The SDR Coalition partnered with Rivington House for decades. We continue to think of it – its former staff and former residents – as our Coalition partners.
This covers the hearing, the offer of 30 Pike Street and a brief post investigations wish list. More comprehensive reform wish list to follow.
Neighbors to Save Rivington House
City Council Hearing:
The removal of the deed restrictions on Rivington House enabled a few to profit at the expense of the many, including those already disproportionately burdened: the poor, people of color, the disabled, people living with AIDS and the elderly -particularly older women.
It was not “in the best interests of the city”.
The City Council’s hearing to learn what happened with Rivington House is deeply appreciated. Without this painstaking review we would abandon people to the notion that government is rigged beyond repair.
A thorough and open process is necessary to reveal the people, policy and practice relevant to the undoing of housing for 115 vulnerable residents, the threat of the loss of a skilled care nursing facility for 215 elders and/or disabled and the loss of almost 200 jobs.
Though this process might be painful and embarrassing, it is far less painful and humiliating than that inflicted on those treated as disposable who relied on this facility, not only for their housing, but for their very lives.
We thank those electeds who continue to work until no one who is in our collective care will be treated as expendable. CM Chin, Senator Squadron and MBP Brewer have stood against what can seem like the inevitable demise of Rivington House as a public good.
We were heartened to hear NYC Law Department’s Zachary Carter’s commitment to use all means possible to return Rivington House. We are cognizant of his caveat “all practical means” and look forward to pushing on that front. We think if a city can use eminent domain to build two luxury stadiums in a poor and a middle class community respectively – something can be done here.
We still have many unanswered questions.
Offer of Pike Street:
We appreciate the offer of “affordable senior housing and a health care facility” at 30 Pike. Senior affordable housing provides needed housing for those who can live independently. Nursing homes provide housing for those who cannot.
These are two very different housing needs.
Nursing Homes: There are diseases and conditions that simply don’t allow one to live “independently”, alone, or even with caring family. We need nursing homes that are good places to live, near loved ones, for those who must have them.
Any of us could become disabled – whether temporarily or permanently – and in need of skilled nursing care. Nursing homes fill that need, especially as hospitals downsize and patients are moved out quickly to make room for those with more urgent needs.
Affordable senior housing: Aging in place is an excellent option and should be fully resourced. Many here cannot continue to live in situ due inaccessible housing (wheelchair/walkers in walk-ups, hospital beds/equipment that won’t fit in tiny apartments, etc). There need to be enough trained and vetted aides and funding to make it work in reality.
30 Pike is not comparable to Rivington House.
30 Pike would site housing for 100 seniors able to live independently (and/or in assisted living?). It is under a bridge with constant thunderous traffic and trains. It would take many years of a ULURP process to create. The seniors with need right now would not live long enough to see it.
It is not lost on us that building senior affordable housing on Pike Street would provide the mayor with more units to enhance his own political credentials.
This community has been an anchor for centuries of low-income housing and shelter. We welcome more housing that is truly affordable – NYC has 60,000 homeless people to house.
Rivington House has 215 homes for those who need skilled nursing care. It overlooks a bucolic garden built by the neighborhood’s blood, sweat and tears and maintained for almost four decades solely by the community. It would be unconscionable to allow wealthy condo owners to swoop in to reap the rewards of a garden view in a park made beautiful and safe by the predominantly of color, poor and working and middle class community who created the garden at great personal risk.
The 215 homes inside Rivington House must be returned.
After All The Investigations Are Over:
The appearance, if not the reality, of conflicts of interests necessitate full transparency.
The public needs to have learned the full extent of involvement of those who appear throughout this debacle. NYState DOH, the relevant ombudsman, the industry heavy Public Health and Health Planning Council, The Allure Group owners and staff, the Mayor and his administrators, relevant 1199 staff, VillageCare, lobbyists, all relevant real estate entities (Slate, China Vanke, Adam America, etc), the former and current staff of RH, the former residents, current and former DCAS staff, etc.
