Developer Offers Seward Park Co-Op $54 Million for Air Rights

Ascend Group/Optimum Asset Management made the offer in an attempt to build a 22-story and a 33-story towers in addition to renovating the landmarked Bialystoker building that would be sandwiched in between the new towers. Both towers would exceed the height normally allowed by zoning laws.

A $54 million offer to give up air rights has Lower East Side residents of Seward Park Co-Op up in arms. While the deal would give residents financial relief, some don’t want the proposed buildings that would be on each side of the complex and create shadows that would ruin the feel of the area and accelerate gentrification.

Ascend Group/Optimum Asset Management made the offer in an attempt to build a 22-story and a 33-story towers in addition to renovating the landmarked Bialystoker building that would be sandwiched in between the new towers. Both towers would exceed the height normally allowed by zoning laws.

Two-thirds of participating residents must accept the deal for it to happen, according to The Lo Down NY. The developers want to build a 210-unit luxury condo complex on three lots at 222-234 East Broadway. They said they will build no matter what happens, even though their properties would be considerably smaller without the additional airspace. “They’re not stopping our development,” Wayne Heicklen of the Ascend Group said. “We are building one way or another.” The developers kicked in an extra $1 million and said they would pay for residents’ maintenance fees for four months last Friday. The New York Times quoted Marion Riedel, a professor of social work at Columbia University, as saying these types of incentives are “bribes.”

The Lo Down NY reports that the board of directors has unanimously endorsed the air rights sale. Their focus is on the big picture and the reality of the situation. The money could bring the aging building up to date and put it in good financial standing. The board would allocate $12 million for mandatory maintenance projects and $22 million to reducing the co-op’s debt and replenishing reserves and emergency funds.

One octogenerian resident told the New York Times that “we have control over this one spot. Putting up a humongous building will start to obliterate the East Broadway side of Seward Park,” she said. The New York Times reported that both sides are getting frustrated with each other, with opponents to the deal have set up card tables in the lobbies at Seward Park, next to posters that outline the benefits of the deal.

Seward Park was originally created by the garment workers union as an affordable means for working class families to live in the city and in decent living conditions. Over the decades, the co-op grew to include a very diverse mix of residents, something some people fear could go away if these new construction projects would lead to gentrification. The apartments sell for up to $1.1 million, according to the New York Times. Any of the 1,600 or so residents who want to vote in the referendum can do so on Tuesday.

By: Ron Powell

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