Mayor’s Office is Forced to Turn Over Rivington House Docs It Covered Up

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

Under the threat of a lawsuit, the de Blasio administration has been forced to reveal documents it tried to cover up in the Rivington House investigation.

The city’s Department of Investigation last week advised Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter that it would sue, if necessary, for access to censored documents. Carter relented, turning over unredacted versions of the documents and granting access to the mayor’s computer system.

The Department of Investigation has already released its damaging report on the Rivington House scandal. It showed that many top ranking officials knew that the Lower East Side nursing home was in danger of falling into the hands of luxury condo developers, but failed to do anything about it.

The new revelations have been widely reported in the past 12 hours. Here’s more from the Daily News:

Carter specifically held back an internal memo describing in detail the city’s analysis of the pros and cons of the sale of a Lower East Side nursing home on Rivington St., according to DOI’s letter to Carter. The critical memo was attached to a July 23, 2014, email from a lower level official in the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to DCAS Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch. The document revealed early on the possibility that the nursing home could be sold for condos, including a reference to briefing First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris about the deal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, officials with the Department of Investigation declined to say whether they’ll issue an addendum to the original July 14 report. The mayor and his team are shrugging off the latest revelations:

The Law Department referred a request for comment to the mayor’s office, where a spokesman said that the department had now provided records beyond the administration’s legal obligation and “far beyond any useful scope” of the investigation. “With DOI finding no criminal wrongdoing, our attention remains focused on the series of reforms the mayor has launched to ensure a case like Rivington can never happen again,” the spokesman said. At a news conference on Monday, Mr. de Blasio said tension between the Law Department the Department of Investigation was “totally normal.”

This morning, the mayor reacted again, this time even more forcefully. The New York Post reported:

Mayor de Blasio blew off the Lower East Side nursing home scandal, sarcastically quipping Wednesday that scrutiny of the controversial land deal is “probably bigger than Watergate.” … “It’s ridiculous,” he added. “This is so overheated and so off the mark.” … “We’re very, very clear about the fact that in everything we’ve done we put the public interest first,” de Blasio said at a forum at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia sponsored by Politico. At least one critic has called for Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter to resign as a result of the cover-up. But the mayor defended Carter and backed up his decision. “I have tremendous respect for him,” de Blasio said of Carter. “He made a set of decisions [on] what was the right way to handle that. And I thought he was right. I didn’t get into the weeds of it. But I thought his essential approach was right.”

The Department of Investigation is headed by de Blasio pal Mark Peters, who was previously the mayor’s campaign treasurer. He recused himself from the Rivington House investigation. In an editorial today, the Daily News said that Peters is “growing a backbone.” Here’s part of that editorial:

The stonewall erected by Mayor de Blasio to impede a probe into how the city helped a developer make a $100 million real-estate killing has cracked. De Blasio was happy to have the Department of Investigation look into the complex transaction as long as the agency, headed by his former campaign treasurer, focused on functionaries out in the netherlands of the bureaucracy. But when DOI followed the trail to the mayor and top aides, de Blasio took the stunning and unprecedented step of denying investigators access to City Hall records and computers… DOI chief Peters has stepped aside from probes involving de Blasio’s fundraising. Here, he empowerd staff to vindicate the agency’s authority and stood up for the public interest.

The state attorney general and city comptroller are also investigating the Rivington House matter.