On Friday, World AIDS Day, local activists held an early evening vigil at Rivington House to recall the loss of the former nursing home for AIDS patients. The longtime community facility was shuttered two years ago this month when the city lifted deed restrictions and the property was sold to luxury condo developers.
A stop work order remains in place at 45 Rivington St., although Mayor de Blasio said he sees no way to reclaim the building for the community. A local group, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, is undeterred, vowing to do everything humanly possible to prevent the condo conversion.
On Friday night, people gathered on the sidewalk, holding candles and telling stories about the former residents of Rivington House. “As a community,” said University Settlement Executive Director Melissa Aase, “we welcomed Rivington House at the height of the AIDS crisis when other communities would not. As a community, we built ties with the staff and residents and built a stronger community as a result. As more of our neighbors age in place where we desperately want them to be with us, we will need more care, not less care.”
City Council member Margaret Chin attended the vigil, telling those assembled, “I will continue to fight. I am not giving up. It’s not a done deal, and we still have hope.” During a town hall meeting over the summer, the mayor promised Chin he would try to set up a meeting with the property owners (China Vanke, Slate Property Group and Adam America Real Estate). She hopes to persuade the developers to create a new community health care facility in the building. “As long as I’m still here as the Council member,” said Chin, “we are going to fight to make sure we get this building back… (The mayor) promised to set up the meeting with the developers and I’m still holding him to that promise.”
The mayor’s World AIDS Day schedule took him to Kings Theater in Brooklyn for a commemoration and to the West Village, where a new memorial was dedicated in the shadow of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The city has vowed to eradicate AIDS by 2020.
Rivington House’s former operator, VillageCare, lobbied to drop the deed restrictions and sold the Lower East Side building, saying there was no need for the treatment facility. VillageCare participated in Friday’s ceremony at Kings Theater.
Last week, the mayor’s first deputy mayor, Anthony Shorris, announced he would not be staying on for de Blasio’s second term. Shorris, who was at the center of the Rivington House scandal that dogged the city administration during he past couple of years, said, “I made dozens of decisions a day for four years. (The lifting of deed restrictions at Rivington House) was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. We found it and we fixed it and moved on.”