Published On: Sun, Feb 8th, 2015

Is SL Green’s One Vanderbilt Unconstitutional?

How can a building be unconstitutional?


Is Sl Green’s proposed new office tower to be built opposite Grand Central Station called One Vanderbilt in Manhattan Unconstitutional? Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe certainly thinks so.

Tribe argued before the New York City Planning Commission last week that should the government allow the developers to take the property away from the Grand Central Station owners led by Andrew S. Penson it would amount to an unconstitutional deprivation of private property at the hands of government.

Under the current development plan the City of New York, Prof. Tribe pointed out, would grant the land to SL Green in exchange for $210 million worth of improvements to the station, including a new entranceway.

While American courts have long since allowed the government to appropriate private property under the doctrine of eminent domain, there are laws and procedures which must be followed.

Professor Tribe said that should New York City allow the deal to go through than it would open the city up to a potential $1 billion lawsuit from the property’s owners.

In response, Marc Wolinsky, a lawyer for SL Green told the New York Times, “This is a ridiculous argument. The Constitution did not give Andrew Penson a monopoly over redevelopment in the Grand Central district. The United States Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals have held over and over again that government has the right to rezone an area to promote a public good and that no single landowner, no matter how desperate, has a right to expect that zoning regulations will stand still forever.”

One Vanderbilt will feature 1.6 million square feet of open and efficient LEED-certified Class A office space on the entire block of Vanderbilt Avenue between East 42nd and East 43rd Street. As part of the development, SL Green will deliver a $210 million package of public transit infrastructure improvements which will create critically-needed transit connections to Metro-North and 4/5/6/7 and S trains, as well as future East Side Access LIRR lines.

With the vast majority of funding allocated to upgrading the commuting experience in the over-burdened Grand Central 4/5/6 station, this unprecedented private investment will significantly improve pedestrian flow, allowing for more trains to enter the station, as well as alleviate crowding and circulation on mezzanine and platform levels. One Vanderbilt is currently undergoing the City’s formal public review process, expected to conclude next spring.

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