Why A Lower East Side Apartment Complex Turned Down $54M

The phone call informing Rob Kaliner that an old Lower East Side apartment complex had rejected his $54 million drove him out of his office and onto the sidewalk, where he started walking and didn’t stop.

“I did like 26,000 steps,” said Kaliner days later, still reeling from one of the most startling rejections in the whole florid history of New York City real estate. “My cardiologist told me to do 10,000. She would have been proud.”

Kaliner is the owner of the gutted shell of the Bialystoker Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, an Art Deco landmark of the Jewish Lower East Side. A developer of luxury real estate, he wants to build two condos on either side of the Bialystoker. To make them as tall as possible, he offered $54 million to the Bialystoker’s neighbors, the residents of the Seward Park Cooperative, for their unused air rights.