Followup: Rivington House Closing; Questions Raised About Building’s Future
Here’s a followup to yesterday’s story concerning the closure of Rivington House, the nursing home for AIDS patients at 45 Rivington St. Crain’s (subscription required) reported that the 206-bed facility has been “nearly half-empty for at least two years, a testimony to the advances in medicine that have let those afflicted with AIDS live longer.”
Yesterday, we spoke with a representative of Rivington House’s owner, VillageCare, for more details. Rob Goldman, director of corporate communications, said there has been a very noticeable drop in the occupancy rate at Rivington House in the past three years. The non-profit organization has been weighing its options for some time. Goldman said the priority now is helping about 230 staff members find new jobs and moving around 100 remaining residents to other facilities.
“We are working with each resident individually, but ultimately where they go is their decision,” Goldman said. The plan is to close Rivington House by the end of November. He noted that more patients these days are choosing home-based care. In general, the state is transitioning away from large nursing facilities. Goldman added that New York state is looking at reducing nursing home beds by 5% in the next five years. For this reason, he indicated, it wasn’t feasible to convert Rivington House to a nursing facility for the general population.
Goldman said there’s concern for the facility’s ‘dedicated staff,” who have been briefed about the closure and mostly “understand the situation.” There will be no reassignments but the organization is trying to help employees find other positions. Some staff members have worked on Rivington street since the center opened in 1995.
As for the building, a former school built in 1898, no decisions have been made, Goldman said.
The prospect that it could be sold to a private developer for condos or a hotel will obviously be a source of anxiety for some local residents. The beautiful Romanesque Revival-style building sits alongside Sara D. Roosevelt Park and would be a hot commodity on the open real estate market. K Webster, a member of Community Board 3 and a leader of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition is one of those expressing concern. Speaking only for herself, she noted that activists have spent the last three decades wresting the park from the grip of crime and drugs for the benefit of the community, not so that it could become an amenity for “real estate profiteers.” Webster added, “this building ‘belongs’ to the low-income vulnerable populations of this community. It is unconscionable to consider losing this valuable human resource of Rivington House when housing is so desperately needed for vulnerable elders and others (including the current tenants). ”
Local City Council member Margaret Chin said conversations have been initiated with VillageCare. A spokesperson said Chin is opposed to any luxury redevelopment plan for Rivington House. Next month, VillageCare officials have agreed to brief Community Board 3’s human services committee regarding their decision. That meeting takes place September 9.
According to public records, the former school building was purchased from the city in 1993 for $1,550,000. The original agreement stated that the building’s use would be “limited in perpetuity to a not-for-profit ‘residential health care facility.’ ” In 1993, the New York Times reported that “the renovation and expansion of the six-floor building (cost) $72 million, financed by a state bond project.”
In our conversation yesterday, Goldman said he did not know whether any restrictions are still in place regarding the sale of the building.