Brewer, Chin Push Legislation to Reform Deed Change Process

city hall steps

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin unveiled proposed legislation today that would require more transparency for changes in deed restrictions.

The bill, introduced at this afternoon’s Council session, is a direct response to the Rivington House fiasco. This past November, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services lifted deed restrictions on the property at 45 Rivington St. The owner then sold the former nursing home to luxury condo developers for $116 million. While there was a vague, one day notice in the City Record newspaper, there was no notice of a public hearing to either Council member Chin’s office or to the local community board.

The legislation would create a searchable database of all deed restrictions imposed by the city and require the administration to provide adequate notice to local communities. You can read the text of the bill here.

During a press conference on the steps of City Hall this morning, Chin said the legislation is meant to “ensure that this never happens again, not to the Lower East Side or any other community.” Brewer and Chin were joined by several co-sponsors, including Council members Mark Levine and Ben Kallos. Council members Rosie Mendez and Brad Lander are also co-sponsors.

Earlier this month, Lisette Camilo, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), testified before the government operations committee. She promised to release information about 13-14 other deed modifications that are “in the pipeline.” Today Ben Kallos, chair of that committee, said the administration still hasn’t provided the deed details. “It’s been more than two weeks,” said Kallos. “They need to send it. We need to see it before we pass the budget.”  Brewer agreed that the information should be turned over. “My interns could do it in five minutes,” she quipped.

Kallos had previously promised to hold an oversight hearing on the deed issue. He said it’s still the plan. The hearing could be scheduled sometime in June.

Last night, Community Board 3 approved two resolutions in support of the legislation and of Community Board 9, which is dealing with a similar deed change controversy in Harlem. Gigi Li, CB3 chairperson, said this morning, “The Lower East Side is still waiting for answers as to what happened to Rivington House and how (the deed change) was allowed to happen… CB3 remains committed to reclaiming Rivington House for the community.”