Modjeska Sign Studios, Inc. v. Berle

43 N.Y.2d 468, 402 N.Y.S.2d 359, 373 N.E.2d 255 (1977)



In exercising the police power to provide for the general welfare of the people, a state may reasonably regulate the use of private property, notwithstanding the curtailment of private property rights. The requirement that an exercise of the police power be reasonable mandates not only that the regulation relate to the purpose for which it was enacted, but also that it does not unreasonably deprive an owner of all beneficial use of his property. An exercise of the police power unreasonably frustrates an owner's use of his property if it renders the property unsuitable for any reasonable income productive or other private use for which it is adapted and thus destroys its economic value, or all but a bare residue of its value. To so frustrate an owner's use of his property under the guise of the police power is, in reality, nothing more than a deprivation of property without due process of law.


A property lessee and several landowners entered into agreements to allow for billboards to be erected for advertising purposes along the roadway. The State created regulations that required the removal of the billboards but allowed an amortization period for compliance. Right before the amortization period was to expire, the property lessee sought a declaration that the regulations were unconstitutional as a taking without just compensation. The trial court granted summary judgment to the State, and the decision was affirmed on appeal. The property lessee sought further review with the Court of Appeals of New York.


Did the regulations amount to a taking without just compensation?




The Court found that the aesthetic goal of the billboard removal was a proper exercise of police power and constitutional. Nevertheless, the Court held that the need for immediate removal of the billboards was to be determined by the reasonableness of the amortization period. The court remanded the matter for a determination of the reasonableness of the proscribed period.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.