The meeting, as City Council hearings tend to go, was drama packed
A City Council hearing Thursday surrounding the Rivington House fiasco produced all the drama one might expect when city officials butt heads. First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris was grilled for 2.5 hours by the Council, and essentially shouldered the blame for everything that went wrong after the deed restrictions were lifted on the Lower East Side nursing home.
Overall, the hearing lasted six hours, the New York Times reported with several other members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration also questioned. There were questions about competency. City Coucilman Ben Kallos wondered how Shorris could do his job properly when he had to oversee 30 different city agencies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
There were questions over the timeline. De Blasio had previously stated that he only became aware of the whole wrongdoing towards the end of March, whereas Shorris’s testimony on Thursday seemed to suggest that it was towards the end of February or early March, according to the New York Post.
And then there were questions about the communication between the Mayor’s office and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the city agency directly responsible for lifting or modifying deed restrictions. Shorris admitted that he failed to follow up with the then head of the Department, Stacey Cumberbatch, and failed to be explicit, according to DNAinfo. For instance, there were two restrictions on the property, one maintaining its non-profit status and the other as a healthcare facility. The city could have just lifted the non-profit restriction, as the previous owner of the building, the Allure Group, is a for-profit healthcare provider.
Did the hearing produce any kind of resolution? Nope. It was the first big public meeting on the whole debacle however, and it did allow the de Blasio administration to reiterate that it was changing its policies in regards to deed modification. Just as the hearing got underway, de Blasio announced that the administration was planning a new senior home along with a medical facility on the Lower East Side, as a peace offering of sorts for this mess up.
Of course, no City Council hearing would be complete without some added drama and silly squabbling. The Council and de Blasio administration traded barbs over an alleged miscommunication. The Council was apparently told that Shorris would only be able to stay for 2.5 hours and then had to leave for Oklahoma for a mayor’s conference. City Hall however denied any such missive and said no time limit had been set, but that Shorris had to assume the mayor’s responsibilities since the latter was traveling.
On Friday morning, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Democratic nominee to the Assembly Yuh-Line Niou announced a new bill, the "Rivington Act," which is looking to install more protections for nursing homes and ensure that there is a stringent community process whenever nursing homes are threatened.