Memos Show Deputy Mayor Knew About Rivington House Deal

45 Rivington St.
45 Rivington St.
45 Rivington St.

New evidence emerged over the weekend that a senior official in the de Blasio administration knew of the Rivington House deal long before the mayor’s office has previously admitted.

In November of last year, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) lifted deed restrictions on the former nursing home building. The property was then sold the luxury condo developers for $116 million.

Now the New York Times has obtained two memos that show “a top official in the de Blasio administration was apprised on the progress in removing the restrictions… in the middle of 2015 — suggesting involvement and coordination by close advisers (to de Blasio) months earlier than the administration has acknowledged.”

The first memo was written on May 5, 2015 by then DCAS Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch to Anthony Shorris, first deputy mayor. It referred to Joel Landau, a principal of the Allure Group. His company purchased the property for $28 million in February of 2015. Allure agreed to pay $16 million to remove restrictions requiring the building to be operated as a not-for-profit community health care facility. Cumberbatch stated:

“Landau seeks to remove the restrictions but intends to use the property as a for-profit nursing home… The next step is a public hearing prior to requesting a mayoral authorization document.”

The second memo, sent to Shorris in July, explained:

DCAS is proceeding to remove two use restrictions that were imposed when the Rivington House property was sold by the city in 1992. (The department) expects to have a formalized deed modification approved by the Law Department in July.

The Times also referenced a third memo written by Cumberbatch’s chief of staff, Sally Renfro, on Sept. 2, 2014. She told DCAS’s general counsel, “It looks like there is movement on the Rivington House issue.” Renfro indicated that a staff member “from DM Shorris’s office called to ask if there are any other steps required to remove the deed restriction on Rivington House…” At that time, Rivington House was owned by VillageCare, which balked at paying the $16 million fee.

Here’s why the new revelations are significant. Back in April, the mayor’s office said that Shorris didn’t know about the deal until after the sale had been completed (in February of this year). The mayor insisted he wasn’t personally aware of the situation until the story hit the mainstream media the following month. So — either the administration didn’t know what it knew or there’s a coverup.

Previously, the Wall Street Journal reported that Avi Fink, a senior de Blasio adviser, met with Allure about the deed change in December of 2014. In a separate story, the Post reported that Emma Wolfe, another top aide, was briefed on the Rivington House situation in January of 2015.

The mayor’s new press secretary, Eric Phillips, declined to address the Shorris emails when contacted by the Times. “Our responsibility to protect the integrity of ongoing reviews prevents us from commenting on this,” he said.

There are three ongoing investigations of the Rivington House matter.

One other related note. Here’s an anonymous letter we received a few days ago:

rivington house letter

Cumberbatch was reassigned to a position at NYC Health + Hospitals in January of this year. As the letter notes, she was replaced by Lisette Camilo, who played a role in the Rivington House deal in her previous assignment. We’ll be looking into these new angles in the days ahead.