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BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Friends of the Bialystoker Home, fearing the imminent sale of the 10-story, art deco building on the Lower East Side, are calling on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to calendar the building for a designation hearing.
Although the L.P.C. is actively considering the now-vacant nursing and rehabilitation home at 228 E. Broadway, a spokesperson said the agency has not yet decided to calendar it for a hearing on official landmark status.
“We’re holding our breath,” Joyce Mendelsohn, a founder of Friends of the Bialystoker Home, said on Tues., Feb. 7, a day after the preservation group delivered 70 letters urging the L.P.C. to landmark the 1930 building, which they fear would be demolished if sold.
Last year, the Bialystoker board of trustees, claiming “dire” financial straits amid decreasing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, successfully applied to the State Department of Health to close the home and relocate its 85 elderly long-term residents.
The board, headed by Ira Meister, a principal in Matthew Adam Properties, also decided to sell the building, which was listed as a potential redevelopment site for a residential building with between 71,000 to 77,000 square feet.
“We’ve heard from real estate sources that the listing has been withdrawn because the building is about to be sold to a developer as early as this week,” Mendelsohn said.
The year before last, the Bialystoker board of trustees sold 232 E. Broadway, a three-story building adjacent to the Bialystoker Home, to Meister’s Matthew Adam Properties for a reputed $1.5 million. Barry Wilson, a board member, said in September of last year that the sale of 232 E. Broadway had been approved to raise operating funds for the home and to make emergency repairs on the 80-year-old building.
But Sam Solarz, 84, president of the Bialystoker Home from 1968 to 1999, said last Sunday that he considered the sale of 232 E. Broadway to be “a shame and a disgrace.”
Solarz, born in Bialystok and a survivor of the ghetto uprising in the city during World War II, spoke at a Feb. 5 symposium sponsored by Friends of the Bialystoker Home, along with the Seward Park Preservation and History Club and the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy.
Solarz, founder of a meat wholesale firm in Hunts Point, said that he and his son, Mark, a lawyer, hired an attorney at the end of last year to find out what was going on with the Bialystoker Home.
“The lawyer came back 10 days later and said it was too late,” Solarz said. Nevertheless, Solarz insisted that the Bialystoker Home’s charter contains a clause prohibiting board of trustee members from benefiting from the sale of the property.
Wilson, however, said in September that the proceeds of the home’s sale would go to pay creditors and any excess would be donated to charity as required in the charter.
He added that the charter provides that, in the event the home closed, the property would revert to the guarantors of the home, Jacob and Simon Cohen.
“The family lived in Florida but they have a granddaughter who has a luncheonette here,” Solarz said.
Bialystok immigrants had established the Bialystoker Synagogue around 1885 and moved into the former Willett St. Methodist Church in 1904, a few blocks from the future site of the nursing home.
In 1927, the Bialystok community on the Lower East Side collected $9 million to rebuild the Polish city where they hailed from. They also sent money to other Bialystok immigrant communities in Buenos Aires and in Tel Aviv, Rebecca Kobrin, an assistant professor at Columbia and author of “Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora,” told the Sunday symposium.
Designed by Henry Hurwit, architect for several smaller buildings in the neighborhood, the Bialystoker Home for the Aged on East Broadway was opened on June 1, 1931, with a gala parade and congratulatory telegrams from Mayor Jimmy Walker and New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The home closed on Nov.1, 2011.