Exclusive: City Cleared the Way For Luxury Housing at Former Rivington Street Nursing Home

We have more today on the former Rivington House nursing facility, located at 41 Rivington St., which increasingly appears headed for a luxury residential conversion.

The 215-bed home for AIDS patients was sold last year for $28 million to the Allure Group, which briefly reopened the building as the Rivington Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation. But it closed earlier this month, employees of the center telling us that the operator was preparing to flip the building and relocate the facility elsewhere on the Lower East Side. Neighbors have been approached by representatives of the Slate Property Group, who told them the real estate firm is planning to turn the property into a market rate apartment complex.

Executives of the Allure Group have not responded to our requests for an interview. We did, however, hear back from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).  Last month, the city agency agreed to lift a deed restriction in place since 1992 requiring the Rivington Street building to be “limited in perpetuity to a Not-for-Profit Residential Health Care Facility.” The Allure Group paid the city $16,150,000 for the deed. Cathy Hansen, a spokesperson for DCAS said, “The deed restrictions were lifted after a request by the owner to allow the property to be run by for-profit and/or non-profit operators. The deed modifications were approved following a public hearing on June 24, 2015.”

It was not a surprise to local elected officials or to Community Board 3 that the Allure Group would be petitioning the city for the change (the company is a for-profit entity). They were taken aback, however, to learn that there was nothing written into the agreement assuring the Rivington Street facility’s continued operation as a nursing home.  At the very least, they expected guarantees that the nursing home beds would be transferred to another location within the community. When asked whether the city took steps to preserve the community facility, Hansen responded: “No, the agreement only covered the lifting of deed restrictions.”

We contacted the office of City Council member Margaret Chin, which was involved in brokering the deal to keep the nursing home up-and-running last year. Paul Leonard, her director of communications, said, “We’re disappointed by the recent closure of Rivington House, which for years has served a community with few other nursing home options. We’re currently looking into the status of the limitations on Rivington House’s deed, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

K Webster of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition has been concerned about the fate of Rivington House since it became known in the summer of 2014 that previous owner VillageCare intended to shut it down. The coalition has started a letter writing campaign to the mayor’s office. The sample letter reads, in part:

Please keep (the former Rivington House facility as) a community facility—do not sell our neighborhood out to highest bidder. We need affordable housing, shelter beds, community services. In the midst of your affordable housing agenda it makes NO sense to lose this site for the many New Yorkers who need housing. We restored our community when no one else would come into it due to the high crime here – not even City agencies and departments would come here. Now that we have built a good, solid base for our neighbors, friends, visitors and families we are being pushed out, marginalized and priced out. This building is an institution here – it has always served the public. First as a school, then as an AIDs Hospice (when those patients were not welcome anywhere else)… As you are the Mayor of the “Tale of Two Cities” we ask you to live up to those words.

There are still many unanswered questions swirling around the building, which borders Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The owners have intimated that the closure was triggered by their failure to obtain Medicaid contracts for the nursing home beds. The Allure Group has suggested it will reopen somewhere in the neighborhood, but it’s unclear what building could accommodate a 200+ bed nursing facility. No sales documents or Buildings Department permits have showed up as of yet in public records for 41 Rivington St.

This much is known about the Allure Group. In October, the Real Deal reported that a 241-unit residential building was being planned on the site of the Nostrand Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bed Stuy. “Marvin Rubin, senior managing partner of nursing home operator the Allure Group, acquired the property… for $15.6 million in June,” the website reported.  A closing date for that center has not been announced, but some contractors have been advised that their services will no longer be needed after February. So the Lower East Side is apparently not alone.

We have contacted the State Health Department to find out about the status of Medicaid-funded nursing home beds at 41 Rivington St. No response. We also reached out to the Slate Property Group, which has not responded, either.

Community Board 3 plans to take up the issue in January.

41 Rivington St. Deed by The Lo-Down