Seward Park Co-op Weighs Air Rights Sale to Developers of Bialystoker Property

228 East Broadway.

228 East Broadway.

There have been some interesting revelations in the last couple of weeks about the future of the former Bialystoker nursing home.

Last month we reported that the city landmark at 228 East Broadway and development parcels on either side of the 1931 Art Deco building had been sold for $47.5 million.  The previous owners paid less than $18 million for the property after the home was shuttered a few years ago. In our original story, we noted that developer Rob Kaliner of the Ascend Group was weighing the purchase of air rights from the neighboring Seward Park Co-op.

Earlier this week, members of the co-op’s board of directors briefed residents of the large housing complex about the offer on the table. The developers, according to the presentation, are potentially planning new residential towers on either side of the Bialystoker building. They plan to create more apartments within the historic building after extensive renovations take place.

If the cooperative chooses to sell approximately 155,000 square feet in development rights, the project would span about 230,000 square feet in the two towers. Diagrams show a 31 story building on the east side of the landmark (where a two-story office building now stands) and a 19-story building on the corner of Clinton Street and East Broadway. In this scenario, both towers would have larger footprints. A portion of one building would hang 17 feet over a parking garage driveway on Seward Park’s property. If the co-op says “no” to the air rights transfer, developers are considering a number of options. One version shown to shareholders envisions 17 and 19 story towers.

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southeast-view

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During a recent interview, Kaliner and Wayne Heicklen, his business partner, declined to talk in detail about the possible acquisition of Seward Park’s air rights, out of deference to the co-op’s board of directors. They did, however, discuss in general terms the plan for the Lower East Side development site.

They indicated that SLCE, the architectural firm hired for the project, has not yet designed the buildings. The height and size of the towers could change significantly from the massing diagrams shared with the Seward Park Co-op. They emphasized that their as-of right-plan would likely involve building a single tall tower to the east of the Bialystoker building. Under current zoning and with no additional development rights, a narrow tower could rise above 20 stories, they said. The co-op buildings are 21 stories.

Kaliner and Heicklen said they’re not planning to put up “glassy” towers, but buildings that are “contextual” to both the Bialystoker building and the blocks immediately surrounding the development site. “The towers will look like they belong in that location,” said Kaliner. “We want to be respectful of the location. The mission for the architect is to evoke the feel of the Bialystoker.”

The condominium apartments in all three buildings will be luxury units, but the developers say they won’t be aimed at the “super-luxury market.” The apartments, he said, would be “tight and efficient.” A major selling point will be the spectacular, unobstructed views from the high floors in the new towers. The developers pointed to two previous projects – 133 West 22nd St. (a 12-story condo building in Chelsea) and the Georgica on the Upper East Side – as emblematic of the type of projects they build.

The air rights sale will only take place if two-thirds of the shareholders taking part in the vote agree. The co-op’s attorney, Deirdre Carson of Greenberg Traurig LLP, indicated that an offer has been received from the development team. While she did not indicate the proposed purchase price, Carson told residents the offer is, in her opinion, too low. “I think you could say with a certainty that the amount that could be realized from this sale would be at least $20 million,” Carson said. “We don’t know how much more than that would be possible.”

In a conversation Friday with Wei-Li Tjong, the board’s vice president, he said the price offered is $125/per square foot. That would work out to $19.3 million.

At the meeting, residents expressed a lot of skepticism. There were concerns about the loss of views and “light and air” in at least one building of the four building Seward Park complex. Others said they were worried about the influx of more residents in a neighborhood besieged with luxury development. Outside the confines of the meeting room, some residents were more enthusiastic about the offer. Given the cooperative’s financial strains (maintenance fees were recently increased), they’re at least willing to entertain the prospect of a multi-million dollar payday.

As Curbed reported several years ago, Seward Park holds more than one-million square feet in unused development rights on three different properties. At the time, it was estimated that those air rights could be worth $100 million.

A vote of the cooperative has not yet been scheduled. That won’t happen until the board of directors and its attorneys complete negotiations with the developers. The co-op has commissioned its own appraisal.According to Tjong, early indications from that appraisal show that the offer from the developers “significantly undervalues” Seward Park’s air rights.

The board has not taken a position on the potential air rights sale. “Our responsibility,” Tjong said, “is to negotiate the best deal that we can and put it to a vote.” He called the transaction, “potentially very valuable” to the more than 1700 shareholders in the Seward Park Co-op, but also “potentially very impactful to the quality of life of residents.”  The board will be required to detail for all shareholders how the proceeds from the air rights sale would be spent.

