A not-for-profit group, MFY Legal Services, has filed a lawsuit to obtain information from the State Health Department about the closure of Rivington House and of another nursing home in Brooklyn.
State regulations require nursing home operators to notify the health department and to file a closure report 90 days in advance of shutting the doors of any facility. That didn’t happen after the Allure Group sold the former Lower East Side nursing home to luxury condo developers.
The legal aid organization filed a Freedom of Information Law Request (FOIL) with the state more than a year ago for the closure report and related documents. The request and an appeal were denied. MFY says in a press release out today that the health department stalled for seven months.
“The review process for nursing home closures is supposed to protect vulnerable residents, but the Allure Group emptied its facilities quietly before flipping the properties to luxury developers,” said Daniel A. Ross, a staff attorney at MFY. “We want to find out why the DOH provided so little oversight.”
“We requested these documents to hold the DOH accountable for enforcing its own regulations and protecting the rights of nursing home residents,” said Kevin M. Cremin, Director of Litigation for Disability and Aging Rights at MFY. “What does the DOH have to hide?”
“Closing Rivington House had a disastrous impact on vulnerable, disabled, poor and long-time residents of color, their families, and loved ones,” said K Webster of the local advocacy group, Neighbors to Save Rivington House.“When the community first learned the site’s stewards wanted to sell it for profit, the community fought back to ensure it was kept for the people who needed it most. We are still waiting for answers as to how our state and city governments allowed this to happen on their watch.”
Mayor de Blasio has said nothing can be done to reverse a decision made by his administration to lift deed restrictions at Rivington House, which cleared the way for the luxury condo conversion. The health department has said it was not notified before the Lower East Side center closed. A closure report was approved after the fact, in February of last year.
UPDATE 5/10/2017 Here’s a statement from the Department of Health:
One of our most important priorities is ensuring that vulnerable New Yorkers have access to the vital services they need. As with all facilities we license, the department works to ensure strict oversight and quality of care at these facilities. The Department of Health plays no role in approving the transfer of real estate and does not comment on pending litigation.