Permits Filed For 28-Story Condo Tower Next to Bialystoker Building


Developers have filed permits with the NYC Department of Buildings to put up a 28-story tower next to the former Bialystoker Nursing Hone building on East Broadway.

Round Square Development (then known as the Ascend Group) waged a lengthy battle last year to purchase air rights from the Seward Park Cooperative. In spite of an offer to pay $54 million for those development rights, the co-op could not muster the two-thirds majority necessary to approve the transaction.  So the deal died.

Now, developer Rob Kaliner and his partners are going ahead with an as-of-right condo tower and renovations on the landmark-protected nursing home building at 228 East Broadway. New York YIMBY first reported yesterday that the permits had been filed. The plan with air rights would have meant building two high rises.  In the new scheme, developers envision a single tower measuring 75,000 square feet. There will be a private garden for residents of the condo complex, on a lot bordering Clinton Street (formerly the Dora Cohen Memorial Park).

Earlier this year, a rendering from S4Architecture made the rounds. While it remains on Round Square’s website, Kaliner told Patch that the design is undergoing some tweaks. Kaliner said the conversion of the nursing home building is expected to be completed in February, with the tower set for completion a few months later.

Rendering by S4Architecture.

Rendering by S4Architecture.

Bialystoker Developers Reject Overtures From Seward Park Co-op to Revisit Air Rights Sale

Developers plan to build on either side of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building on East Broadway.

Developers plan to build on either side of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building on East Broadway.

Developers of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home site on East Broadway aren’t interested in a revote at the Seward Park Co-op on the sale of air rights.

In June, about 58% of the apartment owners voting in a referendum supported the sale of 162,000 in development rights for nearly $54 million to the Ascend Group and Optimum Asset Management. But under the co-op’s by-laws, two-thirds were required to vote in favor for the referendum to pass, and Seward Park did not meet that threshold.

A group of shareholders later launched a petition drive, which called for a new vote. In a notice sent to residents late last night, the Board of Directors reported that more than 25% (422 shareholders out of 1600) called for a special meeting to reconsider the air rights issue. As a result, the board was poised for a second referendum. But the developers have said, “No thanks.”

“Earlier today (Wednesday),” the memo stated, “the developers formally notified the Board that they are not interested in revisiting the air rights proposal and are instead planning to proceed with as-of-right development. Accordingly, the shareholder petition is no longer relevant and the special meeting will not be held.”

Ascend and Optimum are now planning to build a single 26-story tower to the east of the existing landmark-protected building. A parcel on the west side of the Bialystoker (the former Dora Cohen Memorial Park) will serve as an outdoor space for residents of the new condo complex.

In a brief interview, Rob Kaliner of the Ascend Group told The Lo-Down that the development team simply concluded it was time to move forward with their project without further delay. They invested many months in the first referendum and are now committed to beginning construction on the as-of-right tower as soon as possible. Kaliner said the developers have no intention of changing their minds (he was adamant about that).

Kaliner said architectural designs are nearly complete. Renovations could begin on the existing building (228 East Broadway) before work starts on the foundation for the new structure. Talks have been ongoing at the staff level with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to expedite the renovations.

Southwest view; development plan with air rights.

Southwest view; development plan with air rights.

Southwest view; as-of-right development plan.

Southwest view; original as-of-right development plan.

If the air rights sale had been approved, the developers planned to put up a 33-story building on the eastern lot and a 22-story building on the western parcel. The project would have included 210 luxury condos spread over 226,000 square feet. While updated as-of-right plans have not yet been revealed, developers previously indicated the smaller version of the project would include 140 apartments. They had originally envisioned 17 and 20 story towers covering about 78,000 square feet. All along, however, experts advising the co-op, predicted that the developers would opt for a single, taller building if the air rights referendum failed.

Four hulking buildings stretching from Essex Street to Pitt Street make up the Seward Park Co-op. The buildings, constructed in 1960, face at least $12 million in mandatory maintenance projects. The proceeds from the air rights sale would have been used to finance those projects, pay down the co-op’s debt and to replenish emergency reserves. In the absence of that $54 million pay day, the co-op is refinancing its mortgage. The board memo stated, “We plan to close soon on the 60 million dollar loan.”

In November of 2016, the vacant 1931 Art Deco building and adjacent development sites were sold to Ascend and its partners for $47.5 million.



Seward Park Co-op Votes June 12 on $52.7 Million Offer For Air Rights

bialystoker site

There’s finally a referendum date at the Seward Park Cooperative for the potential sale of air rights to a team developing the former Bialystoker Nursing Home site on East Broadway.

