Grand Central owner threatens $1B suit over One Vanderbilt

Argent Ventures says city seized its air rights in rezoning that allowed tower's go-ahead
July 17, 2014 11:50AM

Lawyers for Grand Central Terminal’s landlord have threatened to sue the city for $1 billion over an air-rights dispute related to the construction of SL Green’s One Vanderbilt.

At a City Planning meeting on Wednesday, the attorneys claimed that the city unconstitutionally seized the property of Argent Ventures, the railroad station’s landlord, when it proposed the rezoning of a five-block area adjacent to Grand Central known as the Vanderbilt Corridor, the Commercial Observer reported. Under the plan, SL Green would not be required to purchase any of Argent’s 1.3 million square feet of air rights, which include the parcels on which SL Green’s 1.8-million-square-foot One Vanderbilt tower would rise.

“The development rights above Grand Central are property rights, and the Constitution protects those rights from being taken from their owners without just compensation,” said Argent’s attorney Duane Loft of Boies, Schiller & Flexner at the meeting, the news site reported.

SL Green secured the right to build 672 feet over current zoning scale without purchasing Argent’s rights by reaching a deal with the city to build public space and fund transit improvements, according to the news site.

City Planning spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff told The Real Deal in an email the arrangement “does not preclude the ability of the owner of Grand Central’s transferable development rights to sell them.” She added that the ability to sell would be expanded under the framework by allowing nearby sites to absorb more floor area ratio in development rights from Grand Central than they currently can.

Argent’s president and founder, Andrew Penson, locked horns with the city last year over the valuation of air rights in the area. [NYO]Tom DiChristopher