keith meyers

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In the late 1970s, Grand Central Terminal’s owners faced bankruptcy and, figuring they had a solution, nearly slapped a 55-story office tower on top of the revered architectural marvel. The terminal was saved by the Supreme Court’s decision in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, “in which the Supreme Court upheld for the first time the principle on which landmark preservation laws are based,” wrote Paul Goldberger in The Times in 1990. William Brennan figures as the hero in Mr. Goldberger’s tale, having written the majority opinion that prevented the terminal’s owners, Penn Central, from developing on the landmark and thereby securing its status as a structure of public good. Justice Brennan believed, like many others, that historic buildings and other structures “enhance the quality of life for all.” Photo: Keith Meyers/The New York Times