Street in New York City. It was initially built in 1871 by the New York Central Railroad; it was referred to as the grand central depot as it was the main station used by four railroads; the Harlem Railroad, the New York Central Railroad, the Hudson River Railroad, and the New Haven Railroad. The headhouse building that contained railroad offices in addition to passenger service areas was demolished and expanded to six stories from the initial three from 1899 to 1900 with new façade included. The new building was called the grand central station. The station was further reconstructed from 1903 to 1913 developing the current terminal (Schlichting, 2001).

The station was expanded into Park Avenue so as to better accommodate the ever increasing rail traffic through the construction of an underground bi-level station that would be under Park Avenue through the use of electric trains. In addition, a circumferential raised driveway was developed that directed traffic on Park Avenue around the station over to 42nd street. This was done so as to control traffic in the nearby streets. The development of the underground station resulted in further development of the station as the platforms were made available for real estate development leading to construction of prestigious office buildings and apartments turning the station into a commercial office district within Manhattan.

The inclusion of a commercial district resulted in the development of a mini-city that included the Chrysler Building, and the Commodore Hotel. One of the major commercial businesses to have office space at the terminal building was the Grand Central Art Galleries that was started in 1922 and occupied the space above the terminal on the 6th floor and encompassed a reception area, a foyer gallery, and eight major exhibition rooms. The Grand Central School of Art was establishment a year after and occupied the 7th floor of the terminal. The art galleries were located in the terminal up to 1958 when they were relocated.  Another organization to have space at the station was CBS television that had four main studios encompassing film recording and projection, and network master control facilities from  1939 up to 1964.

A decline in the use of the railroad in the United States led to proposals to have the station demolished and an 80-story, 446,000 m2 skyscraper be built. A design was developed that would take the shape of an hour glass but which was abandoned. Another proposal was made to have a tower build on the northern side of the terminal that would replace the six-story building build there. The proposal was approved in 1958 leading to the construction of the Pan Am Building that was completed in 1963 (Schlichting, 2001). The continued decline of the railroad industry led the New York Central Railroad joining together with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 which was also being affected in the slump in the railroad industry.

This merger created the Penn Central Railroad which immediately embarked on plans to build a tower over the main terminal. These plans were greatly opposed especially by the Municipal Art Society (www.nypap.org). In addition, the station had already been designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Penn Central Railroad filed a suit against New York City after it was unable to convince the Landmarks preservation commission to be allowed to continue with its plans. It alleged the city was exercising a regulatory taking. 

Landmarks and the Landmarks Preservation Act

According to the law, a building or structure that is to be described as a landmark has to be over thirty years old as well as posses' additional architectural, historic or cultural merit. As such, the demolition of a building designated as a landmark is disallowed unless the rightful owner is able to present substantial financial reasons as to why the landmark should be demolished. As such, most buildings that have been designated as landmarks include skyscrapers, hotels, libraries, museums, churches, and theaters. Structures that have been designated as landmarks include bridges, piers, clocks, and parks. Moreover, natural structures that have an historic significance have also been designated as landmarks such as trees. Preservation and landmark laws have been developed in the recent past as a result of an increase in the number of buildings and structures designated as landmarks by several states around the United States (Reed & Edmund, 1988). The main aim of enacting these laws is to preserve the historically and aesthetically significant buildings and structures that make up the United States landscape.

The Landmarks Preservation Act refers to a law that was enacted in 1965 by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission with the aim of preventing the demolition or altering of old buildings that have a historic importance within New York City. The Landmarks Preservation Commission that was created by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission decides the various buildings and structures that need to be designated as landmarks. The law also extends to historic districts that are of aesthetic importance to New York City. Under the law, the owner of a building designated as a landmark is expected to preserve the architectural designs that make it unique as well as make it safe to use. In return, the owner is offered tax abatements as well as beneficial loan arrangements.

New York City has created four major categories of its landmarks. These are individual, scenic, interior, and historic district. Individual landmarks are those that are preserved due to their exterior architectural beauty and significance. Scenic landmarks are those structures that have architectural, historic or cultural significance and include cemeteries, park, bridges, sidewalks, clocks, and piers (Reed & Edmund, 1988). Interior landmarks are those which have interior sections that are used by the public and which have architectural, historic or cultural significance. Historic district landmarks are those areas which symbolize a particular architectural style or period. As such, all structures and buildings that are located within the selected historical district are preserved to prevent alteration or destruction.

Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York

Penn Central Railroad embarked on plans to build a tower over the main terminal and had contracted Marcel Breuer to develop a design for the new tower that was expected to be taller than the existing Pan Am Building. The new construction was intended to be done on top of the station as it could altered the station as it would lead to the destruction of one of the sides of the station. These plans were greatly opposed and especially so since the station had already been designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission six month prior to the design of the new tower was unveiled. As a landmark, the Grand Central Station could not be demolished or altered in any way as it held historic significance to the city of New York. The

Penn Central Railroad filed a suit against the city claiming the city was exercising a regulatory taking. It claimed that the city through the application of its Landmark Preservation Law had exercised a taking of property devoid of just reimbursement and arbitrarily had taken away the property from the owners which amounted to a violation of their due process as per the 5th Amendment as well as 14th Amendment. It also claimed that the law had taken the whole 100% of their air rights value. By exercising the law, New York City had been unfair to Penn Central since it had forced them to accept a huge public cost that should have been equally shared by all residents of the city. According to the appellants, zoning should have affected everyone equally but in this case had only affected those who possessed buildings designated as landmarks.

New York City in its defense claimed that it was not exercising a taking since the restrictions involved were negligible. It claimed that just compensation was available to Penn Central as it could sell the unexploited development rights since land which was not entirely developed could transfer the unexploited development rights to other neighboring buildings. In a ruling held in 1978 by the Supreme Court, the court ruled in favor of the commission affirming that its landmark preservation laws did not signify a taking of property as it represented a reasonable utilization of the government's power over land use. In arriving at this decision, the court considered several major considerations.

The court's decision on the matter acknowledged the legal rule that the economic consequence arising from a regulatory restriction should be calculated based on the whole parcel of property owned by the claimant and not just on the restricted part only. This rule avoids claimants from translating nearly any regulatory restriction in to a probable constitutional taking (Kanner, 2005). In addition, this rule is fundamental to any interpretation concerning the takings clause hence leaves no space for public planning speculation and regulation of land utilization. By maintaining the takings clause within realistic limits, the rule also helps in advancing the basic tenet that it is the responsibility of elected representatives to set social policy and not that of judges.

The court also considered the suggestion that diminution in property worth on its part alone can institute a taking. This principle which is interrelated with the "parcel as a whole" principle validates that not all regulatory restrictions constitute a taking even though they could significantly limit the profit the owner of the property could earn through the exploitation of the property. As such, this principle aids in maintaining the suggestion that property is a social institution that is under democratic supervision. 

The court established that the use of the transferable development rights plan can aid in offsetting the economic trouble that may arise through the enforcement of a regulation and hence decreasing the risk arising from a taking. Through a transferable development rights plan, a landowner whose rights to use his property have been restricted is allowed to take advantage of the development worth of the land through shifting the development rights to other properties within the area that are appropriate for exhaustive development (Eagle, 2005). Most transferable development rights plans have been found to be reasonable and fair tools for promoting conservation policies while at the same time ensuring that property owners are able to share the profits of societal economic development. 

The court's decision recognized that the takings principle should take into consideration the reality that regulatory restrictions usually affect the values of properties in a positive manner and therefore end up benefiting the property owners who are subject to these restrictions. This is because the conservation of landmarks usually benefits everyone as this helps in improving the quality of life within a city and in this case New York City. As such, Penn Central benefited as well from the landmark laws as did the residents of New York City. By enacting the law, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission took into consideration the overall welfare of the city and its residents (Meltz, Merriam & Frank, 1999).

In normal instances, landmark laws usually affect some owners of property and land more harshly than others. Such a scenario does not in itself constitute a taking because that is the reality as far as general welfare and zoning legislation are concerned. By enacting the law, Penn Central is not the only owner of property or land that is affected by the restrictions of the law. There are other owners whose land and property have been designated as landmarks are affected by the restrictions of the law as well. In addition, with the restrictions come other advantages such as an increase in the value of these properties as well as the ability to transfer shifting the development rights to other properties within the area that are appropriate for exhaustive development.

The preservation law does not prevent Penn Central from making reasonable profits from the station as it does not prevent it from continuing its use as well as carrying out further investments by utilizing the air rights above the station (mdf.org). The construction of a smaller structure that is in harmony with the structure and shape of the station could be allowed with the approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In addition, Penn Central can transfer its air rights to other properties that are within the neighborhood of the station and therefore mitigate the financial losses that it could have incurred so far. 

Conclusion

Grand central station is the largest train station in the world based on the number of platforms located on Park Avenue and 42nd Street in New York City. Built in 1871, as the grand central depot by the New York Central Railroad, it was named the grand central station in 1900. The continued decline of the railroad industry led the New York Central Railroad joining together with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 creating the Penn Central Railroad which immediately embarked on plans to build a tower over the main terminal. These plans were greatly opposed and especially so since the station had already been designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Penn Central filed a suit that was appealed to the Supreme Court. The court held that the landmark preservation laws did not signify a taking of property as it represented a reasonable utilization of the government's power over land use. This ruling helped preserve the station as it was designated as a landmark and prevented its demolition.

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