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Followup: Rivington House Closing; Questions Raised About Building’s Future

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Rivington House, 45 Rivington St.
Rivington House, 45 Rivington St.

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.

rivington house 3

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.

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  1. Why is the state “… transitioning away from large nursing facilities”? Why is “New York state… looking at reducing nursing home beds by 5% in the next five years”? Why has funding been decimated for nursing homes to the point that they cannot afford to operate?

    For many low-income urban seniors ‘aging in home’ is not an option. We need nursing care facilities, well paid trained staff, and decent buildings to house them. We lost two vital nursing homes recently – their residents scattered to the wind, uprooted from nearby friends and relatives.

    The NYTimes questioned the role in the Medicaid Redesign Team of “a paid consultant to some of the biggest players in the New York health care industry, including Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center and the state’s largest association of nursing homes” all of which had financial interests at stake in the Medicaid changes that were adopted by NYState.

    Something isn’t quite right here…

  2. You are correct Bowerygals, it’s
    a typical case of the big players looking to fatten their pockets and screw
    what is good for the community. It happened with Bialystoker Nursing home on
    East Broadway and from what I hear a third nursing home, East Side nursing home
    on Bialystoker place (not to be confused with Bialystoker nursing home which
    closed in 2011) is closing their doors. In the past the crumbs left over by the
    powers that be was enough for those of the Lower East Side to at least survive,
    but now the powers that be are not satisfied with the whole pie. Now they want
    the crumbs also. Wake up people, when is enough is enough?

  3. .the struggle to save Sara D Roosevelt Park has not only been against crime and drugs– it has also been against corporate take over- the corporate take over of the park for specialized events– and to save the park from a commercial take over with vendors and such– that park has gone through many changes– from drugs- to vendor tents filling the park- to corporate soccer events closed to community and so on….

    and isn’t it great to live Downtown? The neighborhood where AIDS has been cured so we no longer need a specialized center- no more AIDS- amazing! And we are so healthy we no longer need hospitals like Cabrini or St. Vincent’s hospital. And since nobody in this COMMUNITY grows old we no longer need the nursing homes- Cabrini Nursing Home on Ave B, Bialystoker Nursing home on East Broadway, and now the scheme to close the Lejb & Golda Orenstein Building 15-17 Willett St/Bialystoker PL

    Where does it end? Shoemakers- coffee shops- dry cleaners- bodega’s- large grocery stores- meat markets- bakeries- dozens and dozens of small businesses that made up a community- affordable rents- both commercial and residential OH- OK- ask the politicians to save us- good idea. They have done a swell job so far– have the project parking lots sold yet?

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