Who Actually Owns Grand Central?

Here is a zinger for you, folks. It turns out that the actual owner of Grand Central is not the Metropolitan Transit Authority or some other highfalutin’ government transportation agency, but a fellow named Andrew S. Penson who tends to stay out of the limelight. Surprised? So were we. But it’s all there in black and white in the New York Times — Grand Central’s Flesh-and-Blood Landlord, January 29, 2013.

It seems that in 2006 an outfit called Midtown Trackage Ventures (Mr. Penson is the manging director) bought Grand Central from a bunch of obscure companies you never heard of, and the sale included 1.3 million square feet of air rights over Grand Central.* The MTA, however, leases Grand Central, and pays $2.24 million in rent annually. The lease expires in 2274. MTA has an option to buy the place in 2017. Who is Midtown Trackage Ventures? We don’t rightly know, though we tried to work our way through the lineage contained in the Times, but that was before our morning fix of Starbuck’s so we gave up, except to note that Midtown Trackage Ventures included two “institutional investors” that Mr. Penson would not identify — go ahead, read this item for yourself, and speculate your little hearts out if you are so inclined — we have better things to do.

And the cutest insight into the doings of Manhattan real estate nabobs is provided by the dispatch that only a a few MTA officials have ever met Mr. Penson who also declined to attend the whoop-te-do surrounding the Grand Central centennial dinner.  Talk about anonymity!

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*       Remember those air rights? SCOTUS made no ruling concerning their role in the Penn Central taking saga, but it sure noted their presence and the possibility of them being sold so as to soothe some of the economic sting Penn Central felt when the city denied it the right to use them, thus providing the basis for Penn Central’s taking argument in the Supreme Court. Why mention that now? We’re glad you asked.  It seems that those air rights “could become more valuable if the Bloomberg administration’s proposed higher-density Midtown East rezoning plan is approved.” Stay tuned.

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