A shuttered 90-year-old Jewish nursing home on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been declared a New York City landmark, a designation that will protect it from being razed.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission decided on May 22 to grant landmark status to the Bialystoker nursing home, which catered to generations of Polish Jews before closing in 2011 under a cloud of controversy.
“This is a special building that retains a strong presence to this day, and tells so many stories of the Jewish community in New York City,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney in a press statement after the May 22 vote.
The Bialystoker, built in 1923, was shut down in 2011 amid controversy, after the not-for-profit that owned the home sold an adjacent property to a company owned by the president of its board.
The future of the Bialystoker home itself, a striking Art Deco monolith on East Broadway, has been a matter of deep local dispute over the past two years. Developers eyed the lot for condos, with some apparently hoping to knock down the nursing home and replace it with new construction.
Those plans were stymied by the landmarks decision, which means the building cannot be torn down.
The Bialystoker’s board, which owns the building and formerly operated the nursing home, is swamped with debt, and has expressed concern about its ability to afford back pay and benefits it owes former employees.
The board had said that it did not oppose the landmark designation, but has suggested that the designation could make it harder for the group to pay those debts.
One developer that had expressed interested in the building dropped its offer as the landmark process moved forward.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.