Any entity or person who profited from deception at the expense of the taxpayer, city, local community, and residents harmed should be discouraged from attempting to profit from any other opportunities here….“fool me once…?”
All have a right and an obligation to tell their side of the story to the public.
The continued monitoring presence of US Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara NYS Attorney General Schneiderman, NYC DOI and the Comptroller. With safeguards instituted on all levels to fully protect all those who require full-time skilled care facilities.
Rivington House needs to be returned to its revered and historic stand as a health care facility in perpetuity as a home for people of all incomes and skilled nursing care needs.
Neighbors to Save Rivington House
Twitter #CareNotCondos #RivingtonHouse
Testimony for the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations and Committee on Oversight and Investigations
The Lifting of the Rivington House Deed Restrictions
September 29, 2016
– and Press Conference organized by NY Communities for Change:
James Rodriquez GOLES for Press Conference:
Since last spring, we at GOLES, us from Neighbors to Save Rivington House, Community Board 3, and residents across the Lower East Side have consistently said one thing: Return Rivington House. But that call has gone unanswered by this administration. Investigations into the deed restriction scandal, and efforts to reform that process are necessary, but not enough. This community has already suffered the loss of healthcare facilities with the closure of Bialystoker Nursing Home in 2011, the Cabrini Center in 2012, and Mt. Sinai Beth Israel’s upcoming downsizing — leaving our most vulnerable residents — literally our aged, our sick, our differently abled — without adequate access to healthcare. The loss of Rivington House is one we can’t abide, and especially not for the alternative of luxury condos. Luxury condos where for decades, New Yorkers received care for HIV/AIDS, and from where over 100 residents in need of care were displaced. Luxury condos where right across the street, people sleep on park benches because the city is in a homelessness crisis without an adequate shelter system. Luxury condos in a working class neighborhood where people are already in need of housing they can afford –not “affordable housing” — but housing they can actually afford. This is what it looks like when developers are allowed to profit from public land, and more and more, from working class communities of color across the city. Rivington House is a healthcare issue, a housing issue, a racial justice issue. This is what the tale of two cities looks like. This is what gentrification looks like. Elected officials throughout this administration have called this transaction a mistake. But refusal to correct that mistake makes you complicit. We call on this administration, on City Council, on the mayor, to right this wrong the only way it can be: Return Rivington House.
Kevin Tobar Pesantez, Senior Housing AdvocateUniversity Settlement House:
Good morning, my name is Kevin Tobar Pesantez. I’m a Senior Housing Advocate at University Settlement. We are America’s first social settlement house and have been across the street from Rivington House since 1899.
For over 130 years, University Settlement has joined with our neighbors in the never ending fight for social and economic justice. The Lower East Side didn’t become a destination neighborhood overnight; we built this neighborhood. Community activists reclaimed our streets and parks; renovated and repaired tenement buildings; created new affordable and supportive housing; and we continue to invest resources in a robust social service and education network.
Today, we stand with our neighbors and say that the Mayor’s response to the Rivington House scandal is not good enough. We demand that Rivington House be returned to the Lower East Side community with deed restrictions that protect the uses for the most vulnerable of our community.
What do we think of the City’s promised investment of $16 million? Too little.
It cost New York City tax payers $70 million dollars to renovate Rivington House into a functional and compliant nursing home. Will they be reimbursed for this loss? Additionally, the deed restriction fee should have been $29 million, not $16 million, based on the price Allure paid for Rivington House. Will the City make up the difference? Even with this amount we would not regain all that New Yorkers have lost.
What do we think of the City’s efforts to change the deed process? Too late.
First Bialystoker and Cabrini nursing homes were closed. With the possible loss of Rivington House, our community would lose another150,000 square feet of community-benefit skilled nursing home space. Where is the City’s concrete, detailed plan to replace Rivington House if it isn’t restored to the neighborhood?
The City needs to do much more than make a few promises and hope that we go away.
