LOWER EAST SIDE — An art deco-style building that previously housed a nursing home became a city landmark Tuesday after local residents and preservations pushed for it to be saved from the wrecking ball.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the shuttered Bialystoker Home for the Aged at 228 East Broadway as a landmark, protecting the historic structure from any major alterations.
"It more than meets out criteria [for landmarking]," LPC Chairman Robert Tierney said of the building, which was constructed by Jewish immigrants from Bialystoker, Poland. "It tells so many stories and it has such a presence in the neighborhood."
Local residents began fighting for the building to be landmarked after trustees for the Depression-era building announced plans to sell it to developers to pay off the nursing home's debts. Residents and preservationists argued that the structure was important in the history of the Lower East Side's Jewish immigrant population and worried it would be demolished.
The building's trustees initially opposed the move to landmark the Bialystoker building, but during a public hearing at the LPC in February, the trustees announced that they had dropped their opposition.
Now that the building is landmarked, any future owner would have to seek approval from the LPC before completing even minor alterations.
Mitchell Grubler, a Lower East Side resident and preservationist, advocated for the building's protection through the group Friends of the Lower East Side.
"We are thrilled to see that this building will be standing for our generation and other generations," Grubler said Tuesday.
Grubler highlighted some of the building's standout features such as medallions on the structure representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the word "Bialystoker" etched above the entrance.
"They [the builders] were from the old world, but they were forward-looking," said Joyce Mendelsohn, another member of Friends of the Lower East Side.
Gary Ambrose, treasurer on the board of trustees for Bialystoker, had previously said the home was losing $1 million a month before closing in 2011 and had become "dangerous to residents and employees," The Lo-Down reported last year.
The home also reportedly owed up to $14 million to the city and state and the union SEIU 1199, whose members staffed the home, The Villager reported last August.
Ambrose could not be reached for comment Tuesday.