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Chin Backs Bialystoker Landmarking

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Bialystoker Nursing Home on East Broadway.

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.”

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  1. Council Member Chin is to be commended for coming out in favor of landmark designation.  And  many, many thanks should also go to concerned individuals and groups in the community who joined in the campaign of Friends of the Bialystoker Home to demonstrate their support by sending letters and postcards to the Landmarks Commission and signing petitions,including one online at http://www.friendsofthelowereastside.org.
    Now everyone must follow through by urging LPC to calendar the Bialystoker Center and Home to prevent the demolition of this historic structure.  E-mail:  rtierney@lpc.nyc.gov  

  2. This is great news–testimony to the persistence of those dedicated to keeping memory alive on the Lower East Side and to maintaining the rich fabric of our city.  

  3. Thank you, Councilmember Chin. Now, if only you would save the Village from the NYU 2031 massive overdevelopment plan. This plan, despite the concessions, will totally overwhelm the community. Your constituents need you to protect their homes  and community from this proposed plan.

  4. Thank You Councilmember Chin for recognizing this very important Lower East Side building, not only for its Architecture, but also for its place in the history of the Lower East Side of NYC. Hopefully the LPC, with this endorsement, will calendar the Bialystoker home soon.

  5. This is great news.  I applaud Ms Chin for taking a stand on this issue.  She is the only elected official from the area who has taken a public stand and she is to be commended.  Bravo!

  6. It’s about time Chin got involved. 
    I remember when she came to the home looking for votes and I introduced her to the Asian residents from our 5Th floor unit which was 80% Asian.

    When the home was closing they asked me where is Chin she’s suppose to be here helping us. We wrote letters sent email and alled her office and never got a response, now that the home is closed and all the residents relocated our Politicians are help to help.

    I guess this is where the phrase “BETTER LATE THAN NEVER” comes to play.

    I bet Ira Meister NEVER expected this road block in his plans. 

    He did manage to EMPTY the building in the within 30 Days  I bet he was probably going to sell it to himself, with a little help from his wife who bought the medical building next door for $1.5M. under the name Goldburg..

    I wouldn’t have been a surprise. 

  7. I look forward to the day when we care as much about preserving the people who lived here as we seem to care about preserving the building. Elders (and you will become one if you’re lucky) are worth at least as much as bricks. It makes me wonder- which community are we preserving the neighborhood for?

  8. As the grandson and great grandson of former residents of Bialystok, I thank councilwoman Chin for her efforts. Now there should be a national write in from everyone who has any connection to Bialystok to encourage the preservation of this building. I have seen it in person. It is of historical significance that deserves to be preserved.

  9. It takes courage to say that our future is not simply self-constructed; that it is dependent in part on the past generations who have helped shape our values, our streets, and in many other things, changed our lives in ways large and small. They have given us an inheritance for the future. Recognizing the importance of this building recognizes the courage of poor immigrants building a charitable center in the Depression without the assurance they would have the money to create what they wanted: a gift to their new city that would memorialize their old one, Bialystok. So hats off to Councilwoman Chin in recognizing how immigrants shape our world, then and now.

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