Here are the facts. The Lower East Side is ranked the third highest gentrifying district in New York City. But there are still deep, chronic needs in our neighborhood. The Furman Center ranked the Lower East Side as one of the neighborhoods with the highest gap between lower income and higher income residents. Nearly one out of three seniors in the Lower East Side lives in poverty. Over 70% of seniors in the neighborhood are foreign born – one of the highest rates in NYC. University Settlement knows these seniors – we serve over 2,000 people, ages 60 to 106, each year. We work with them through every cycle of life, including when it is time for long-term nursing care assistance in their own neighborhood.
The City’s needs to step up and seriously discuss returning Rivington House to the Lower East Side. It’s fair, it’s right, and it’s necessary. We need and deserve better than promises and excuses. Thank you for your time.
Tessa Huxley President of a Limited Equity Cooperative near Rivington House and member of Neighbors to Save Rivington House
I have lived in the neighborhood since 1971 and on Forsyth Street since 1981. I am the President of a Limited Equity Cooperative near to Rivington House. I am also a member of the Neighbors to Save Rivington House. I am here today to tell you a story about a serious, significant and permanent commitment made by the City of New York to me, to my neighbors, and to the Lower East Side community in general. That commitment was broken. Today we are asking for that commitment to be honored and for the situation to be remedied. We want Rivington House back in operation serving our neighbors who desperately need its services. Rivington House was permanent affordable housing which Mayor DeBlasio has repeatedly said is a major priority of his administration. It appears that we have been repeatedly ignored and lied to. We do not accept this situation.
In the early 1990’s, when AIDS was an epidemic without any obvious positive outcomes our community was asked to approve the reinvention of our school on Rivington Street between Eldridge and Forsyth Streets as a nursing home for AIDS patients. While many communities were uncomfortable with the idea of an AIDS facility in their area, we welcomed the Village Nursing Home and its quest for a place to create Rivington House. We were promised that the building would remain a community medical facility forever, even if the need for an AIDS facility was eliminated. That promise was memorialized in the form of a New York City deed restriction, which, we were told, was permanent. The community garden that used to exist where the current loading dock was eventually built voluntarily chose not to fight for its survival because we believed, that this community ought to be welcoming and supportive of such an important community resource and that a permanent facility of this type was critical.
In early December of 2015 I received a call from a man named Jay Henges, an employee of Slate Construction. He called to inform me that Slate would be starting construction on Rivington House and that Slate wanted to meet with our cooperative beforehand. I told Mr. Chenges that this could not be possible since the property had a deed restriction that would not allow a luxury condominium to take over Rivington House. I immediately called Community Board #3 and was told that they were trying to find out what was going on and that they would be sending a resolution to Mayor DeBlasio asking for his assistance in preserving the facility for the community. I then wrote a letter on behalf of my cooperative to Tommy Lin, the Mayor’s Director of Constituent Services (dated December 14th). There was no response. I wrote another letter to Mr. Lin (On March 31st, 2016) and again had no response. I spoke directly to the Mayor via the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC; he tried to evade my question which was about how we were going to get Rivington House back for the community by discussing how he was going to make sure that the deed restriction removal process was reformed. Mr. Lehrer pointed out that I had asked a particular question and he had not answered it. At that point Mayor DeBlasio said he did not have an answer YET but that his staff was working on it and he would get back to the community. After the show was over, Mr Lehrer’s staff called me to ask if they could give my telephone number to the Mayor’s staff; that they said they wanted to follow up. I was delighted. I am still waiting for that follow up call, I am still waiting for the Mayor DeBlasio’s Director of Constituent Service to respond.
Communities are strongest and most vibrant when they are a mix of incomes, religions, races, etc. The Lower East Side is being overwhelmed by high rise, market rate apartments. We need the Mayor and the City Council to take the lead in the effort/the fight to bring Rivington House back to our community, to the public for whom it was created and to whom it belongs. We want our neighbors back!
K Webster member of Neighbors to Save Rivington House and President of the Sara Roosevelt Park Community Coalition.
