New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has drawn criticism from various sources for not only claiming ignorance during an investigation of a controversial real estate sale linked to him; he has also been accused of obstructing the investigation itself.
At issue is the sale of a nursing home located on the Lower East Side to developers of luxury condos. The sale was accomplished when the city government was apparently paid $16 million to lift any deed restrictions on the property that made it mandatory that it be operated only as a nursing home, and only by a non-profit.
While the Mayor and City Hall both pled innocence over the deal, a probe launched into the Mayor’s complicity in the sale has found that they were “aware and involved in” any arrangements that made the sale possible, despite any restrictions in the original deed of the property.
The nursing home, known as Rivington House, found at 45 Rivington Place, was run by a private nursing home operator called Allure Group. who purchased the building from non-profit nursing home operator VillageCare for $28 million in February 2015.
Allure Group is found to have paid the city’s government $16 million to lift the aforementioned deed restrictions, before selling Rivington House to private condo developers (Slate Property Group TRData LogoTINY, Adam America Real Estate and China Vanke) for $116 million.
A probe was launched, and the city’s Department of Investigation states in its report, “The city had the opportunity to protect its interests but did not do so.” Numerous officials are found to have been both aware that the deed restriction would be lifted after receiving the money and that luxury condo developers would then buy the building.
Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration is not only guilty of accepting money to lift the deed restrictions, but also of attempting to obstruct the investigation by outright refusing vital information to investigators with the Department of Investigation. “Because DOI did not receive a full production of what it requested, it is unclear what Rivington-related information remains on the City Hall servers and computers, to which DOI was denied access,” according to their report.
The mayor has continued to deny any knowledge of the real estate deal before it happened.
But his pleas are falling on deaf ears, even in his own administration and among those who might otherwise be counted as his friends. One such person is City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Ms. Mark-Viverito has gone on record that the mayor was definitely in the wrong as far as how he and his administration handled the DOI probe. Specifically, she found fault with how he restricted access to documents related to real estate deal itself. As she stated, “Clearly access to the documents should not have been made difficult. It should have been freely made available, so that aspect of the report is also very troubling.”
The Department of Investigations report has been extremely critical of the mayor and his administration stating that City Hall was either fully aware of the controversial sale, or should have been. Furthermore, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has now launched a further probe into the affair. He is investigating whether the sale of Rivington House may have benefited Campaign of New York, a now-defunct nonprofit Mayor Bill De Blasio used to run.