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Bialystoker Developers Reject Overtures From Seward Park Co-op to Revisit Air Rights Sale

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Developers plan to build on either side of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building on East Broadway.
Developers plan to build on either side of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building on East Broadway.

Developers of the former Bialystoker Nursing Home site on East Broadway aren’t interested in a revote at the Seward Park Co-op on the sale of air rights.

In June, about 58% of the apartment owners voting in a referendum supported the sale of 162,000 in development rights for nearly $54 million to the Ascend Group and Optimum Asset Management. But under the co-op’s by-laws, two-thirds were required to vote in favor for the referendum to pass, and Seward Park did not meet that threshold.

A group of shareholders later launched a petition drive, which called for a new vote. In a notice sent to residents late last night, the Board of Directors reported that more than 25% (422 shareholders out of 1600) called for a special meeting to reconsider the air rights issue. As a result, the board was poised for a second referendum. But the developers have said, “No thanks.”

“Earlier today (Wednesday),” the memo stated, “the developers formally notified the Board that they are not interested in revisiting the air rights proposal and are instead planning to proceed with as-of-right development. Accordingly, the shareholder petition is no longer relevant and the special meeting will not be held.”

Ascend and Optimum are now planning to build a single 26-story tower to the east of the existing landmark-protected building. A parcel on the west side of the Bialystoker (the former Dora Cohen Memorial Park) will serve as an outdoor space for residents of the new condo complex.

In a brief interview, Rob Kaliner of the Ascend Group told The Lo-Down that the development team simply concluded it was time to move forward with their project without further delay. They invested many months in the first referendum and are now committed to beginning construction on the as-of-right tower as soon as possible. Kaliner said the developers have no intention of changing their minds (he was adamant about that).

Kaliner said architectural designs are nearly complete. Renovations could begin on the existing building (228 East Broadway) before work starts on the foundation for the new structure. Talks have been ongoing at the staff level with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to expedite the renovations.

Southwest view; development plan with air rights.
Southwest view; development plan with air rights.
Southwest view; as-of-right development plan.
Southwest view; original as-of-right development plan.

If the air rights sale had been approved, the developers planned to put up a 33-story building on the eastern lot and a 22-story building on the western parcel. The project would have included 210 luxury condos spread over 226,000 square feet. While updated as-of-right plans have not yet been revealed, developers previously indicated the smaller version of the project would include 140 apartments. They had originally envisioned 17 and 20 story towers covering about 78,000 square feet. All along, however, experts advising the co-op, predicted that the developers would opt for a single, taller building if the air rights referendum failed.

Four hulking buildings stretching from Essex Street to Pitt Street make up the Seward Park Co-op. The buildings, constructed in 1960, face at least $12 million in mandatory maintenance projects. The proceeds from the air rights sale would have been used to finance those projects, pay down the co-op’s debt and to replenish emergency reserves. In the absence of that $54 million pay day, the co-op is refinancing its mortgage. The board memo stated, “We plan to close soon on the 60 million dollar loan.”

In November of 2016, the vacant 1931 Art Deco building and adjacent development sites were sold to Ascend and its partners for $47.5 million.



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