Yonkers Polish Center Stays Open, Seeks Landmark Status

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The Polish Community Center in Yonkers, initially scheduled to close this month, will remain open for the time being as board members seek a new buyer. Photo Credit: Matt Bultman

YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers’ iconic Polish Community Center will remain open for the time being as board members look to secure a buyer.

The 90-year-old catering institution was set to close this month amid financial concerns and a tentative deal that would have sold the center to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the contract could not be finalized, and now the building at 92 Waverly St. is back on the market, Anna O’Lear, vice president of the Polish Center’s Board of Directors, said last week.

The large brick building on the corner of Nepperhan Avenue and Waverly Street, built in 1886, was once an armory and later, a community center for the surrounding Polish neighborhood. Since then, it has adopted the name Polonaise Catering at the Polish Community Center and has stood as the largest catering hall in Westchester County in terms of square footage.

Over the years, it has become a popular venue for weddings, parties and dances, and its sparkling ballroom has featured countless political fundraisers.

But in November, members of the Polish Center’s Board of Directors said difficult financial times had taken a toll on the hall, and they had begun to search for a buyer.

“A lot of our people have moved out of the area. The environment, everything has changed,” board President Barbara Rusinko said at the time.

Now, the center is again in talks with various potential buyers as it looks to work out a deal. O’Lear said the board has received interest from several parties, including a restaurant and another Polish center.
 
“There is nothing firm, so we are still open and still doing parties until we find a buyer,” O’Lear said.

In the meantime, in part because of the potential sale, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board has moved to designate the building as a historic landmark.

The distinction would prevent future owners from tearing down or drastically altering the exterior of the building.

“The chances are good that whoever buys it will want to do something and make some changes,” said Bob Piwinski, one of the drafters of the Polish Center’s application for landmark status. “So before its gets sold, we want to create landmark status so whoever buys can’t touch the outside without getting approval from the city.”

Earlier this month, the Landmarks Preservation Board accepted the application for historic status of the center, initiating a 180-day moratorium in which there may be no alterations to the building’s exterior.

The application has since been referred to the city’s Planning Board for review, and a public hearing has been set for the next Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on March 6.

O’Lear said she supported the landmarking proposal and didn’t think it would affect the potential sale of the building.

“It should be left as it is,” she said. “It has been a landmark in Yonkers for years, and I think this is a great idea.”

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