In a letter from the board of directors sent today, residents of the large Lower East Side complex were told that the vote will take place June 12. The developers from the Ascend Group and the Optimum Group have now agreed to pay $52.7 million for 162,000 square feet of development rights. That’s up from $48.6 million in an earlier version of the agreement.

If the referendum is approved by at least two-thirds of those participating, the development team plans a 210-unit luxury condo complex on three lots at 222-234 East Broadway. The existing building, a city landmark, would be renovated. Meanwhile, the developers have said they plan towers on either side of the vacant structure. On the eastern parcel, there would be a 33-story building with a 12-foot cantilever over a ramp leading to Seward Park’s underground parking garage. On the western parcel, the former site of Dora Cohen Memorial Park, there would be a 22-story tower. Taken together, the new buildings would encompass 226,000 square feet.

Until now, the board  has refrained from stating a position on the air rights proposal. But according to today’s letter, all 11 directors have now endorsed the deal, calling it, “in the best interest of the coop overall.”

“The proposed transaction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to secure affordability for all of Seward Park’s shareholders,” they asserted, “but also to dramatically improve the financial and physical status of the coop. In the absence of revenue from an air rights sale, we would be faced with a combination of increased debt, maintenance fees, and/or assessment fees that may result in untenable costs of living for some shareholders.”

The board outlined how the proceeds would be used (the co-op expects to have $39 million on hand after taxes). $12 million would go for required maintenance projects in the sprawling complex on Grand Street. These projects include the reconstruction of 32 “structurally unsound” terraces and the replacement of all 25 elevators. Another $22 million would be devoted to reducing the co-op’s debt and replenishing reserve and emergency funds. The board is also planning to waive maintenance fees for four months if the referendum is approved. Once the debt is paid down, the co-op expects each household would save an average of $1,800 annually.

Massing diagrams show porential development options on the Bialystoker sites.

Since the proposed air rights transaction became public in late 2016, there have been many shareholder meetings and a robust debate among residents about the development deal. Rising property taxes, reduced flip tax revenues and the costs of maintaining buildings that are nearly 60 years old have created significant financial pressures.

The formerly limited equity co-op’s more than 1,700 apartments became market rate in 1997. Two-bedroom apartments routinely sell for more than $1 million today. But about 40% of the residents at Seward Park are original cooperators, many on fixed incomes. The board is presenting the air rights sale as a rare opportunity to protect them.

“The Board firmly believes that taking actions to preserve value and affordability for all shareholders,” the letter stated, “and maintaining the multigenerational and diverse nature of the coop are fundamental responsibilities of the Board and consistent with the founding principles of cooperative living.”

Winning approval, however, will not be easy. Residents in some buildings would lose their views, as well as light and air. There are also concerns about adding more apartments in the neighborhood on top of the residential units and retail coming to Essex Crossing and other projects. Traffic congestion on the streets surrounding the Seward Co-op has already grown noticeably worse. Under current open space rules, owners of the new complex would not have access to the co-op’s expansive outdoor spaces. But, as the board noted, it can’t guarantee those “longstanding” rules won’t be changed in the future.

Rendering shows cantilever over the co-op's parking ramp.

Rendering shows cantilever over the co-op’s parking ramp.

The developers say they will build on the Bialystoker site even if the air rights sale is rejected. They floated an “as-of-right” plan that includes a 17-story tower on the eastern lot and a 20-story tower to the west of the existing building. But the co-op’s real estate experts believe it’s more likely they would put up a single, narrow 30-story tower to the east of the Bialystoker building. In a memo sent to residents last year, the development team stated, “At any moment and without the consent of the Coop, Ascend/Optimum can adopt its as-of-right plan or design a completely new one that conforms to its existing development rights.” The developers could build about 78,000 square feet on the two lots as-of-right.

Seward Park has 1.3 million square feet in unused development rights. But the board has said the current proposal is the only opportunity to transfer air rights to another property owner. In order to use its remaining development rights, Seward Park would be required to build on its own property.

The developers initially offered $20 million for Seward Park’s air rights. In March of 2017, the board voted to call a referendum, but no date was set. During the past year, the co-op’s lawyers have been negotiating the final deal that has now been presented to residents.

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.

Developers Launch Campaign to Push Through Seward Park Air Rights Sale

Southwest view; development plan with air rights.

Southwest view; development plan with air rights. Renderings are designed to illustrate massing alternatives. Actual architectural designs have not been publicly released.

Tonight the developers of the former Bialystoker nursing home site kick off a high stakes campaign to persuade the Seward Park Cooperative to sell some of its air rights for $48.6 million.

