The Fifth Amendment's guarantee is designed to bar a government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole. There is no "set formula" for determining when "justice and fairness" require that economic injuries caused by public action be compensated by the government, rather than remain disproportionately concentrated on a few persons. Whether a particular restriction will be rendered invalid by the government's failure to pay for any losses proximately caused by it depends largely upon the particular circumstances in that case.
New York City's Landmarks Preservation Law sought to protect historic landmarks and neighborhoods from precipitate decisions to destroy or fundamentally alter their character. As such, Grand Central Terminal was identified as one of the landmarks applicable to this law. The owner's of the land occupied by Grand Central Terminal filed a case alleging that the Law in effect took their property without just compensation and deprive them of their property without due process of law. The Court of Appeals of New York disagreed with the owners, holding that the city had not taken property without just compensation and did not arbitrarily deprive them of their property. The case was appealed.
Did the application of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Law to Grand Central Terminal effect a taking to its owners' property?
The Court held that plaintiffs could not establish a "taking" simply by showing that they had been denied the ability to exploit a property interest that they had believed was available for development. The court noted that landmark laws were not like discriminatory or "reverse spot" zoning. The Landmarks Law did not interfere in any way with the terminal's present uses and plaintiffs' primary expectation concerning the use of the parcel. The restrictions imposed were substantially related to the promotion of the general welfare and not only permitted reasonable beneficial use of the landmark site, but also afforded plaintiffs opportunities further to enhance not only the terminal site, but also other properties.