Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City

PETITIONER:Penn Central Transportation Company
LOCATION: Grand Central Terminal

DOCKET NO.: 77-444
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: New York Court of Appeals

CITATION: 438 US 104 (1978)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1978

Daniel M. Gribbon – Argued the cause for the appellants
Leonard J. Koerner – Argued the cause for the appellees
Patricia Wald – Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance

Facts of the case

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Law of 1965 empowered the city to designate certain structures and neighborhoods as “landmarks” or “landmark sites.” Penn Central, which owned the Grand Central Terminal (opened in 1913), was not allowed to construct a multistory office building above it.


Did the restriction against Penn Central constitute a “taking” in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 17, 1978 in Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 26, 1978 in Penn Central Transportation Company v. New York City

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in 77-444, Penn Central Transportation Company against New York City will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here from the New York state Court Of Appeals.

The Grand Central Terminal in New York city back in 1967 was designated a land mark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission which administers New York city’s Landmark Preservation Law.

Although, the appellant the Penn Central Transportation company which owns the terminal opposed the landmark designation before the Landmark’s Preservation Commission.

It did not seek judicial review of the designation decision.

However, in 1968, Penn Central entered in to an agreement with a British Firm to construct a multi-storey office building above the terminal.

It was to be a 55 storey office building and Penn Central was to receive a $1 Million annually as rental, during construction, and at least $3 million annually as rental, thereafter.

Because of the terminal’s landmark designation however, the structure could not be built without the permission of the Landmarks Preservation Commission because that’s what the Landmarks Preservation Law provides and Penn Central applied for that permission and the commission denied permission.

Again Penn Central didn’t seek judicial review as a denial but brought this suit in the New York Courts claiming at the Landmarks Preservation law has taken it’s property without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The New York Court of Appeals rejected that claim and we affirm the judgment of the New York Court of Appeals.

Again the only issue before us is whether the state court was correct in holding at the restrictions imposed by the landmark’s law to not effect the taking of Penn Central’s property for public use within the meaning of the Fifth amendment which of course is made applicable to the States, to the Fourteenth Amendment.

In agreeing with the view, that the restrictions do not affect the taking, we rely on decision cited in the opinion that hold that when state tribunals reasonably conclude as did the New York Court of Appeals here that the common good will be promoted by prohibiting particular contemplated uses of land, land use regulations that destroy or adversely affect real property and thus may nevertheless be constitutional.

Now Penn Central’s position stated boldly appears to be that the only means of ensuring that selected owners are not singled out to endure financial hardship for no reason, is to hold then any restriction imposed on individual landmarks pursuant to the New York scheme is a taking without more requiring the payment of just compensation.

We find no merit in that argument but we see no basis for disagreement with the New York court that the restrictions imposed are substantially related to the promotion of the general welfare.

We therefore as I said affirm.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist dissents and joined by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.