The team at the Ascend Group/Optimum Group is planning to convert the historic eight story building at 228 East Broadway to condos and to build residential towers on either side of the landmark-protected structure. In October, the coop’s board of directors signed a letter of intent to sell 162,000 square feet of development rights if shareholders approve the sale in a referendum. Informational sessions are beginning this week, and this evening the developers are opening an information center on Grand Street, complete with 3D models.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Seward Park residents received an “air rights FAQ” from the developers. In the referendum, which has not yet been scheduled, two-thirds of those voting must approve of the transaction for it to go forward.

If the air rights are acquired by Ascend/Optimum Group, the developers plan a 33-story tower to the east of the existing Bialystoker building. It would include a 12 foot cantilever over a ramp leading to Seward Park’s underground parking garage. They would also build a 22-story tower to the west of the Bialystoker, on the former Dora Cohen Memorial Park site. The two buildings together would total around 226,000 square feet.

In the memo to Seward Park residents, the developers are emphatic about building on the sites whether or not the coop sells its air rights. “At any moment,” the FAQ states, “and without the consent of the Coop, Ascend/Optimum can adopt its as-of-right plan or design a completely new one that conforms to its existing development rights.”

The current as-of-right plan calls for putting up a 17-story tower on the eastern lot and a 20-story tower on the western lot. In this scenario, the total square footage of the new buildings would be about 71,000 square feet, and there would be no cantilever.

Southwest view; as-of-right development plan.

Southwest view; as-of-right development plan.

The developers have hired a consulting firm, Global Strategies Group, to help sell the air rights plan to Seward Park residents. The coop has also brought on a consultant, NYC Meeting Facilitators, to coordinate outreach to shareholders. The proposal has already proved controversial. Some residents are convinced that the cash infusion would help relieve financial pressures brought on by spiraling property taxes. Others are weary of over-development in the neighborhood and believe the project would erode quality of life on the Lower East Side.

The developers have set up a website with more details about the project. The coop also has a site with additional information. Meanwhile, a group of concerned shareholders has established a website, which raises questions about the proposed air rights sale.

We’ll have more details as they become available.

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.


Value of Potential Seward Park Co-op Air Rights Deal Rises to $48.6 Million

Renderings show possible buildings scenarios at 228 East Broadway.  These images were released in March of 2017.

Renderings show possible building scenarios at 228 East Broadway. These images were released in March of 2017. While developers could build on two separate parcels, a single tower to the east of the former Bialystoker nursing home building is more likely.

The board of the Seward Park Cooperative is inching toward a referendum on the sale of air rights to a development group planning a large residential project alongside the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway.

On Wednesday evening, the board of directors approved a letter of intent that spells out terms of the potential sale. The deal will only go through if two-thirds of those shareholders participating in the referendum vote in favor. A date for the referendum has not yet been chosen. That will follow a community outreach effort at the co-op, which includes more than 1,700 apartments in four buildings on Grand Street.

A joint venture by the Ascend Group and Optimum Group has agreed to pay $48.6 million for 162,000 square feet in development rights. It would also reimburse the co-op for costs associated with the transaction. Last year, the developers purchased the former nursing home building, which is a city landmark, as well as parcels on both sides of the vacant property. In March of last year, we reported that the joint venture had committed to paying $46.5 million for 155,000 square feet. During negotiations, the potential size of their project and the price have risen. Earlier this year, the developers said they would build on the easternmost parcel, 232 East Broadway, with or without the air rights. They envisioned a 31-story tower if the co-op agrees to sell its development rights.

According to a memo sent to shareholders yesterday, the co-op has brought on a firm called NYC Meeting Facilitators to conduct, “a robust process to engage shareholders” about the potential sale.  Meanwhile, the Ascend Group has hired a communications firm, Global Strategies Group, to coordinate its own outreach campaign. Once the co-op’s tax specialist calculates the net proceeds from the proposed sale, residents will discuss how the co-op would invest/spend the profits. Seward Park has faced financial strains in the past several years, due to rapidly increasing property taxes and costly repairs within the 1960s-era buildings. 

The referendum was supposed to have taken place this past summer, but it was delayed. The issue has already been contentious, with some residents wary of the new project and others optimistic about a big payday.

The developers are just finishing up the demolition of 232 East Broadway, an office building next door to the nursing home tower.

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.


Memorial Plaques and Other Items From Bialystoker Home Safely Removed For Preservation

Memorial plaques displayed inside Bialystoker Center. Photo by Rich Caplan.

Memorial plaques displayed inside Bialystoker Center. Photo by Rich Caplan.

