About Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Story on Rivington House…

45 Rivington St.,

45 Rivington St.,

We’ve been taking a closer look at yesterday’s story in the Wall Street Journal concerning the Rivington House investigation.

According to the article, at least one high-ranking official in the de Blasio administration knew in December of 2014 about efforts by the Allure Group to lift deed restrictions on the former nursing home building at 45 Rivington St. The mayor has repeatedly said he didn’t know about the decision to change the deed until the city comptroller opened an inquiry two months ago.

There’s another part of the story that doesn’t ring quite true to some people in the local community. Here’s what the newspaper reported:

In the months that followed (the meeting with senior aide Avi Fink), discussions about Rivington House included City Hall aides, a representative of the health-care workers union 1199-SEIU, Community Board 3, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and Allure Group… (In October of 2014, Allure Group executive Joel) Landau drafted an email for workers to send to City Hall, asking officials to support the property’s conversion to a for-profit nursing home, according to documents reviewed by the Journal and people familiar with the matter. Community board members and local officials said Kevin Finnegan, a political representative for 1199-SEIU, was involved in the discussions with City Hall, according to documents and a person familiar with the matter. The union had backed Allure’s plan to convert the property to a for-profit facility. Mr. Finnegan said he was involved but declined to comment further.

Council member Chin and members and staff of the community board have always said they were not privy to conversations about lifting the deed. The story is hazy on this point, but leaves the impression that they were involved in those talks. The decision by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services cleared the way for the Allure Group to sell the building to luxury condo developers for $116 million.

In a statement provided to the Journal (but not published), Chin said:

From the beginning, I was adamant that Rivington House remain a long-term care facility. After VillageCare (the nursing home’s original operator) made clear its intention to transfer the facility to a different operator, there were numerous conversations between myself, members of the community and fellow elected officials about this important healthcare resource for the people of the Lower East Side.  There was no direct conversation between myself and Allure Group. However, it was my understanding, and the understanding of the community, that Rivington House would remain a long-term care facility in perpetuity.

At a community board meeting last night, CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer said it appears the reporters were referencing an email chain that was initiated by Joel Landau in December of 2015. On Jan. 6, Stetzer said, she replied, asking if there had been any progress in securing final approval from the city for the nursing home beds on Rivington Street. But Stetzer added, “We had no conversations about those deed restrictions,” or the not-for-profit vs. for-profit status of the building.

On March 22 of this year, the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the city comptroller’s investigation.