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Report: State Ethics Panel Still Investigating Mayor’s Rivington House Role

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Mayor de Blasio on the Lower East Side, May 2016.
Mayor de Blasio on the Lower East Side, May 2016.

The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is apparently continuing to investigate Mayor de Blasio’s campaign finance practices, including certain aspects of the Rivington House affair.

In a story published yesterday, the Times Union reported that JCOPE is still looking into donations to the mayor’s shuttered non-profit, Campaign For One New York. Here’s more from the article:

JCOPE investigators are asking about a Sept. 28, 2015, event at City Hall restaurant in Manhattan that de Blasio attended. JCOPE is seeking information concerning discussions at the event about Rivington House, a Manhattan nursing home for people with AIDS that was sold in 2015 to a luxury condo developer after an unusual city decision to lift a deed restriction… JCOPE investigators also want information about how the mayor’s event came to be known by attendees, donors’ discussions with de Blasio about their giving to his lobbying nonprofit, and the motivations for those donations.

News stories during the past few years have highlighted the role of lobbyist James Capalino in the Rivington House transactions. Capalino represented VillageCare, Rivington House’s former owner, until October of 2014. The deed restrictions weren’t lifted until November of 2015. Capalino was a high-profile de Blasio fundraiser. JCOPE initially suspected that the mayor’s non-profit might not have reported all lobbying activity.

Last year, federal prosecutors declined to prosecute the mayor, after a lengthy investigation of his fundraising activities. The Times Union article points out that JCOPE is heavily influenced by the governor, the mayor’s top nemesis.

A spokesperson for Capalino, James Yolles, said in a statement, “It’s no secret that Jim was a supporter of Campaign for One New York’s agenda, and we are completely confident that his activities were in compliance with law.” We spoke with Capalino in 2016 about his involvement with Rivington House.

The new owners of the Rivington House building are proceeding with their luxury condo conversion. The mayor has said the deed restrictions should never have been lifted, but argued that the city has no legal means of seizing the former community facility from private developers.

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