Report: Deputy Mayor to be Grilled by City Council Over Rivington House Debacle
First deputy mayor Tony Shorris will testify tomorrow before City Council regarding his role in the whole Rivington House debacle. This is a big deal. The $16.1 million deed lifting that led to a $116 million flip job into luxury condos by the Allure Group is still festering as problem for the de Blasio administration.
It also seems clear, although Shorris never says so directly, that he did not have a particularly robust or effective mode of communicating with Stacey Cumberbatch, who was commissioner of DCAS until January of this year.
Cumberbatch informed Shorris through a routine memo about the potential sale of Rivington House, which had been a city-owned building before being sold to a nonprofit running an AIDS residence in the 1990s.
Shorris explained that he did not read the memo and that some time during the latter portion of his first year on the job, he stopped reading these memos in their entirety because they were too time-consuming.
Instead, he expected commissioners to use their judgment and inform him in person or over the phone of priorities and problems. But that evolution in communication strategy was never made clear to Cumberbatch, Shorris acknowledged during questioning.
Okay, reading memos isn’t part of your job description. Cool. Next.
City Hall officials previously said Shorris first learned of the city’s hand in lifting these deed restrictions and the subsequent sale in February —something he did not dispute when Schwam asked. He also said that in 2014, when the AIDS residence provider first approached the de Blasio administration about its intentions to sell the building to a nursing home operator, he did not view the issue as a priority because he believed it would remain a health care facility.
At that time, neither the nonprofit, VillageCare, nor the eventual buyer, The Allure Group, mentioned the potential sale to a condo developer. It was not until DCAS lifted the deed restrictions for a $16 million fee that the building’s use was allowed to be changed and Allure sold it to Slate Property Group.
Speaking of City Council and Rivington House, our own Councilwoman Margaret Chin reportedly possessed advance knowledge of the Rivington House deal but allegedly didn’t tell Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito. So, yeah, lots to discuss…