Russo v. Beckelman

No. 14635/91 (1992)

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Russo v. Beckelman

New York Supreme Court
No. 14635/91 (1992)

  • Written by Jody Stuart, JD

Facts

Lena Russo (plaintiff) owned the building located at 359 Broadway in Manhattan. The building came to the attention of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (commission) while the commission was surveying the building’s neighborhood. The commission then scheduled a public hearing for the building as a potential landmark, on architectural grounds. Before the hearing, the commission received notification that the building had been one of Mathew Brady’s photography studios. Brady was recognized for his photographic coverage of the Civil War and as a pioneer in the development of modern photography. During the hearing, numerous witnesses offered oral and written testimony attesting to the historical significance of the building because of its connection to Brady. The evidence supported the notion that Brady’s photographic technique evolved during his time at 359 Broadway. Evidence collected throughout the landmark-designation process also established that the building was architecturally unusual for its time, containing an extraordinary degree of ornamentation and detail. The ornamentation was remarkable for its era, reflecting a style that only became popular years later. Architectural experts described the building as unique, with a remarkable degree of the exterior preserved. Various commission members expressed reservations over the landmark designation during the determination process. The commission designated the building as a landmark based on its architectural merit and its connection to Brady. Russo filed a petition for an Article 78 proceeding to vacate the landmark designation, asserting that the commission’s determination was irrational and not supported by substantial evidence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moskowitz, J.)

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