Some big Friday afternoon news from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Preservationists have been lobbying for many months for the commission to protect the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. We’ve just been advised the application is listed on the public calendar for next Tuesday’s meeting. At the meeting commissioners will vote whether to place the application on the calendar for a public hearing (with testimony) at a later date.
The nursing home was shuttered last year and the board of directors has been angling to sell the building to a developer interested in demolishing the 1929 structure. It’s been a highly controversial issue on the Lower East Side. While preservation groups believe the building is an important reminder of the neighborhood’s immigrant past, many members of the Orthodox Jewish community opposed designation.
The item will be heard at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Commission meetings are held at 1 Centre Street, 9th floor.
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners will vote whether to “calendar” another Lower East Side building, the Seward Park Library at 192 East Broadway. The four-story red brick Renaissance Revival structure was built in 1909.
UPDATE 12/9/2012 11:33 a.m. Here’s what historian Joyce Mendelsohn, a leader of Friends of the Bialystoker, had to say about the decision by the Landmarks Commission:
Great news that the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced today that it will calendar the Bialystoker Home and the Seward Park Branch of the NY Public Library on December 11. I urge the Commission to act quickly to schedule a public hearing and to designate these two buildings of historical and architectural significance. Many thanks to Council Member Margaret Chin, local residents, community and citywide organizations for their support of landmark designation for the Bialystoker Home.
We have reached out to Michele DeMilly, the public relations executive working with the Bialystoker nursing home board. We’ll let you know if and when we hear back.
UPDATE 12/9/2012 2:15 P.M. We just talked with Michele DeMilly, who’s speaking on behalf of the Bialystoker nursing home board of directors. She said her client would not oppose landmark designation if the commission decides the building should be protected. DeMilly indicated there had been an “ongoing conversation” for several months with the LPC. “There’s a sense that if it’s worthy of landmarking then we would leave it to the experts to make that determination,” she said.
This past spring, Community Board 3 approved a resolution urging the commission to move forward with the Bialystoker application. At the time the nursing home board strongly opposed the move, saying in a statement:
If this building were to be designated a landmark, options for its adaptive reuse would be severely limited (due to its narrow configuration and advanced disrepair)… Thus it could only be sold at a significant discount, which would likely thrust Bialystoker into bankruptcy and ensure that our deserving employees will not receive the full amount of compensation owed to them.
Today DeMilly reiterated that the board’s “primary focus” is making sure the nursing home’s debts, including millions of dollars due former employees, can be paid. She said there are a “variety of prospective purchasers” but that the sale of the building is not imminent. DeMilly indicated that all parties interested in acquiring the building have known for some time that the LPC intended to go ahead with the designation process.
When asked whether the Bialystoker board is still worried that landmark status could prevent a high-dollar sale of the property, DeMilly indicated that it’s still a real concern but that the negotiations are an “evolving process.”