City Official who Approved Rivington House Deed-Lifting is Fired
Under fire from all angles, the de Blasio administration on Friday fired the official behind the deed-lifting that ultimately resulted in the $116 million sale of Rivington House into condos. The scandalous transaction led to a $75 million windfall for the city.
The Wall Street Journal had the scoop on the firing of deputy Ricardo Morales.
Mr. Morales in 2015 approved the removal of a deed restriction on Rivington House, a Lower East Side nursing home that once served HIV/AIDS patients. Mr. Morales’ departure from his job with the city agency came just hours after Mr. de Blasio was interviewed by federal prosecutors with the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The Department of Administrative Services claimed that the Morales’ sack-job was part of planned, yet unrelated, restructuring already in the works.
The agency was “moving forward with several leadership changes and some restructuring designed to improve our efficiency and performance,” she said. “These changes have been in the works for some time and have nothing to do with the mayor’s or City Hall’s cooperation with the U.S. Attorney.”
Guy Oksenhendler, an attorney for Mr. Morales, said his client was being used “as a scapegoat” by Mr. de Blasio. “His firing was clearly political payback despite the fact that my client has done nothing wrong and was used as a scapegoat by the mayor,” Mr. Oksenhendler said.
Meantime, Bharara is relentless.
Mr. Bharara’s office has been examining the Rivington deal as part of a broader investigation into whether Mr. de Blasio’s administration gave special favors to donors, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The Allure Group purchased the Rivington House from VillageCare in 2015 for $28 million, paid the city $16.1 million to lift a restrictive deed, then sold the property to developers Slate Property Group, China Vanke Co., and Adam America Real Estate for $116 million around this time last year. All along, Mayor de Blasio has maintained that he had no knowledge of the land deal; city officials also charge that the Allure Group intentionally misled them about intentions.