The Bialystoker Nursing Home on East Broadway closed more than five years ago, but even after the last patients were transferred to other locations, the center continued to house significant artifacts representing Jewish life on the Lower East Side dating from the 1930s. In preparation for the gut renovation of the city landmark, however, many of these items were recently removed for safe keeping.

A local preservation organization, Friends of the Lower East Side, has been working for the past few years to retrieve memorial plaques, religious books and other sacred objects before a long-anticipated condo conversion got underway. The group led a successful campaign to landmark the exterior of the Art Deco building at 228 East Broadway in 2013.

When the property was sold in November, a leader of Friends of the LES, Linda Jones, spoke with the new owner about providing access to the organization. That owner, Rob Kaliner, agreed. During the past several weeks, items were surveyed and catalogued, and in many cases donated to libraries and other organizations dedicated Jewish-American history.

The Bialystoker property served as a nursing home for 80 years, but it was also the headquarters of a landsmanshaft (Yiddish for a mutual aid society). The founders were immigrants from Bialystok, an industrial city in Poland. According to Gary Ambrose, a former nursing home board member, there were well over one-thousand memorial plaques on the walls of the Bialystoker facility. Ambrose helped facilitate their transfer to the nearby Bialystoker Synagogue, an institution that shared a name with the nursing home but which was not legally affiliated. There were 15 crates, weighing in total more than a ton. In an interview, Amrose said, “We felt we had a moral responsibility (to preserve the plaques). It’s a legacy that needs to be maintained.”

Rabbi Zvi Romm of the Bialystoker Synagogue, explained, “We will hang the plaques in our synagogue to serve as a memorial to those individuals. We will also recite a special Kaddish each day in our synagogue in their memory.  We view it as a privilege to be able to memorialize these individuals who, like our synagogue, had a connection to Bialystok.”

Photo by Rich Caplan.

Photo by Rich Caplan.

It was less obvious what to do with many other items inside the building. Over a period of a couple of weeks, Dr. Elissa Sampson of Friends of the Lower East Side and her husband, Professor Jonathan Boyarin, sifted through a large number of religious books (in Hebrew) and secular books (in Yiddish). They are both affiliated with the Jewish Studies Program at Cornell University (Boyarin is director, Sampson is a visiting scholar and lecturer).

Due to water damage, many of the books were destroyed. In accordance with Jewish tradition, they were buried in a cemetery, with the help of Pinters Hebrew Bookstore in Borough Park. The Jewish Studies program at Columbia University was given first pick of the texts. They were placed in the care of Associate Professor Rebecca Kobrin, author of the 2012 book, Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora. Over the years, she has played an important role in documenting the building and the landsmanshaft. Books were also donated to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the National Jewish Book Center and Cornell.  A crystal chandelier was taken to a local thrift shop, with the proceeds from its sale benefitting a Lower East Side charity. Benches from two synagogues were donated to Big Reuse.

During the cataloguing, some items were sent directly to family members. For example, a plaque in memory of the great Yiddish actor, Pesach Burstein, was mailed to the family.  The descendants of David Sohn, the Bialystoker Center’s co-founder, retrieved a portrait from the building and looked through other items.

Rob Kaliner of the Ascend Group and his partners are preparing to convert the nursing home to condos and to build one or two residential towers on adjacent properties. He has offered to purchase air rights from the neighboring Seward Park Cooperative. Residents will vote on that $46.5 million offer in the next couple of months.

Yiddish typewriters found inside the Bialystoker facility. Photo by Rich Caplan.

Yiddish typewriters found inside the Bialystoker facility. Photo by Rich Caplan.

Photo by Rich Caplan.

Photo by Rich Caplan.


Bialystoker Property Owners Agree to Pay $46.5 Million For Air Rights; Seward Park Co-op Vote Planned

Renderings show possible buildings scenarios at 228 East Broadway.

Renderings show possible building scenarios at 228 East Broadway.

The board of directors of the Seward Park Cooperative last night voted to schedule a referendum on a proposed sale of air rights to the developer of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home site at 228 East Broadway. After months of negotiations, a memo from the board indicates, the development team has agreed to purchase approximately 155,000 square feet of air rights for $300/sq. ft. If approved in the referendum, the deal would mean a payday for the co-op of about $46.5 million.

Last November, the vacant 1931 Art Deco building and development parcels on either side of the city landmark were sold for $47.5 million. The neighboring cooperative was approached a short time later by the new owners, Rob Kaliner of the Ascend Group and Wayne Heicklen, about the air rights acquisition. They originally offered $125/sq. ft., or about $20 million.