The developers have said they want to begin construction by the springtime, so there’s some pressure on the co-op to act quickly. In a followup interview today, Kaliner said it’s important to him that residents have all of the facts about the potential transaction. “I think everyone should be equipped with the information to make an educated decision,” he said.

Editor’s note: The publishers of The Lo-Down are residents of the Seward Park Cooperative. It is our policy to disclose any potential conflicts that arise in our reporting.

 

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Jewish Heritage Mural Painted Over as Former Bialystoker Building is Primed For Redevelopment

east bropadway mural

A piece of Lower East Side history is being erased this morning. Workers arrived earlier today at 232 East Broadway to paint over a mural that was created by a group of local teenagers more than 40 years ago.

As reported on Friday, Rob Kaliner’s Ascend Group recently purchased the former Bialystoker Nursing Home at 228 East Broadway, as well as two adjacent properties — the former Dora Cohen Garden and the office building featuring the mural. Plans show two modern structures towering over either side of the Bialystoker building, which is a New York City landmark.

The mural was called, “Our Strength is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life.” It was made by local youth, teaming up with professional artists and was sponsored by the organization CITYArts. It depicts scenes from Jewish history, including from the Nazi era. Some of the teens were children of Holocaust survivors. You can read more about the making of the mural here.

UPDATED 8:05 p.m. The New York Post has picked up on our story tonight. Kaliner spoke with the tabloid:

He told The Post on Monday that he chose to paint over the mural after noticing pieces of the building and large chunks of paint falling off the side. “It was purely done for safety reasons,” Kaliner said. “The building is going to be demolished anyway, and I wanted to make sure for the safety of residents and the people walking around there that it was taken care of without pieces falling of… We really apologize to anyone who was upset about it, but we wanted to make sure we kept the area safe, and that’s what we accomplished,” he said. “I would feel terrible if anyone was to get hurt because of the site conditions.

Thanks to Lori Cottrell and Freda Fried for tips earlier today regarding this story. Here’s a photo Lori sent us earlier.

east broadway earier

Former Bialystoker Nursing Home Building Flipped For $47.5 Million (Updated)

228 East Broadway, 2015.

228 East Broadway, 2015.

The former Bialystoker Nursing Home building and two adjoining properties have been sold for $47.5 million. The transaction was first reported this morning by the Real Deal.

The Ascend Group picked up the parcels — 228 East Broadway, 232 East Broadway and 226 East Broadway — for $47.5 million.  That’s almost twice the price paid last year by Jon Goldberg of Turtle Bay Partners, which acquired the landmarked building for just under $18 million.

The property at 228 East Broadway was designated as a city landmark in 2013 after a lengthy advocacy campaign from Friends of the Lower East Side, a local preservation group. While the main building cannot be demolished, the parcels on either side of it are primed for new development. They include the former Dora Cohen park and an office building.

UPDATE 11:09 a.m. More about the Ascend Group. The firm, owned by Rob Kaliner, has developed condo projects such as the Georgica on the Upper East Side and the controversial A Building on East 13th Street. The East Village development was a collaboration with Ben Shaoul, one of the neighborhood’s least-loved real estate moguls. The Real Deal reported in 2010:

Beneath the two-year-old building’s reputation for hosting raucous rooftop pool parties lies a reality worse than the most killer hangover — flooding, crumbling balconies, alleged mismanagement of the condo board’s funds and two unresponsive developers who have left owners banging their heads against mold-ridden walls, claim several residents who forwarded dozens of documents detailing these issues to The Real Deal.

[UPDATE-ADDED 1/2017: In an interview, Kaliner told The Lo-Down that Ben Shaoul has absolutely no involvement in the project on the Bialystoker Nursing Home site.]

A few more details. The company Ascend Group set up to purchase the parcels hired ubiquitous lobbyist James Capalino to represent its interests with the de Blasio administration. Capalino, of course, has come under attack for his role in the early stages of the Rivington House fiasco. According to public records, “222 East Broadway Holdings, LLC” paid Capalino $17,000 in 2015 and another $20,000 in 2016 to lobby the Department of Buildings, Landmarks Preservation Commission and other agencies.

Then there’s this — a “feasibility study” on the website of Space4Architecture. There’s no date on the page, so we don’t know whether these drawings reflect current plans. But the zoning analysis and accompanying drawings are definitely of interest as we wait for official Buildings Department filings. One other note. The Bialystoker building’s neighbor, Seward Park Cooperative, has received preliminary inquiries about the sale of its air rights. The co-op board can only approve an air rights sale if two-thirds of the shareholders agree. No formal offers are yet on the table.