Last night we celebrated a neighbor’s exhibit. Council Member Chin wrote a Proclamation for him. But he losing ground to Alzheimer’s disease and should be a resident of Rivington House – and would be – if it had been protected, as was intended in perpetuity, as a health care facility.
The final days of Rivington House as a skilled nursing home for people with AIDS I saw the last five residents reluctantly end their visit to the Park’s quiet turtle pond. They didn’t want to leave.
Bob who has worked in the park as a volunteer since 1980 said: “I have given my life to remove drug dealers and pimps to make this park a good place for children. I thought that when I could no longer give back – I would be in Rivington House looking out the window at my life’s work.”
Those whose home it was, those in need of skilled care now or in the future, families with loved ones who need care, health care workers who lost their jobs (almost 200 of them) are the only ones who have felt the consequences of this mess.
For the evicted this has been a nightmare – losing home, caregivers and sometimes their health. For those who need care and for those who are trying to provide it that nightmare is just beginning. There are eleven neighbors and friends, two caregivers and a senior center trying to keep one elder safe until we find him a nursing home bed.
All for the profit of a few.
Those of us who refuse to give up on Rivington House have been treated to stonewalling, pity, dismissal, insults, callousness and sarcasm by this administration for our, admittedly, dogged and angry fight.
I personally spoke to Tommy Lin the mayor’s official liaison on December 1, 2015 and emailed him later that evening with my warning about Rivington House. I didn’t have $50,000 to offer a campaign. I had only the representative I was afforded by this administration.
And I spoke at length to the new operator of the supposed nursing home The Allure Group set up. He could not figure out how to instate long-term care contracts – and didn’t seem to want help getting them. Rehab patients are much easier to empty from a building you intend to sell.
There were so many missed opportunities, smoking guns, lobbyists, profiteers and outright lies told.
People understand there isn’t a level playing field in our city or country. Some despair and follow demagogues; some just walk away, some settle for the wrong way to reach goals – ending up eroding our confidence in democracy and continuing rotten practices.
As Preet Bharara said recently about the ethics of his office: “You do the right thing in the right way for the right reason. Always. That’s it.”
A nursing home bed is a home. We insist that these 215 affordable ‘homes’ be returned to the community as Rivington House. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Neighbors to Save Rivington House
Twitter #CareNotCondos #RivingtonHouse
Anonymous from ACT-UP Member:
Council Woman Margaret S. Chin open remarks on the New York City Council hearing on the Rivington House debacle, draw from the early history of the HIV epidemic in NYC and the role Rivington House plaid on it.
The hearing went from around 9:30 AM to 5PM. I was planning to talk but by 4:40 the last panel was called to testify and they had another event in the room afterwards, so I came home without saying anything. That is the reason for this long post.
The hearing focused almost solemnly on the procedures and what went on from the closing of Village Care, to the sale of the building to a developer to build luxury condos, in a building which had it’s deed changed from non for profit nursing home only to no restrictions..
Council members were trying to understand how that happened and the explanation I heard, was as if a loophole on procedures allowed the buyer to offer the money the city was asking, with the understanding that a nursing home would continue to operate. After meeting the financial side, the developer which operates at the same time a non-for profit and a for profit business, requested the change on the deed and the bureaucracy just rolled the usual procedure . The City sold the building and changed the deed or the other way around, not sure yet.
Now we come to the part of what I was going to say. After thanking City Council members and Ms Chin in special, I’d introduce myself as a member of ACT UP New York and as a person living with HIV since 1994. I’d say I was there to speak for the PLHIV (Persons Living With HIV) who used Rivington House as a recovery or nursing home.
Around 2005, a friend of mine who is HIV+, had a stroke and stayed at Rivington House for months until he could go back home. I visited him there many times. That was before the ACA and the boom of hospital building that is happening now in the city.
Still, HIV is not history. Most of the +/- 120K PLHIV in NYC are over 50 years old. We still see around 2,500 new infections and 1,500 PLHIV die every year in the city (2014 data). That is despite the great job Dr Demetre C. Daskalakis, MD is doing at the head of the DOHMH Bureau of HIV Prevention and Control.