The developers are planning to create luxury condos within the existing landmark-protected building. They also intend to put up a 31-story tower to the east of the Bialystoker, where a four story office building now stands, and a 19-story tower on the site of the Dora Cohen Memorial Park, bordering Clinton Street.

According to the board’s memo, which will be distributed today, shareholders of the large cooperative complex will be asked to vote on the proposal in late May or early June. Two-thirds of those voting must approve the measure for it to go through.

Renderings show cantilever options on East Broadway.

Renderings show cantilever options on East Broadway.

The Seward Park Co-op commissioned an appraisal of its air rights, which total more 1.3 million square feet on three parcels. That appraisal determined the value of the development rights sought by Kaliner and his team to be $300 sq. ft. The developers eventually agreed to the co-op’s financial terms. In addition to negotiations over the purchase price, the two sides also haggled over a proposed 17-foot cantilever that would hang over a parking garage ramp on the co-op’s property. The developers agreed to reduce the cantilever to 12 feet.

“At a special meeting on March 22, 2017,” today’s memo stated, “the Board voted to submit these terms to shareholders for a referendum, believing that the offer represents maximal value to the co-op in terms of price and cantilever scenario, and that the shareholders deserve the opportunity to vote on a transaction.”

The co-op’s attorneys are continuing to negotiate the fine points of the agreement with Kaliner, Heicklen and their equity partner, Optimum Group. When the final proposal is presented to shareholders, the board is required to detail how it will invest/spend the proceeds from the air rights sale.

There are more than 1700 apartments in the four-building Seward Park complex. The debate leading up to the vote is sure to be contentious. Proponents of the air rights sale point to the cooperative’s financial challenges. Spiraling property taxes and maintenance costs forced a maintenance increase this past year. Opponents, however, are concerned about the scale of the proposed project, which will impact the views of some south-facing apartments. Anonymous emails and written materials have been circulating, which raise concerns about the developers’ previous condo projects (we’ll have more about this in a future story).

If the deal is rejected, Kaliner is expected to move forward with a substantial as-of-right project. He’s signaled to the board that a single 26-story tower to the east of the Bialystoker building is likely.

The developers are preparing to demolish the office building at 232 East Broadway. According to the Seward Park board, “the co-op’s engineers have already done preliminary tests of structures and systems to ensure that our property will not be significantly impacted by the demolition.”

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.

228 East Broadway.

228 East Broadway.


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Plans Are In-the-Works to Create Replacement For Jewish Heritage Mural

"Our Strength Is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life" at 232 East Broadway. Photo via Sara Krivisky.

“Our Strength Is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life” at 232 East Broadway. Photo via Sara Krivisky.

Before 2016 slips away, we want to return to a story that got a lot of attention a few weeks ago.

On Nov. 7, the owner of a building at 232 East Broadway painted over the Jewish heritage mural that had been a Lower East Side fixture for more than four decades. Rob Kaliner, the new property owner, said he did it out of concern for pedestrian safety. He told the New York Post that pieces of the mural could have fallen off and injured someone. There are plans to demolish the office building next month in preparation for a new residential complex on the site.

Lots of news organizations picked up on the story, which was first reported by The Lo-Down. The Post’s headline read, “Residents livid after Jewish heritage mural painted over.” But now Kaliner and some of the people involved in creating the mural years ago are coming together to, hopefully, establish a new community-oriented art work somewhere else in the neighborhood.

Kaliner told us recently that he felt terrible about the way events unfolded last month. Sara Krivisky, one of the students who took part in the original project, was initially very upset that the mural was erased with no advance warning. But she and others tell us they’re encouraged by recent developments.


This poster has been added to the front of the Bialystoker building by Rob Kaliner, its new owner.

If you go by the Bialystoker building, you’ll see a photo of the mural and a message from Tsipi Ben-Haim, director of CITYArts. Her not-for-profit group spearheaded the creation of the original musaic, which represented scenes from the Holocaust, Ellis Island, the massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games, sweatshops, labor unions and the Jewish Daily Forward. The message reads:

We hope to engage the youth of the past with the community youth of today to recreate the Jewish heritage mural on another site. We invite all the interested members of the community to help us in any way possible, including: planning, painting, fundraising, marketing, etc. Thank you for caring.

There have already been some conversations. Krivisky has been reaching out to some of the other students. One of the first steps will be identifying a location on the Lower East Side for the new mural. The group is planning to reconvene next month.

If you are interested in taking part in the new project, email: You can learn more about CITYarts by visiting the organization’s website.


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 four-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.




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.

222 east broadway drawing 1

222 east broadway drawing 2

222 east broadway drawing 3


Former Bialystoker Nursing Home Changes Hands For Nearly $18 Million

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.”