Remembering the City’s Legal Battle to Landmark Grand Central Terminal

Ross Sandler

Ross Sandler

The late Bernard Richland was Corporation Counsel when the City appealed the adverse 1975 New York Supreme Court decision in the Grand Central Terminal case. Federal Judge Nina Gershon wrote about Richland’s role in a memorial article about Richland in 2004. 48 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 411 (2004).

Gershon wrote that “there were some in the preservation community who questioned the city’s resolve to pursue, through appeal, the fight to preserve Grand Central Terminal as a landmark, after a devastating loss in the trial court, which had not only rejected, with derision, the findings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding the significance of the Terminal but found that the designation of the Terminal as a landmark was unconstitutional; ominously, the trial court had also severed and kept open the request for damages for a ‘temporary taking.’ But when Bernie [Bernard Richland] became convinced of the merit of the city’s position, he did not stint in his support of the appeal.”

Gershon, then Chief of Federal Appeals for the New York City law department, continued that “I will never forget the day he [Richland] came to my office . . . and told me he was assigning the appeal to me. With his eyes twinkling, he indicated he knew it would be tough to win, but told me to give it everything I had. I am sure he pumped his arm in the air as he said this.  Despite the limitations on the city’s resources at that time, and the recognition that the case would be protracted, he [Richland] gave me all of the time and resources that I needed. For example, the brief to the Appellate Division was long, far longer than any brief I had written before, and one of Bernie’s cost-saving initiatives had been to eliminate the printing of briefs in favor of in-house binding of typewritten briefs. Nonetheless, he authorized the printing of the city’s brief in the Grand Central case to deal with its length and assure its readability by the Justices of the Appellate Division.”

The City won in the Appellate Division in December 1975. Gershon had left the Law Department when the case went to the Court of Appeals. Richland assigned the appeal to the relatively young Leonard Koerner, who successfully defended the landmarking in the Court of Appeals (1977) and in the Supreme Court (1978). Koerner is currently Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel.

Ross Sandler

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