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Seward Park Co-op to Vote on $46.5 Million Air-Rights Sale

Lower East Side

LES Air Rights

The Bialystoker nursing home (rear) and the Jewish heritage mural before the developer painted over it (image via Google Maps)

March 29, 2017

Shareholders at the sprawling, 1,728-unit Seward Park co-op on the Lower East Side will soon face a major decision: should we accept a developer’s offer of $46.5 million for air rights that will allow him to build two condo towers flanking the landmarked Bialystoker Home for the Aged?

The referendum now before shareholders is expected to come to a vote in May or June, DNAinfo reports, and a supermajority of two-thirds of shareholders must approve it for the sale to go through. The Ascend Group is seeking to buy unused development rights from the housing complex that will allow it to build a 19-story tower on the west side of the empty Bialystoker nursing home, plus a 31-story tower on the east side. If shareholders don't approve the air-rights sale, the developer will instead build only one 26-story tower on the east side of the former nursing home.

Ascend had initially offered about $19.8 million for the co-op’s rights, but the Seward Park board shrewdly commissioned a separate appraisal of their value. After a period of negotiation, Ascend agreed on the price tag of $46.5 million – living proof that you should never accept a New York real estate developer’s initial offer. Ascend had already paid $47.5 million for the Bialystoker building and the two flanking lots at the corner of Clinton Street and East Broadway.

Seward Park has a contentious history, including the recent shift from park-and-lock to valet parking in the co-op’s garage and parking deck. Last year, disgruntled shareholders filed a lawsuit to block the change, claiming the co-op board made the decision behind closed doors without shareholder input.

Ascend has already committed a major PR gaffe when it painted over the beloved Jewish heritage mural on the wall of the office building that sits on the eastern parcel, which will be demolished regardless of how Seward Park shareholders vote on the air-rights question. The developer is now collaborating with arts group CITYarts on an all-new neighborhood mural to reflect the diverse nationalities that have historically occupied the Lower East Side but find the neighborhood increasingly unaffordable.

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