The de Blasio administration is backing away from a commitment made more than a year ago to replace Rivington House with a new senior housing and health care complex at 30 Pike St.
The promise came during a City Council oversight hearing in September of 2016. As top officials were being grilled about their inexplicable decision to lift deed restrictions at the former nursing home, they announced plans for the new facility. The administration said the new project would pave “the way for the return of health care lost as a result of a mishandled deed modification at Rivington House.” The mayor committed to build at least 100 apartments at 30 Pike, a site controlled by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was supposed to go out last year, but it never materialized.
Today, the administration is backtracking, contending that the 30 Pike St. location isn’t feasible for the proposed development. This morning, Politico alluded to the city’s decision in its morning email (the full story is available only to Politico Pro subscribers):
The de Blasio administration has picked a new location to fund the senior citizen housing it promised in exchange for botching the transfer of a nursing home on the Lower East Side… The administration now plans to subsidize apartments for (100) tenants near the site of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue, a landmarked property on Norfolk Street that was demolished after being destroyed in a fire last year, sources said.
As we have previously reported, a development plan is in the works on a parcel behind Beth Hamedrash Hagadol at 50 Norfolk St. It’s owned by the Chinese American Planning Council. The new residential tower is being developed by the Gotham Organization, utilizing air rights from the synagogue. Workers have partially demolished Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, which was ravaged by fire in May of last year.
It should be noted that the project at 50 Norfolk St. was always envisioned as a senior housing complex (with some market rate housing, as well). The city’s efforts to portray the Norfolk Street proposal as a replacement for more than 200 nursing home beds at Rivington House will not be warmly received by the local community.
On Friday, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement agreement with the Allure Group, Rivington House’s former owner. Among other points, it requires the for-profit nursing home operator to open a new nursing facility on the Lower East Side. It hasn’t been announced where that new project will be located.
We’ll have more details as they become available today. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development hasn’t responded to our requests for comment about this issue in the past several days, but indicated this morning that a press release would be forthcoming today.
UPDATE 11:13 p.m. We now have the press release from the mayor’s office. The new Norfolk Street project will include 88 units of senior affordable housing. In addition, the project from the Gotham Organization will create 400 units of mixed-income housing on the parcel behind Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The complex will include a new headquarters for the Chinese American Planning Council, neighborhood retail and space for the synagogue.
The city is also announcing today that it will create 60 new skilled nursing facility beds at Gouverneur Health on Madison Street. Gouverneur is hiring 75 new staff members for the expanded facility, which is expected to be up-and-running by April.
In a statement, the mayor said, “This plan is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to the Lower East Side, the seniors who built this amazing and diverse community, and the immediacy of their needs. This neighborhood must be made whole for a broken City process that resulted in the sale of a critical health care facility.”
As we pointed out this morning, the new units on Norfolk Street were already in the works. The commitment for new nursing home beds at Gouverneur is new, but the administration is not delivering on the 100 units of senior housing promised on Pike Street.
Today’s press release included the following statement from City Council member Margaret Chin:
After years of shrinking affordable housing and healthcare options for our seniors, we are finally beginning to turn the tide. This plan is an important part of our efforts to allow elderly New Yorkers the ability to grow old in a caring, safe place in the neighborhoods they call home. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Shorris and HPD for following through on their commitment to increase the availability of healthcare and affordable housing for seniors in desperate need.
Tomorrow evening, the developers will outline their plans for the Norfolk Street site at a meeting of Community Board 3 (6:30 p.m./184 Eldridge St.) There will be a 10 story building perched above what’s left of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and a 30-story tower on the parcel behind the synagogue. A total of 488 units will be included in the two buildings. In addition to the 88 senior units, there will be 100 permanently affordable apartments.
The project will go through ULURP, the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which includes advisory roles for the community board and borough president. The ULURP must be approved by the City Council.