Check this out, a story in the September 28, 2015 edition of the New York Times, "Owner of Grand Central Sues Developer and City for $1.1 Billion Over Air Rights."
Reminds us of this obscure Supreme Court case we heard about...
The Times reports that the current owner of Grand Central Terminal is, with the counsel of uberlawyers, suing New York City in federal court, alleging a taking and related. So what's this all about (we thought this was "old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago")?
Apparently, the city granted a Grand Central neighbor permission to build a massive 1500 feet high office tower, and in doing so, took Grand Central's property (its air rights) without compensation:
On Monday, Mr. Penson filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit in United States District Court in Manhattan that argued that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, the City Council and the developer, SL Green Realty Corporation, had deprived him of his property rights when the city gave SL Green permission to build a 1,501-foot tall office tower, without having to buy any air rights from him.
The lawsuit involves complex questions of zoning, constitutional law, politics and potential conflicts of interest, but it boils down to what always matters most in New York real estate: millions and millions of dollars.
The Complaint, filed Monday in the Southern District of New York, has more detail, and spells out the legal claims, which include a taking without public use, just comp under both the federal and New York constitutions, spot zoning, breach of contract, and more.
We haven't had time today to peruse it in detail, because we're on the road for the Brigham-Kanner Conference at the William and Mary Law School and because we're trying to get a brief done without missing a deadline.
But we'll leave you with these quick thoughts, and then we'll return with more once we've had a better chance to review the complaint:
- How do you file a takings case in federal court which seeks just compensation under the Fifth Amendment without even addressing Williamson County ripeness in your complaint? Maybe uberlawyers don't bother with such details, and it's only the mere mortals such as we who allow little things like Supreme Court precedent (no matter how wrong) to get in our way. Or is this another "show but no 'go'" takings lawsuit, destined to garner fawning press coverage, but not really to win?
- Current owner bought the place nine years ago. Restrictions on air rights seem like they've been in place a lot longer than that. Palazzolo issues, anyone?
Stay tuned, as always