De Blasio Lobbyist Implicated in Controversial ‘Rivington House’ Condo Conversion

Posted on: March 28th, 2016 at 5:08 am by
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The stench of suspicion apparently goes all the way to the top on this one. Connect the dots.

Indeed, the controversial sale of the recently vacated Rivington House nursing home last month to a Chinese developer (China Vanke Co.) and its partners (Slate and Adam America Real Estate) for $116 million has become a mini scandal for the de Blasio administration. When nonprofit AIDS care providers VillageCare sold out to the Allure Group in November 2015, the community believed the facility at 45 Rivington would remain in health care, albeit for profit.

That’s where it gets shady. The Allure Group simultaneously paid the city $16.5 million (i.e. Department of Citywide Administrative Services) to lift a deed that restricted building use to non-profit health care function only. This eventually paved the way for the record sale, which will result in luxury condo conversion. But the Wall Street Journal reported last week that a contract with the buyers preceded that determination. Presumably a back room deal. Not surprisingly.

Amidst a subpoena from City Comptroller Scott Stringer last week, the Mayor claims that the government was blindsided by the sale, and had no knowledge of said pact.

The administration’s disclosure Friday that officials were unaware the Allure Group had signed a contract to sell the building for residential development before the city lifted the deed restrictions raised further questions about the level of scrutiny given to the decision to modify the deed.

City lawyers are reviewing the transaction to assess whether the city has any legal recourse. Mr. de Blasio’s office requested the Department of Investigation launch a review.

Mr. de Blasio’s administration was scrambling Friday to explain the deal amid Mr. Stringer’s probe and criticism from area residents, who said the neighborhood needed health-care providers or affordable housing but not more luxury housing.

Mr. de Blasio’s administration didn’t have a written contract or other documentation forcing Allure to keep the property a nursing home and didn’t limit changes when it removed the deed restriction, officials said. A spokeswoman said there was no formal application; an Allure official asked in an email for the removal of the restriction.

Martin Nussbaum, a principal at Slate, said the purchase contract was signed in May 2015. The following month, the city held a hearing about lifting the deed restriction.

Which brings us to another follow-up article in The Daily News. A powerful lobbyist named James Capalino allegedly collected $50,000 for Mayor de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid, allegedly in exchange for removal of the restriction.

Since October lobbyist James Capalino has collected $40,000 in checks for de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid and personally wrote a $10,000 check in May to Campaign for One New York, the non-profit de Blasio uses to promote his causes.

Capalino represented both the original seller of the nursing home at 45 Rivington St. on the Lower East Side and the developer who will turn it into luxury condos.

In January 2014 Capalino was hired by the building’s owner, VillageCare, which had operated an AIDS-care facility there for years. VillageCare needed to sell the building to generate cash.

Capalino “met with DCAS (Department of Citywide Administrative Services) employees and others” three times between February and July 2014. Officials declined to say whether the “others” worked in the mayor’s office.

Meantime, the new ownership seeks to convert 45 Rivington Street to 100 luxury condos. None designated as affordable, naturally.

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