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Local Activists Speak Out After City Council’s Rivington House Hearing

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Community activists rallied outside City Hall before last week's oversight hearing. Photo: Jews For Racial & Economic Justice Twitter feed.
Community activists rallied outside City Hall before last week’s oversight hearing. Photo: Jews For Racial & Economic Justice Twitter feed.

The dust has more or less settled from last week’s contentious City Council hearing on the Rivington House debacle. But a local coalition, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, has more to say in the aftermath of the high profile grilling of city officials. Here’s part of a statement released by the organization yesterday (these passages have been edited):

The removal of the deed restrictions on Rivington House enabled a few to profit at the expense of the many, including those already disproportionately burdened: the poor, people of color, the disabled, people living with AIDS and the elderly – particularly older women. It was not “in the best interests of the city.” The City Council’s hearing to learn what happened with Rivington House is deeply appreciated. Without this painstaking review we would abandon people to the notion that government is rigged beyond repair. A thorough and open process is necessary to reveal the people, policy and practice relevant to the undoing of housing for 115 vulnerable residents, the threat of the loss of a skilled care nursing facility for 215 elders and/or disabled and the loss of almost 200 jobs. Though this process might be painful and embarrassing, it is far less painful and humiliating than that inflicted on those treated as disposable who relied on this facility, not only for their housing, but for their very lives. We thank those elected (officials) who continue to work until no one who is in our collective care will be treated as expendable. Council member Chin, Senator Squadron and Manhattan Borough President Brewer have stood against what can seem like the inevitable demise of Rivington House as a public good. We were heartened to hear NYC Law Department’s Zachary Carter’s commitment to use all means possible to return Rivington House. We are cognizant of his caveat “all practical means” and look forward to pushing on that front. We think if a city can use eminent domain to build two luxury stadiums in poor and a middle class communities respectively – something can be done here. We still have many unanswered questions.

30 Pike St.
30 Pike St.

The group also commented in on the mayor’s announcement that the city would build, “an affordable housing and health care facility designed to replace services lost (at Rivington House)” on a site at 30 Pike St.

We appreciate the offer… at 30 Pike. Senior affordable housing provides needed housing for those who can live independently. Nursing homes provide housing for those who cannot. These are two very different housing needs… 30 Pike would site housing for 100 seniors able to live independently (or in assisted living). It is under a bridge with constant thunderous traffic and trains. It would take many years… to create. The seniors with needs right now would not live long enough to see it. It is not lost on us that building senior affordable housing on Pike Street would provide the mayor with more units to enhance his own political credentials. This community has been an anchor for centuries of low-income housing and shelter. We welcome more housing that is truly affordable – NYC has 60,000 homeless people to house. Rivington House has 215 homes for those who need skilled nursing care. It overlooks a bucolic garden built by the neighborhood’s blood, sweat and tears and maintained for almost four decades solely by the community. It would be unconscionable to allow wealthy condo owners to swoop in to reap the rewards of a garden view in a park made beautiful and safe by the predominantly of color, poor and working and middle class community who created the garden at great personal risk. The 215 homes inside Rivington House must be returned.

Finally, Neighbors to Save Rivington House argued that the investigations must continue until the public receives a full accounting of what went wrong:

The appearance, if not the reality, of conflicts of interests necessitate full transparency. The public needs to have learned the full extent of involvement of those who appear throughout this debacle… Any entity or person who profited from deception at the expense of the taxpayer, city, local community, and residents harmed should be discouraged from attempting to profit from any other opportunities here… All have a right and an obligation to tell their side of the story to the public… Rivington House needs to be returned to its revered and historic stand as a health care facility in perpetuity as a home for people of all incomes and skilled nursing care needs.

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