Sure we will have more hospital beds, but where PLHIV will go for long term care, if we need a nursing home or end of life care, considering HIV stigma is still so high? We talk about the loss of a facility, of jobs , of money, but I’d like to bring the conversation back to the people who lost a place they could receive the care they need. A provider in downtown Manhattan, perhaps close to where they used to live and their friends, so they can have visitors.
Granted that Rivington House was a dump, but it is also the duty of the city to take care of New Yorkers. The place should have been renovated and not closed, much less have it’s deed requirements removed so NY could have another condo.
Thanks for reading..
For Immediate Release: September 30, 2016
SEN SQUADRON, NIOU, ELECTEDS, COMMUNITY ANNOUNCE RIVINGTON ACT
Squadron/Niou Proposal Creates Community Process for Proposed Nursing Home Closures
Electeds, Community, Advos Highlight Need For Reform In Wake of Rivington House Closure
NEW YORK – Today, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Democratic nominee Yuh-Line Niou announced the “Rivington Act” to require stronger protections for local nursing homes and a clear community process when nursing homes are threatened, along with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. The bill comes in response to the appalling deed restriction removal and closure of Rivington House.
Squadron/Niou’s “Rivington Act” (draft attached) would require that community health needs are met and create a public and transparent process when nursing homes are threatened. The “Rivington Act” is based on Squadron/Assemblymember Simon’s Local Input in Community Healthcare (LICH) Act (S2500A/A6417A), which creates a similar process for at-risk hospitals.
“When community health needs are replaced with profiteering, the system has clearly flatlined,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “The process at Rivington House process left communities without a voice, without notice, and without a nursing home. The Rivington Act is a critical component of ensuring our state protects the public interest at nursing homes. I thank Assembly Democratic nominee Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblymember Simon, Borough President Brewer, Councilmember Chin, CB3, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, and my colleagues.”
“The loss of Rivington House betrayed our essential responsibility to provide quality care for seniors and in the process destroyed an important public health facility for the neighborhood. The Rivington Act will be a major step forward for protecting local communities by ensuring that community needs and input are never ignored again in the name of political expediency,” said Assembly Democratic nominee Yuh-Line Niou.
“Like the closure of LICH, the closure of Rivington House has exposed wide gaps in the social safety net, imperiling our most vulnerable citizens. The Rivington Act will strengthen protections and mandate that when closures do occur, they are done in the light of day, with community input so that the residents, their families and the public can have confidence that the affected individuals’ healthcare needs can be met. I am proud to stand with Senator Squadron and Democratic Assembly nominee Yuh-Line Niou to introduce this important legislation,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.
“The Rivington House debacle highlights just how critical nursing homes are to neighborhoods across our City, and we cannot let another disappear without oversight,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “If one of these healthcare facilities is going to close, community members voices must be heard. I applaud Senator Squadron, Assembly-candidate Niou, and Assemblymember Simon for their efforts to prevent another closure like Rivington House from ever happening again.”
“Local nursing homes are vital service providers and what happened to Rivington House is deeply troubling. This measure would help protect community interest in similar future situations and I applaud its introduction,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY).
“As we try to figure out what happened with Rivington House’s deed restrictions and how to prevent it from happening again, there is a more general problem we need to confront: our healthcare facilities are under threat,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “We need better legal safeguards against the inappropriate closure of these vital institutions. I thank Senator Squadron and Democratic Assembly nominee Niou for pursuing action on this issue at the state level.”
“I am gladdened by this State effort to address the issues that led to the sale of a prized community healthcare facility for luxury condos. We need stronger protections from not just the City, but the State to ensure that what happened at Rivington House never happens again. I thank Senator Squadron for taking the lead on this legislative effort in Albany, and to local Assembly members for their support,” said City Councilmember Margaret Chin.
