Brewer, Chin Drum Up Press Coverage as Rivington House Saga Rages On

mark-viverito, chin, brewer

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with Council member Margaret Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer at City Hall. Photo: Council member Chin’s twitter feed.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin orchestrated a media event at City Hall yesterday to capitalize on the fallout from last week’s scathing Rivington House report.

They’re pushing new legislation that would require future deed changes to go through the city’s land use approval process (ULURP). Here’s a roundup from the press coverage they managed to generate.

The tabloids played up supportive statements from Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Although we cannot change the actions of the past year,” said the speaker, “we can enact measures to ensure nothing like this happens again.” The Daily News noted that Mark-Viverito “normally a de Blasio ally,”  is now questioning the mayor’s refusal to release all of the documents requested by the Department of Investigation. “Clearly access to the documents should not have been made difficult,” she said.

Here was the spin in the New York Post:

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio, said Wednesday it’s “very troubling” that the mayor’s office impeded a city investigation of a botched Lower East Side real estate deal… “It’s very clear what the authority of DOI is. The Department of Investigation is to have full access to documents — so that is a concern,” Mark-Viverito said at a press conference calling for similar deals to become part of the more transparent land use review process.

Several stories also addressed the mayor’s decision not to punish any of his underlings, even though the Department of Investigation report found that several top officials failed to heed warnings about the Rivington House situation. The elected officials were asked about this point yesterday. From Gotham Gazette:

(Council member) Chin criticized the administration’s lack of action to discipline those responsible for overseeing Rivington House’s deed restriction removal. According to the DOI report, City Hall First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris was sent memos regarding the removal months in advance by former DCAS Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch, but did not read the memos as he did not believe the matter to be important at the time. “I think the people who are responsible should be held accountable. The mayor should reconsider,” Chin said at the press conference. When asked whether she believed Shorris specifically should be held accountable, Chin simply repeated, “those who are responsible.”

The city lifted the deed restrictions on Rivington House in exchange for a $16 million payment from the Allure Group, the building’s previous property owner. The mayor’s office recently agreed to invest $16 million on the Lower East Side as restitution for losing the nursing home. As reported in the Village Voice, Brewer said yesterday that this commitment is clearly inadequate:

“To build a new building [to replace Rivington House] would cost closer to $200 million. We appreciate what the mayor has done in terms of his statement but [it] is not sufficient and does not answer the needs for the neighborhood, which would include a brand new building that would house as many individuals,” said Brewer. “That was a building where people were part of the neighborhood. That was their home. We need another that provides affordable housing just like Rivington House.”

Speaker Mark-Viverito said a Council hearing on the Rivington House matter is still happening. It was pushed off this month but will be scheduled in the fall, she said.