Here’s the plan that was described by Space4Architecture::

The goal for this project is to design and maximize an apartment complex by merging three lots into a single zoning lot, with the added challenge of working with an existing “Landmark” structure, precisely the Bialystoker Nursing Home. We transformed the challenge of the occupied middle lot into our advantage: the new identical towers we proposed in our design read as having been separated at birth by the Landmark building, which through this move assumes even more importance and rather than suffering from the presence of the new towers, gains from being framed by them. An open garden on 3rd floor acts as a visual separation between the 2 stories volumes dedicated to community facilities and the 13 stories above where the apartments are located. The lot line zoning regulation requirements directed the design of the main core/structural elements of the new towers (which contain elevator and stairs) towards the inner side of the lots facing the Landmark building, which provided us with the possibility of taking advantage of the East-West axis allowing best exposure for the apartments.

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Sale of Bialystoker Building Under Review; AG Says Board “Failed to Discharge Its Duties”

City Council Committee Votes to Protect Bialystoker Nursing Home Building

The Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway is one step away from officially becoming a New York City landmark.  The landmarks committee of the City Council voted a short time ago to sign off on a decision from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the 1931 Art Deco structure. 

Bialystoker Building Declared Landmark

Bialystoker Nursing Home, 229 East Broadway.

Bialystoker Nursing Home, 229 East Broadway.

A short time ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. The home closed in 2011 and plans were made to redevelop the parcel. After a long campaign by local preservationists the nursing home board dropped its opposition to landmarking. The building is expected to be sold and converted to condominiums. More to come…

UPDATE 4:24 p.m. The vote was unanimous.  Several commissioners spoke in glowing terms about the worthiness of the building, which is one of the last remaining physical reminders of the Jewish Lower East Side and the neighborhood’s immigrant past. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter noted that the Bialystoker building stood as the Seward Park urban renewal project  led to the demolition of so many other buildings in the immediate vicinity. She said this is part of what makes the structure special but also referenced its “quite extraordinary (Art Deco) architecture.”  Another commissioner said the building is especially striking because its sits at an intersection that brings together the varied architecture of several eras, including tenement construction and mid-century highrise construction.  LPC Commissioner Robert Tierney said it’s a “special building” with a “special character.”

Landmarks Commission Scheduled to Vote on Bialystoker Nursing Home Designation Tomorrow

228 East Broadway.

228 East Broadway.

Preservationists have been battling to save the Bialystoker Nursing home building at 228 East Broadway since the facility closed in late 2011.  Now the Landmarks Preservation Commission is poised to vote in favor of designation.  The vote is expected to occur tomorrow afternoon during the commission’s regularly scheduled public meeting.  The item is listed on the agenda at 1:56 p.m. (it could be heard any time after about 1:30).

In February, the Friends of the Lower East Side, a preservation coalition, and many other community members testified before the commission, arguing that the 1929 Art Deco building is worthy pf protection not only for its architecture but also because of the important role it played in Jewish immigrant life on the LES for many decades.

The nursing home board initially opposed landmark status and sought to demolish the building but later  dropped its opposition.  Several potential buyers expressed interest in purchasing the building for a condo conversion.

 

Big Turnout For Bialystoker Hearing Before Landmarks Commission

228 East Broadway.

There was strong turnout this morning at a public hearing concerning an application to protect the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission heard from a couple dozen speakers, all in support of saving the 1929 Art Deco building, and Bob Tierney, the panel’s chairman, even played the role of “matchmaker.”

The Bialystoker home, facing a range of financial problems, closed in late 2011, and for a time, the board sought a buyer interested in purchasing the site for redevelopment.  Following months of activism by a new preservation group, Friends of the Lower East Side, the board changed course, saying it would not stand in the way of the landmark application. Today, Chairman Tierney thanked the owners for working hand-in-hand with the commission during the past few months in what he called “a productive paertnership.”

Reminder: Bialystoker Nursing Home Hearing Tomorrow

Bialystoker Nursing Home, 228 East Broadway.

Here’s a reminder that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing tomorrow morning concerning the Bialystoker Building, the former nursing home that was shuttered moe than a year ago at 228 East Broadway.  A preservation group, Friends of the Lower East Side, has been fighting to save the building from the wrecking ball.

