Representatives of the Cabrini Elder Care facility on East 5th Street came to Community Board 3 with a problem Monday night. The nursing home’s lease is up in a couple of years, and so far, their search for a new building or a building site on the Lower East Side has turned up empty. Given their need for several adjacent lots (hard to come by in our densely packed neighborhood), it did not take members of the land use, zoning and housing committee long to reach a conclusion. The only spot big enough to accommodate Cabrini (which is looking at constructing a 150,000 sq/ft facility) is the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.
Everyone on the committee agreed a nursing home, serving the community, would be a worthy candidate for one or more of the 10 SPURA parcels. But they also agreed the timing was not right. Since deliberations about what should happen on the development site are expected to go on for many more months, there was a reluctance to make a commitment to Cabrini. CB3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta said it only makes sense to come up with a big-picture plan for the entire area, rather than adopting a piecemeal approach.
But during the debate there was an interesting discussion about one of the SPURA parcels, currently used as a municipal parking lot on the corner of Ludlow and Broome.
The lot is operated by the Department of Transportation, and backs up to 75 Essex, otherwise known as the Eisner Brothers Building. As we reported last July, the building is on the market for $18 million. Some committee members speculated whether the parking lot and the Eisner Brothers site, combined, would give Cabrini the space they needed. The idea might not sit too well with the current owner, Shalom Eisner. This is what he told the Tenement Museum in a recent interview:
While gushing over the 20 ft ceilings on every floor and the 14 ft-high ceiling in the basement, Shalom told me it’s his dream that if he sells the building “it will be left as is on the outside and become a single-family home for a famous person… Someone like Madonna. She could have her own Lower East Side home.” He emphasized that whoever (in case Madonna isn’t interested) purchases 75 Essex Street will have to leave the outside as is (“that will be set forth in the contract”). So, not to fear, Lower East Siders and friends of preservation – while the Eastern Dispensary and its patients are long gone and Shalom and his brothers are on their way out, I can say with certainty that although Shalom believes there’s “potential for a swimming pool in the rear yard,” 75 Essex Street is going to stand strong for another 180 years.
All of that sounds a bit problematic for Cabrini, or any future developer of the site, for that matter. In a CB3 briefing last year, city officials noted that the lot is zoned for high density commercial use (hotels, offices, large retail and entertainment uses). Among the constraints listed in their power point presentation: “surrounding structures.”
Nonetheless, the listing from real estate broker, Bond New York, boasts “THERE IS ALSO PARKING LOT ON SITE!” It may very well be that some of the parking is on land owned by 75 Essex. Anyone with intel about that, please chime in.
Bottom line: the site does not appear to be a viable option for Cabrini. But there remain some unanswered questions that the city and CB3 will have to eventually address. Among them: will 75 Essex (a building with a rich history) remain standing and, if so, what are the development options for the 22,000 sq/ft parcel that adjoins it?