This month in real estate history

New York one of first states to codify property rights of married women in 1848

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

1994: MTA signs 280-year lease for Grand Central

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority signed a 280-year lease for the land under Grand Central Terminal, as well as for miles of suburban and rural rail lines, 20 years ago this month.

The MTA, which operates New York’s regional commuter trains, along with the city’s subways, buses and certain bridges and tunnels, inked the deal with American Premier Underwriters, an insurance company formed from the non-rail assets of the railroad Penn Central, which filed for bankruptcy in 1970.

Grand Central opened in 1913 and serves as the terminal for Metro-North Railroad and a major intersection for many of the city’s subway lines.

The lease also covers parcels along the former Penn Central lines extending through the Bronx and Westchester County, for a total of 156 miles and terminating in the Dutchess County cities of Poughkeepsie and Wassaic. The lease expires on Feb. 28, 2274.

In 2006, Andrew Penson’s Argent Ventures bought the fee — or the underlying land and additional air rights — for $76 million, making Argent the landlord to the MTA.

1916: Businesses seek factory-free zone on upper Fifth

The B. Altman store in 1914

The B. Altman store in 1914

A group of local store owners and landlords launched an effort to remove garment manufacturers from the upper floors above popular shopping areas in Midtown like Fifth Avenue, 98 years ago this month.

Known as the Save New York Committee, the organization complained that the large numbers of workers congregating on the shopping thoroughfares north of 33rd Street hurt their businesses. Owners of stores like B. Altman, R.H. Macy & Co. and Lord & Taylor backed the plan which was debuted in a series of newspapers advertisements.

The private group arranged to relocate firms from the proposed exclusion area that extended from 33rd to 59th streets and from Third to Seventh avenues.

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It was not the garment trade itself that was seen as a problem, just the large numbers of employees. In fact, many firms maintained showrooms in the area, but relocated their production facilities.

In 1917, the committee announced nearly 20 firms had agreed to relocate from the exclusion zone.

Then in March 1918, the group proposed the district for clothing production be bounded by 17th and 31st streets and Sixth and Eighth avenues. Instead, the firms headed directly west of Midtown, and that zone subsequently became the center of the trade and was known as the Garment Center.

1848: State codifies wives’ property rights

Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848

Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848

New York State enacted a law giving married women the right to control their own real estate apart from their husbands, 166 years ago this month.

The state was one of the first in the nation to pass such a law. New York’s Married Women’s Property Act was used as a model by other states in subsequent years.

Leaders of the women’s rights movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, advocated for the historic measure.

The law provided that a wife had the right to control the revenue derived from her property, as well as to dispose of it. In addition, her husband could not seize her assets for any reason, including to pay his debts, or unilaterally dispose of her properties.

Prior to this legislation, single women had individual property rights, but once a woman married, her husband had the right to control her property, including selling it or taking rental income. She could not buy or sell property, make contracts, control the profits or file lawsuits before this law was enacted.