The other day we mentioned a “fact check” in City Limits which examined several claims from a campaign flyer distributed by a group called “Lower East Siders for Christopher Marte.” Today we’re taking a closer look at one of those claims.
The organization falsely states in the flyer that, City Council member Margaret Chin, “refused to halt the sale of Rivington House, displacing AIDS patients in favor of luxury condos.”
As City Limits points out:
It was the De Blasio administration that permitted the sale of Rivington House to a condo developer, not Chin.
The story then cites our coverage of Rivington House:
The Lo-Down reports that during (2015)—when (the) Allure Group was duping the public—Chin played a large role “in efforts to keep the facility open under the ownership of a new nursing home operator.” Lower East Siders for Christopher Marte argues Chin should have used her influence to prevent the nonprofit from selling to Allure to begin with—but no one knew, at the time, that Allure would completely betray its word, and it was a private transaction, so she would have had limited control to begin with.
Let’s review a bit more closely what’s actually in the public record.
July 2014: Rivington House owner VillageCare announced plans to close Rivington House.
August 2014: Council member Chin said she had begun conversations with VillageCare about the future of the building. Chin said she was opposed to any luxury redevelopment plan.
October 2014: Council member Chin said she was working to make sure Rivington House remained a skilled nursing facility. She had been made aware that deed changes would be necessary in order to permit the Allure Group to operate the facility as a for-profit nursing home.
February 2015: The Allure Group took over the facility.
June 2015: A public hearing was held to lift all deed restrictions, freeing the Allure Group of any obligation to operate the building as a community healthcare facility. Neither the City Council nor Community Board 3 was advised of the public hearing. Five months later, Allure paid the city $16 million and the deed restrictions were lifted.
December 2015: The Lo-Down reported exclusively that the deed restrictions were no longer in place and that neighbors had heard from Slate Property Group, which was planning a luxury conversion of the nursing home. Margaret Chin later said that this was the first time she heard about the deed change.
February 2016: News broke that Rivington House had been sold for $116 million. It later became known that the contract between Allure and Slate had been signed in May of 2015.
March 2016: NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer launched an investigation of the Rivington House matter, igniting one of the biggest scandals of the de Blasio administration.
So what’s the bottom line? It’s clear that elected officials on the Lower East Side, Margaret Chin among them, were in the dark about the deed changes until it was too late. She was well aware, however, that deed changes would eventually be required to allow Allure, a for-profit company to operate Rivington House in the long term. Lots of people, including the Council member, likely wish they’d asked more questions starting in mid-2015 about how those deed changes would be handled. But there’s a big difference between saying that, perhaps, more questions should have been asked of city agencies and blaming the local Council member for something that was purposely concealed from her.
The local organization fighting for the return of Rivington House, issued a statement the other day. The missive from Neighbors to Save Rivington House, read, in part, “It has been both egregious and infuriating that both of the men running against Margaret Chin (Marte and Aaron Foldenauer) have used the eviction of people living with AIDS and the taking of Rivington House from the neighborhood to opportunistically and falsely target the Councilwoman as the cause of its demise.”
[It should be noted that one of the primary leaders of Neighbors to Save Rivington House, K Webster, is a strong Margaret Chin supporter.]
At a June town hall meeting on the Lower East Side, Council member Chin asked Mayor de Blasio to set up a meeting with China Vanke, one of the owners of the Rivington House building. “Maybe you can invite the people who purchased that building,” she suggested, “(to) come in and talk with us and see if we can build a model, 21st Century nursing facility for our seniors, with special needs.”
There has been no word from the administration about that meeting. Neighbors to Save Rivington House has started a postcard campaign, urging the mayor to “call the meeting.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Marte has questioned Council member Chin’s decision to endorse the mayor in December of 2016, when so many questions remained about his bungling of the Rivington House matter. He has, however, disavowed the flyer from Lower East Siders for Christopher Marte, saying it “doesn’t accurately represent his views.”