Public testimony will be heard on the designation application but no decision is expected from the commission tomorrow.  Initially the nursing home board opposed designation but a spokesperson for the board told us in December that they had dropped their objections. The board has been trying to sell the site for a luxury condo project.

The hearing takes place at 9:30 a.m. at the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s office, 1 Center Street.  Anyone is welcome to testify for or against the application.

 

Landmarks Sets Bialystoker Hearing For Feb. 12

Bialystoker Nursing Home, 228 East Broadway.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has scheduled a public hearing for the Bialystoker Nursing Home building, the 84 year old structure 228 East Broadway.  It will take place Tuesday, February 12.  Last year, preservation groups submitted an application to protect the shuttered 1929 structure after the institution’s board floated a plan to sell the home as a redevelopment parcel.  As we reported in December, the nursing home board has dropped its opposition to the landmark application.

At the February 12 hearing, there will be an opportunity for public testimony.  The time for the hearing is not yet set. We’ll let you know when we have new information.

 

Bialystoker Nursing Home Board Won’t Oppose Landmark Application; Hearing Scheduled (Updated)

Bialystoker Nursing Home on East Broadway.

Some big Friday afternoon news from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.   Preservationists have been lobbying for many months for the commission to protect the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway.   We’ve just been advised the application is listed on the public calendar for next Tuesday’s meeting.   At the meeting commissioners will vote whether to place the application on the calendar for a public hearing (with testimony) at a later date.

The nursing home was shuttered last year and the board of directors has been angling to sell the building to a developer interested in demolishing the 1929 structure.  It’s been a highly controversial issue on the Lower East Side.  While preservation groups believe the building is an important reminder of the neighborhood’s immigrant past, many members of the Orthodox Jewish community opposed designation.

The Battle For the Bialystoker: More Community Perspectives

Bialystoker Nursing Home building, 228 East Broadway. Photo by: thelodownny.com.

Last week,  we filed a brief report after Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee voted in favor of protecting the Bialystoker Nursing Home building, at 228 East Broadway.  Today — a more detailed account from the public hearing, which offered the most expansive explanation yet from nursing home board members about their decision to close the Lower East Side institution after 80 years and to sell the building as a development site.

Shortly after the home closed last year, preservationists filed an application with the city to designate the 1929 building an historic landmark.  The nursing home board opposed this move, arguing that landmarking would scare off prospective buyers.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission has not announced whether it intends to ‘calendar” the application and schedule a public hearing on the matter.  Community activists hoped an endorsement from the CB3 would compel the commission to act.

Preservation Groups Make Their Case For Saving the Bialystoker Home

Following yesterday's event, some participants visited the Bialystoker buiding for a more detailed exploration of the nursing home's history on the Lower East Side. Photo by: thelodownny.com.

If several neighborhood preservation organizations have their way, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will soon take  steps to protect the 1931 Bialystoker building, which until recently was used a a nursing home. The endeavor faces an uphill battle as developers move to demolish the building at 228 East Broadway in favor of upscale apartments.

Representatives from various groups who comprise the Friends of the Lower East Side coalition made their case for preservation on Sunday while also offering a portrait of the home’s rich history and unique role on the LES. It was all part of a panel discussion, “The Bialystoker Home: Past, Present, Future.”

Politicos Weigh Support of Bialystoker Landmarking

Photo credit: Friends of the Bialystoker Home

Here’s an update on the fate of the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. As we have reported, the troubled home closed late last month after the last of its residents found new accommodations.  Facing what they characterize as a dire financial situation, the board of directors is pedaling the property to prospective buyers as a luxury condominium site. But a new coalition, Friends of the Bialystoker Home, has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the 1929 Art Deco building, which would prevent its demolition.

Earlier this week, State Senator Daniel Squadron addressed the issue during a town hall meeting at a senior center on Delancey Street. Responding to a question from coalition member Mitchell Grubler (of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors), Squadron suggested he’d like to see the building saved.  He said the home had its shortcomings but that closing it was not the right thing to do.

Squadron added that his office is “looking at whether we can make a strong case for landmarking.”  He indicated there were some issues that needed to be resolved before he decides whether to support the application requesting landmark status for the building.  Squadron was not specific about what those issues are.

Bialystoker Nursing Home Head Finally Speaks Out

Bialystoker Nursing Home, 228 East Broadway.

In the weeks since the Bialystoker Nursing Home announced its closure, Board Chairman Ira Mesiter has been silent — as critics alleged he was seeking to profit from the institution’s demise.  The New York Times has gotten the first interview with the embattled head of Bialystoker, which is in deep financial trouble.