City Council postpones deed-restriction hearing

Sources say officials want to save face following controversial Rivington House deal
July 01, 2016 09:46AM

The City Council has postponed next week’s hearing on how the city handles deed restrictions, reportedly amid concerns that it will reignite controversy over a deal with the operator of Rivington House.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was hoping to avoid a black eye for Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration approved a deal at 45 Rivington Street, where the lifting of a deed restriction paved the way for a $116 million sale to condo developers, reported the New York Times.

The mayor insists he did not know about the deal, which allowed the Allure Group, the for-profit nursing home operator that owned the site, to sell the building to Slate Property Group, Adam America Real Estate and China Vanke.

Since it was disclosed, the city has placed a moratorium on deed changes and state and federal investigations.

But some members of the City Council are displeased that the hearing was canceled.

“I want to get to the bottom of what happened at Rivington, St. Nicholas and other sites,” Council member Ben Kallos said. “The Council has a responsibility to hold an oversight hearing on deed restrictions.”

“Usually, no matter what hearing you have, everything comes up,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said. “You know that Rivington is going to come up… And they can say no comment if they want to.”

The City Council is considering legislation to improve disclosure when the city is considering lifting deed restrictions.

The mayor’s spokesman, Eric Phillips, said a hearing would take place “down the road, with meaningful information we can share.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio’s office released a list of 14 properties with pending deed modification applications at the time that the Rivington House deal was disclosed. The city subsequently issued a moratorium on deed changes.

The list, shared with the Times by Kallos, range from churches to yeshivas to vacant lots.

One high-profile building on the list was 28 Liberty Street, formerly known as the Chase Manhattan Plaza, which is owed by Chinese investment firm Fosun International. The building has height restrictions dating back to the 1950s, and Fosun hired James Capalino, a de Blasio fundraiser who advocated for removing the deed restriction at Rivington House, to lobby on its behalf. Specifically, Focus wanted a deed change to construct new entrances for the building’s retail space. Fosun cut ties with Capalino shortly after news of the Rivington deal broke. [NYT] – E.B. Solomont