“Families rely and depend on nursing homes to ensure our loved ones have the care they need. We can’t allow them to secretly close, and leave seniors out in the cold with no notice and no place to go,” said City Councilmember Brad Lander. “Thank you to State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly nominee Yuh-Line Niou, and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for proposing legislation today to ensure communities get the notification and proper closure process they need when nursing homes close. This is a strong first step, and I’m hopeful we can continue to improve closure processes for other facilities housing older New Yorkers, – including assisted living homes like Prospect Park Residence in my district.”
“The closure of Rivington House was a big blow to our community. The Rivington Act would help ensure that Community Boards and local community members have a voice in these processes. Thank you to Senator Squadron for announcing this state legislation,” said Manhattan Community Board 3 Chair, Jamie Rogers.
“In the last decade, The Lower East Side has seen many changes in which we’ve had little or no say – the loss of Rivington House is just the most recent example. When the doors to Rivington House closed, our community lost 150,000 square feet of skilled nursing home space that the many older adults in our area desperately need. It is important that the community is made aware of any such closures in the future so that we can provide feedback, ensuring that our needs will still be addressed. We’re disappointed that the community’s united efforts to express our unanimous support for continued nursing home services — made loudly and many months before this deal took place — were completely up-ended, without any transparency. Not only do we want to see a change going forward with regard to other buildings, we want to understand that every single possible avenue is explored for returning this building to the community for this use,” said Melissa Aase, University Settlement Executive Director.
“Neighbors to Save Rivington House is gratified that Senator Squadron and his co-authors are proposing the Rivington Act. Our vulnerable neighbors were treated inhumanely. This act should help other people currently (or in the future) resident in either nursing homes or assisted living facilities. It is critical that NY State provide more protection to this fragile population, without it they currently have little protection and inadequate notification of potential facility closures. We hope that the NY State Legislature will pass the Rivington Act promptly,” said Tessa Huxley, of Neighbors to Save Rivington House.
The “Rivington Act” would strengthen oversight by creating a transparent process when nursing homes are threatened, and requiring the State Department of Health (DOH) to ensure local community needs can adequately be met before approving any closure. State DOH would be required to:
Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and LES Preservation Initiative present:
It was a great evening organized by Kim Fong of the BRC Senior Center and Jean, Joe’s longtime friend and advocate.
We saw beautiful photographs, ate delicious treats and talked to old and new friends.
Joe was radiant – as were his photographs. It was a lovely evening.
The Citation honored his long time commitment as an activist and volunteer gardener in the M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden and in Sara Roosevelt Park.
Thank you everyone who helped organized this and thank you Margaret, an old friend of Joe and Elizabeth Hubbard (who were among her first champions when she ran for City Council – before she became the first Council Member of Chinese Heritage to represent her district).
Recently Neighbors to Save Rivington House was invited to attend the We Won’t Wait conference. It was good to be with like-minded women and men dedicated to figuring out a just and caring society.
The historic gathering brought together over 1,000 community leaders and organizers from around the country to elevate the voices of women of color and low-income women and call for a comprehensive women’s economic agenda that will advance the lives of working women and families across the country.
We also attended the Vigil to honor the lives of loved ones whose lives were cut short by racist and sexist and anti-child acts of violence.
Anchored by over half a million conversations with women and their families across the country, our collaborative is embarking on a significant effort via targeted voter education, engagement, and mobilization efforts within key states centered around prioritizing an inclusive women’s economic agenda.
*Elevating the voices of women of color, low-income and poor women, immigrant women, and young women to call for a policy agenda that promotes economic security and communities that thrive.
Sponsoring Organizations: A collaborative, powered by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Make It Work, Caring Across Generations, Family Values @ Work, MomsRising, Black Women’s Roundtable, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Ms. Foundation for Women, and Forward Together/Strong Families.
Dumpling FestivalDumpling Festival
September 24th, 2016
12 Noon to 5PM
Sara D. Roosevelt Park
( on E. Houston St Between Chrystie St and Forsyth St )
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