We have an update this afternoon concerning the fate of the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. The financially troubled home shuttered last year, and the nursing home board has been negotiating to sell the property to a developer who planned to demolish the 1929 Beaux Arts building. Many months ago, community groups filed an application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, in a bid to save the building from the wrecking ball. Now City Council member Margaret Chin has decided to back the preservation efforts.
In a letter to Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Robert Tierney, she wrote:
I am writing to express my full support for the landmark designation of the Bialystoker Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation located on East Broadway on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The Bialystoker home opened in 1929 and was operated as a nursing home and community gathering place for Jewish immigrants from Poland. Bialystoker is an important part of the history and experience of Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side. Over the past decade, development in this neighborhood has accelerated and it is important to preserve and protect our historic buildings where we are able to do so. I urge the Commission to move swiftly to calendar the landmark designation of Bialystoker, an art deco style building that has both architectural, as well as historical, significance to the Lower East Side community. Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
Previously Chin had expressed concerns that the nursing home’s former employees would not receive back wages and benefits if the Bialystoker board did not receive top dollar for the building; board members asserted that landmark status would drive down the sale price and hamper their efforts to repay creditors. But in recent weeks, Chin received assurances from union officials representing those workers that landmark designation would not prevent employees from being compensated.
This morning, Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the Landmarks Commission, acknowledged that Chin’s letter had been received but said no decisions have been made about moving forward with the application. “The letter from the Council member will be included in our ongoing review of the building’s eligibility for landmark status,” she said.
We have placed calls to the nursing home board’s public relations firm as well as to the office of Gary Ambrose, a board member. There has been no response as of yet. There are developers interested in preserving the Bialystoker building and converting it to condos. A decision by the Landmarks Commission to protect the building would presumably strengthen their hand in any negotiations to purchase the building.
This past spring, Community Board 3 passed a resolution urging the LPC to act. Friends of the Bialystoker Home, a coalaition of preservation organizations, released a statement yesterday saying: “We are grateful to Council member Chin for sticking with us through this process. We hope that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will now move quickly to calendar the Bialystoker Home.”