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Rivington House Vigil Set For Aug. 8

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The local organization, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, is planning a vigil — “Hands Around Our House” — for Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Developers are moving forward with their own plans to turn the former nursing home into luxury condos. In the end, no one in city government or the private sector paid a real price for lifting deed restrictions on the former public school building (except for the Lower East Side community, of course).

Here’s part of the press release put out by Neighbors to Save Rivington House:

On Wednesday, August 8th from 4-7 p.m., Neighbors to Save Rivington House, along with many supporting community organizations, elected officials and individuals, will take action to demand the return of Rivington House, a 219-bed skilled nursing facility, at 45 Rivington St.  Neighbors and community leaders will join on August 8th to physically surround the building in a solemn direct action intended to send a message of resolve and community unity in demanding the return of the building.  The action will also remind the community of our desperate need for skilled nursing beds throughout the neighborhood. This is a call for all of us to double down on our commitment to weaving a safety net for all vulnerable neighbors and family members in our community.

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And here are some additional thoughts from K Webster, a leading member of the local advocacy group

Some wonder why after 3 1/2 years of trench warfare we don’t give up on Rivington House. We’ve heard this from many worldly-wise people: “Rivington House is a lost cause.”

As if we don’t live in the world. As if we don’t notice the daily insult of monstrous acts that happen with what looks like impunity.

Well, we do live in this world and have seen plenty of shitty things.

In my corner of it, my local park, I’ve held a nineteen year old in my lap as he faded from this life, murdered in a fight. I watch homeless men, good men who often help out here, be discounted, reviled or treated like they should be eradicated from this world. I cared for my mom, a brilliant working class Irishwoman who knew countless poems by heart, as her mind slowly eroded from Alzheimers disease. I heard the last residents of Rivington House say farewell to the M’Finda Garden with wheelchairs, crutches or canes saying their respectful goodbye: “We are really going to miss this place”. They were mostly poor, of color, ill, and broken, and supremely human people who were welcomed into this neighborhood, despite the still rampant terror of AIDS/HIV.

Each of us has our own list of people we love and all of us have noticed the people we pass on the street who are simply trying to stay alive in this imperfect world. We see them as they suffer needlessly while we feel (and often are) helpless to shift it.

I’ll say this, even though it’s blasphemous in a struggle: This fight for Rivington House isn’t the most important fight right now.

But. It is a chance to decide not to walk by here where we live and do nothing.

In a “hopeless” fight we are offered resignation or compromise or to “look away” or to focus solely on our own close circle of ‘needs’ or ‘people’ or to make money off of it. I’m not sure which is more soul destroying.

But if we pay attention and we don’t give in to those feelings, sometimes things can happen. They may not seem big, but they are.

Tenement Museum staffers come every week to clean a feces-riddled section of Sara Roosevelt Park. It’s a hopeless task (60+ homeless guests every night and no bathroom from Grand Street to Houston). This month, one of the men saw the staffers working (right after he had used a plot for a toilet). But this time, he came back and cleaned it up. Victory. For him, for us.

A man who helped rescue this park from drug dealers and pimps when it was abandoned by the city who should have been in Rivington House these past 3 years. After his wife passed, he was beset by Alzheimers (sometimes we just can’t bear to remember?). His network of friends and an extraordinary caregiver helped him hang on in his apartment until people and money wore out. To save his life he was sent to the only available nursing home bed – in Coney Island. Where, given no easy way for loved ones to get to him, he would die slowly of loneliness. But a chance conversation with a kind neighbor who just got a job at New East Side Nursing Home and we learned there was a bed! He is there now, closer to his neighborhood, being cared for brilliantly by their staff. Victory. For him, for us.

Seeing people in trouble, as vital institutional safety nets crumble, weighs on us even if we can’t bear to notice them given our own daily grinds and preoccupations.

This is how we are made to feel complicit and helpless in the damage being done in our name to the most helpless.

As family, friends and neighbors maybe all we have is our determination to care.

We are a small force in the midst of a lot of irrational momentum and it will take time to turn things, to slow things and change direction. But…

You can’t always stop mistreatment, but you can always oppose it.

You can’t always stop losing, but you can always not accept it as permanent.

And sometimes, when we act, we win a few.

Come join us on August 8th. Walk over, write your own message of resistance and care to your loved ones. If for no other reason, than that you get to say out loud that you refuse to be quietly complicit in yourown community.

We intend to triumph, but no matter what happens we will be alive in our opposition.


Photo by Lee Brozgol.
Photo by Lee Brozgol.
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