This morning, we posted a report from yesterday’s event examining the Bialystoker Nursing Home’s past, present and future. Preservation activists hoped it would add momentum to their campaign to save the 1929 Art Deco building, located at 228 East Broadway.
The home, shuttered months ago, was until recently being marketed online as a development site. That listing has now vanished, amid rumors that the secretive Bialystoker board was close to signing a deal to sell the building. They have apparently signaled that the prospective buyer would surely walk away from the negotiating table if the building is designated as an historic landmark. This afternoon there are new indications that a contract could be inked as soon as this week.
Friends of the Bialystoker, the coalition that sponsored yesterday’s event, is delivering postcards and letters collected from supporters to the Landmarks Preservation Commission today. In light of the new fears that time may be running short, the group is urging the LPC to “calendar” the Bialystoker matter quickly. A short time ago, Elisabeth de Bourbon, LPC spokesperson, told us the building remains “under active consideration for landmark designation.” She did not indicate when a decision might be forthcoming.
There have been instances in the past in which the LPC has moved to protect buildings in spite of objections from property owners. In this case, there’s no doubt support from the neighborhood’s political establishment would make a difference. Weeks ago, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin said they were weighing whether to fight for landmark protection.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has, so far, chosen not to weigh in publicly on the matter. Among the Speaker’s most ardent supporters on the Lower East Side, members of Grand Street’s Jewish community, there has been little enthusiasm for saving the Bialystoker, in spite of the building’s significance as a Jewish landmark. Zach Bommer, a Silver aide, was in attendance at yesterday’s event.
Also in the audience: Ron Castellano, the highly regarded architect who converted the Forward Building to luxury condos several years ago. Preservation experts seem to agree the Bialystoker would be a poor candidate for this type of conversion because the ceilings are very low. But some members of the community are examining other possible uses for the building. This afternoon, Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, said his organization (an affordable housing developer) is looking at whether the former nursing home could be used for low-income housing.
We have reached out to Silver, Squadron and Chin to find out if they have anything more to say about the issue. We’ll let you know what we hear.