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Squadron’s “Rivington Act” Legislation Torpedoed by Senate Health Committee

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Sen. Squadron at Rivington House in the spring of 2016.
Sen. Squadron at Rivington House in the spring of 2016.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron did not get very far yesterday with his proposal to prevent Rivington House-like disasters from striking other communities. The Republican head of the Senate Health committee rejected, at least for now, his legislation to make nursing home closures more transparent.

Squadron first announced his “Rivington Act” last September. At the time, he said the legislation would require the State Department of Health to “ensure local community needs can adequately be met before approving any closure.” The bill would require the state to produce a public closure report, to reject any closure plan if community health needs cannot be met and to consider recommendations from local stakeholders. Rivington House was, of course, sold to luxury condo developers after the de Blasio administration lifted deed restrictions.

In a very brief hearing yesterday, Sen. Kemp Hannon, chair of the health committee, said of the bill, “I don’t think it’s anywhere near shape to possibly become law… I would recommend a ‘no vote,’ but if Senator Squadron is going to pursue (the legislation), and he’s not a shy one about pursuing, you may see this bill again.” Hannon did not spell out any of his specific concerns. The committee voted down the measure 11-5.

In a statement after the hearing, Squadron said:

The Rivington Act helps ensure community voice and community health, but today the Health Committee chose to disregard both… (The legislation) is based on a simple concept — communities should have a voice in healthcare in the community. That didn’t happen at Rivington House, and unfortunately, was blocked by the Senate Majority today. The Chair committed to taking up this issue this session — I stand ready to work with him on his concerns and ensure Senate action this year.

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, who has partnered with Squadron to push the bill, said,

It is appalling that Republicans in the Senate Health Committee put partisan politics ahead of transparency and the need for local community involvement when considering the closure of nursing homes… As the main Assembly sponsor for the Rivington Act, I vow to continue pushing to shed light around nursing home closures and work to ensure that community input is incorporated into this important decision making process. Communities across New York State were short-changed by the Senate committee’s decision today to postpone a decision on this bill, particularly the Lower East Side in my district, but I encourage everyone to stay involved and continue pushing for the Rivington Act.

Meliisa Aase, executive director of University Settlement, added:

It is important for New Yorkers to learn every possible lesson from the devastating loss of Rivington House… In our community there is now only one skilled, residential nursing facilities left, with a five year waiting list.  Had the impending deed restriction removals, evacuation of patients, and sale of Rivington House for luxury housing development been transparent to our community, we would have clearly raised our voices in opposition and demonstrated the dire need for the full and affordable continuum of care for the elderly, ill, or disabled members of our community.  We won’t stop fighting for the return of Rivington House, and in the meantime we are grateful to Senator Squadron and Assembly Member Niou for their tireless pursuit of remedies and protections for the future.

Aase is one of the leaders of a local coalition, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, which has been pushing for the return of the health care facility to the Lower East Side community. Mayor de Blasio has said there is no legal means of making that happen. Sen. Squadron has challenged the mayor to explain more fully why the city could not pursue legal action against the former or current owners of the building.

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