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Why Keep Fighting for the Return of Rivington House? Local Activists Have An Answer

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Here’s an anniversary no one on the Lower East Side is celebrating. It was one year ago today, Feb. 11, 2016, that the Slate Property Group acquired Rivington House, the former nursing home for AIDS patients.

As we noted yesterday, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, a local advocacy group, is planning two public forums to discuss the future of the community facility. The building, stripped of its deed protections by the city administration, still appears destined to become luxury condos.

Today the organization is sharing more thoughts about the long-term fate of the property. The mayor has said he does not believe the city can successfully sue Slate and its co-owners or the Allure Group (the previous property owner). This means prospects of reversing the sale seem bleak. So there’s one obvious question: Is it really realistic to hold out hope that Rivington House can be returned to the community? Here’s what the group has to say about that:

Our position is and has always been that the building must be returned to the public. It’s been one year today… that Allure finalized its agreement with (new owners) China Vanke, Adam America and Slate. It’s been two years plus (November 19, 2015 and December 1, 2015) since the community warned that something was happening to Rivington House. Warnings that went unheeded. It’s been three years since VillageCare sold Rivington House to Allure… with the clear understanding between Allure and the Community Board, and neighborhood, that it was to remain a health care facility. (Lobbyist James Capalino first tried to have the deed restrictions removed on behalf of VillageCare from 2013-2014).

We decided there was something we could do. We could say no. We’d seen our Rivington House neighbors evicted and dedicated staff lose their jobs and the ‘home’ they had built together. With the dedicated smarts and persistence of The Lo-Down and with the diligence of the wider press – it didn’t go away. The building still has a stop-work order on it. Five investigations were/are underway.

We’ve helped other community groups pressure the city not to use Slate on any city deals. We’ve instigated the tightening of deed restriction removals city-wide. We have received a commitment for a long-sought affordable housing site on Pike Street. We have applauded the efforts of the Attorney General to prevent Allure from buying two nursing homes that would have fallen to them. We have shined a light on the plight of nursing homes and their residents and their families city-wide. We have supported our local elected officials — City Council member Margaret Chin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Sen. Daniel Squadron — to fight for its return. We have pushed for greater transparency in decision-making, built a remarkable coalition around care-giving in our neighborhood and beyond and and helped re-inspire and galvanize community groups to fight for their own neighborhood resources. And more.

So it has been good and important – so far. You never know what can happen, including the ill-gotten real estate being returned voluntarily to the community as a goodwill gesture and recognition that there really are some things that are more important in life than excessive profit at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.

This resistance and the history of resistance in these neighborhoods has been their hallmark. The country is now resisting destructive policies put forth by those who would place quick profit and divisive irrational decisions above the common good. We expect more people will be joining this and other human-centered efforts. So yes, we continue to organize for Rivington House’s return and have faith in the power of people to collectively win the building back.

The first forum will be held Sunday, March 12, 2-4 p.m. at University settlement. You can read more details here.


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