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In Light Of New Emails, Gail Brewer Calls Rivington House Debacle "Management Failure, Pure And Simple"

New York

New emails have revealed city officials were concerned about the fate of a Lower East Side nursing home far in advance of its controversial sale to a luxury condo developer, casting further doubts on the de Blasio administration’s handling of a situation that’s since ballooned into a major debacle.

The Human Resources Administration inquired about the status of the Rivington House facility in early 2015, when it was still being run as an AIDS residence by the nonprofit VillageCare, Politico reports.

HRA official Daniel Tietze emailed VillageCare’s Emma Devito on Jan. 15, 2015, writing in part: “I was wondering where things stood with Rivington House. I know that the nursing facility has closed, but do you have a plan for the building?” It’s not clear whether Devito responded.

The following month it was sold for $28M to for-profit nursing home operator Allure, which allegedly led city officials to believe it would continue to operate the site as a care facility before selling it to Slate Property Group earlier this year for $116M.

The city paved the way for the sale by lifting a deed restriction on the property in November 2015 in exchange for a $16M fee from Allure, a move for which the de Blasio administration has been roundly criticized.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he didn’t learn of the sale until March 2016. NY state attorney general Eric Schneiderman has since blocked Allure from acquiring two other nursing facilities in the city in light of the Rivington House incident, as Bisnow previously reported.

The HRA also sat in on meetings about Rivington House as early as 2014, with one of the meetings addressing the agency’s “desire to take property for other uses without allowing for sale,” according to documents obtained by Politico. Plans to turn the building into affordable housing or to continue operating it as a nursing facility had been floated previously but ultimately went nowhere.

Manhattan borough president Gail Brewer tells Politico the facility could’ve been used by multiple city agencies to benefit the surrounding community, and that “the fact that this administration couldn’t coordinate well enough to find a use for it seems like a management failure, pure and simple.” [Politico]