The Department of Buildings DOB) last month gave Slate Property Group the go-ahead to proceed with its luxury condo conversion at Rivington House. But local activists (Neighbors to Save Rivington House) have not given up their campaign to block the transformation of the former Lower East Side nursing home.
Earlier this week, they got a boost from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Margaret Chin. The elected officials Monday sent a letter to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, urging her to put a hold on any DOB permits at 45 Rivington St. Here’s part of that letter:
As has been stated numerous times by our offices, the loss of a skilled nursing home facility at this site has been a devastating blow to our constituents, and we remain deeply concerned about a flawed City process that has paved the way for the closure, sale, and now potential conversion of this building into luxury condos. As the elected representatives of the community, we demand a clear and transparent process for the future of this site.
During a town hall meeting in June of last year, de Blasio reluctantly agreed to set up a meeting between the new owners and concerned members of the community about potentially creating a new community facility in the building. The mayor has repeatedly called his administration’s decision to lift deed restrictions at Rivington House a mistake, but has contended there’s no legal way to take the building back from private owners. Brewer and Chin wrote:
Eight months have passed since that promise (of a meeting), and the property owner has been granted the ability to conduct structural probes and tests, and has filed plans with the DOB to convert the building; however there has been no meeting with the public about the future of the site. This is especially disheartening since we have yet to see a replacement-in-kind of nursing beds or the full allocation of the proceeds from the sale price to the community. Our offices are moving forward to schedule this meeting, and urge you to join us.
The administration has claimed that a proposed senior housing project on Norfolk Street and a new nursing wing at Gouverneur Health help make up for the loss of Rivington House’s 219 nursing home beds. But as we have previously reported, those projects were in-the-works long before the Rivington House scandal broke. The city pocketed $16 million from the former property owner, the Allure Group, in exchange for dropping the deed restrictions.
The elected officials made the case to Glen that the historic former school building is ill-suited for a condominium conversion:
…we remain convinced that the proposed use is inappropriate for the site. The existing building was built as a school at the turn of the twentieth century, and predates the existing zoning regulations. As such, the site was never contemplated for permanent residential use. Additionally, the Lower East Side rezoning (080397(A) ZMM) adopted in 2008 explicitly reinforces the built context. While the rezoning does allows for conversions, they cannot create new non-compliances. We lack confidence that the developer will comply with this rule; in general, we believe the conversion rules unreasonably burden local infrastructure and day-to-day services such as on-site garbage collection.
Slate filed DOB applications for the condo conversion on Feb. 9. A Buildings Department spokesperson told The Lo-Down last month that the applications will go through the agency’s plan exam process, where they will be reviewed for compliance with the city’s construction codes and zoning regulations. The work permit was rejected Feb. 15 because drawings were incomplete.