The Real Deal New York

Don’t let City Hall get away with “impeding” DOI probe of Rivington House deal: Council member

Investigative agency's report concluded the mayor's office blocked access to documents, computers
July 19, 2016 09:07AM

From left: Bill de Blasio, Rory Lancman, Mark Peters and Rivington House

From left: Bill de Blasio, Rory Lancman, Mark Peters and the Rivington House on 45 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side

A Queens Council member doesn’t want the city’s Department of Investigations to let City Hall get away with blocking access to documents and computers during its probe of the controversial sale of a Lower East Side nursing home.

In a letter to DOI Commissioner Mark Peters, City Council member Rory Lancman asked why the agency hasn’t taken legal action against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office for allegedly trying to cover up what it knew about the deal by impeding investigators’ probe — a key finding in the DOI’s damning report on the Rivington House deal, published last week.

“It’s abnormal, unusual and practically unprecedented that an investigatory body is told by the subject of the investigation that we’re not giving you access or evidence that you’re entitled to, then the investigatory agency just shrugs and says, ‘Oh well,’ ” Lancman said, the New York Post reported.

In its report issued last week, the DOI concluded that City Hall was both “aware of and involved” in lifting the deed restriction for Rivington House, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s feigned ignorance over the deal. The report also alleged City Hall tried to cover up the extent of its knowledge by denying information to DOI investigators.

The DOI launched a probe after nursing home operator Allure Group sold 45 Rivington Street to developers Slate Property Group, Adam America and China Vanke for $116 million in February. Before doing so, Allure paid the city $16 million to lift a deed resection on the property that required the site to be operated as a nursing home.

Peters, who was finance chairman of de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign, recused himself from the investigation. According to Lancman, if City Hall truly did impede DOI’s investigation, Peters needs to take legal action against the administration or should “hand in his commissioner card today.”

Last week, de Blasio told reporters that a “huge amount of material was provided” to DOI investigators. “There was a lot of transparency,” he said.

A DOI spokeswoman said the agency “pulled no punches” in reviewing the deal, and is currently “pursuing enforcement options.” The deal is also being investigated by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Scott Stringer. [NYP] — E.B. Solomont