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Slate Property Group Attempts Damage Control After Rivington House Mess

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45 Rivington St.
45 Rivington St.

Slate Property Group is trying to repair its image in the aftermath of the Rivington House fiasco.  The real estate firm’s co-founder, David Schwartz, sat down for an interview with the Real Deal.

Slate, China Vanke and Adam America Real Estate signed an agreement to buy the building at 45 Rivington St. for $116 million after city officials lifted deed restrictions on the longtime community facility. The purchase from the Allure Group plunged the de Blasio administration into one of its biggest controversies. The mayor said he believes Slate acted improperly and the city dumped the firm from a large project in Crown Heights.

Over the summer, a damaging email from Slate principal Martin Nussbaum was made public. Written to employees of his firm, it read, “Do not discuss this deal… The seller (Allure) is very concerned that the city and (healthcare workers) union will find out that he is in contract to sell at the price we are buying it which will directly impact his ability to have the deed restriction removed… Once he has it removed, we can do whatever we want.”

Now real estate developer is doing damage control. It hired a high-powered publicist from Rubenstein Communications, Bud Perrone, and George Arzt, a well-connected political consultant.

They’re portraying the principals as people with local roots who care about the neighborhoods in which they’re investing. In the interview, Schwartz said he had no idea the city was in the dark about their plans to convert the building to luxury condos. More from the Real Deal story:

While the (Nussbaum) email makes it clear that Slate knew Allure wanted to keep the sales price under wraps, Schwartz claimed the firm “had no reason to believe that the city was not aware and supportive” of the actual condo conversion, considering it had agreed to lift the deed restriction. “At the time, everything just seemed so normal,” Schwartz said, arguing that it is common for parties to want to keep real estate deals confidential until closing. “Nothing seemed weird other than, yeah, Allure probably didn’t want the whole world to know about it.”

Many people, of course, will dispute the notion that Slate’s founders are community-minded. Nussbaum was previously a principal of Silverstone Property Group. As the story points out, affordable housing advocates have been critical of Silverstone for pushing rent stabilized tenants out of its buildings. Some of those properties are located on the Lower East Side.

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