According to a report over the weekend in the New York Post, high-ranking officials in the de Blasio administration were “frantically” trying to reinstate the Rivington House deed restriction in late February.
There have been shifting stories from the administration about when the mayor’s office learned that the deed had been changed. The decision from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services in November allowed the Allure group to sell the former AIDS hospice to luxury condo developers for $116 million.
Mayor de Blasio said he only learned about it when the city’s comptroller launched an investigation of the matter (that was on March 7). The New York Times reported earlier this month that Anthony Shorris, first deputy mayor, had begun looking into the deed change in late February. Now the Post chimes in with new details that suggest another high-ranking official had been dealing with the situation:
On Feb. 24, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen’s chief of staff frantically offered a $16.1 million refund to The Allure Group… In return for the refund, Allure was told, the city sought a long-term care facility or affordable housing, according to a source close to the negotiations and evidence reviewed by The Post. Those two options were what “the Mayor’s Office wants,” James Patchett, chief of staff to Glen, told Allure’s rep, the source said… But a crestfallen Patchett — who blamed a bungling city agency for the whole mess — was told it was too late; the sale had already gone through. An increasingly desperate Patchett persisted, calling the situation an “important issue to us” and saying he would “highly encourage” Allure to change the outcome, the source said.
Allure purchased the building, 45 Rivington St., from VillageCare in February of 2015 for $28 million. According to the Post, Allure balked at paying $16 million to change the deed, which required the building to be used as a not-for-profit health care facility. De Blasio has said Allure promised to continue operating the Lower East Side nursing home. Now a source tells the Post that Allure made it clear to city officials it could not afford to keep the center open after paying the $16 million. The administration, says the tabloid, was intent on collecting its fee from the company:
The city Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which handled the negotiations, was determined to get all it could. In fact, DCAS was so anxious to get the cash that in January 2015 it urged Village Care, the former owner of the nursing home, to “expeditiously” submit documents to complete the deed deal. Assistant DCAS Commissioner Randal Fong wrote a Jan. 9, 2015, letter, obtained by The Post, to Emma DeVito, the CEO of the nonprofit Village Care, which ran the AIDS facility. It said: “Please confirm in writing that you agree to the value to remove the restrictions.”
Just in case you were having trouble drawing your own conclusions from the Post story, a separate editorial today spells it out:
On Sunday, The Post’s Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein caught Mayor de Blasio himself in a lie… How could word of the coming public-relations nightmare not make it back to de Blasio? Unless his minions are simply afraid to bring him bad news, the mayor lied about when he learned of the mess.
The Daily News reports this morning that the State Attorney General had no idea Allure was pushing the city for the deed change. The AG approved the sale from VillageCare to Allure. “The Attorney General’s office did not approve either the lifting of the deed restriction, or the subsequent sale to a for-profit developer,” explained spokesman Matt Mittenthal. The AG is one of five entities investigating the Rivington House matter.