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Seward Park residents continue push for air rights sale that would allow taller condos

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Residents of the coop complex needed a two-third majority for the air rights sale to go through, but only 57 percent voted in favor

Via Google Maps

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on June 11, 2018.

UPDATE 8/24/2018: Some members of the Seward Park Co-op board are continuing to push for a deal that would allow developers to purchase air rights in a $54 million deal, despite a June vote against the transaction.

According to Bowery Boogie, flyers are making their way around the housing complex that are encouraging residents to sign a petition to save the deal.

“We, the majority of shareholders in the Seward Park Cooperative, are deeply troubled over the failure to pass the referendum on the sale of our air rights to the Ascend/Optimum development group,” says the petition. “We voted, and a majority of us were in favor of the sale and applying the $54 million in proceeds to keep us and our fellow shareholders, even those opposed to the sale, in pristine financial condition.”

The petition is hoping to organize 700 stockholders to call a special meeting where they can discuss amending bylaws that would change the requirement that a two-third majority vote is needed to proceed with the sale.

UPDATE 6/14/2018: The Seward Park Co-op board voted against a developer’s offer to purchase air rights that would allow the co-op to pay off some of its debts, and the developer to build taller towers on either side of the Bialystoker Nursing Home, The Real Deal reports.

In order for the air rights deal to be approved, the co-op board needed a two-thirds majority; it only managed to secure 57 percent of the vote in favor of the sale of the air rights.

In recent months, developer the Ascend Group had been amping up its efforts to ensure the sale went through. It offered to pay four months worth of maintenance fees for the residents of Seward Park. They also added in $1 million to carry out lobby renovations.

Some residents were concerned about the new condo towers blocking light, and about the effects of such development in the neighborhood—they are already experiencing some fatigue from the Essex Crossing megaproject, according to The Lo-Down.

With the air rights sale having fallen through, the developer will now building a 17 and 20-story tower on either side of the landmarked nursing home, instead of the 22 and 33-story towers. Since the co-op board did not receive any funds from the potential sale, maintenance fees for residents will likely increase in the coming months.

Plans to erect two residential towers on either side of the landmarked Bialystoker Nursing Home, are at the center of a debate among residents of the Seward Park Cooperative, a massive residential complex on the Lower East Side.

In 2017, developer the Ascend Group started negotiations with the coop to purchase air rights from the complex that would allow it to build taller towers than what zoning allows in the neighborhood. The $54 million offered by the developer would go toward paying part of the Seward Park Coop’s debt, and toward the installation of new elevators, and general repair throughout the building, according to the New York Times, which recently reported on the proposed air rights sale.

While many residents are in favor of the sale, others worry that these new residential towers will blocks views and light from the coop complex, and cast shadows over the complex’s beloved interior gardens. They also worry that these new developments will further speed up gentrification in the neighborhood, and drive out some of the low-income owners in the coop complex.

Coop residents in favor of the air rights sale argue that the sale will in fact help these residents. The Ascend Group has thrown in some additional incentives like paying maintenance costs for all residents of the complex’s 1,602 apartments, for four months. There’s also the argument that without the sale of the air rights, the developer can still move forward with a plan (albeit shorter towers) that wouldn’t financially benefit the coop complex in any way.

With the sale of the air rights, Ascend plans to build a 22 and 33-story building on either side of the former nursing home, with the landmarked structure’s base serving as the lobby for the new condo development. Without the sale, the developer will build 17 and 20-story structures, respectively.

Shareholders at the coop are scheduled to vote on the air rights sale on Tuesday, and will determine the fate of the next phase of development on the Lower East Side.