Repurposing of Rivington House Might Help Meet Need for Clinical Capacity Arising from Pandemic
Rivington House on the Lower East Side
A Lower Manhattan building steeped in controversy may become a lifeline for people infected by the pandemic COVID-19 virus. In a story first reported by Crain’s New York, Rivington House is being considered as a possible treatment site.
The Lower East Side building (located at 45 Rivington Street, near the Williamsburg Bridge) served for decades as an HIV/AIDS care facility. But in 2014, the structure was acquired by real estate speculators, who paid a fraction of its market value, because a deed restriction that committed the building to use as a clinic. After lobbying to get this encumbrance lifted, they closed the the nursing home, and flipped the building (for more than five times their original investment) in 2018. The following year, it was leased from the latest owners for the next three decades by the Mount Sinai Health System, which plans to create a $140-million behavioral health facility there.
But launching that use is still years away. In the meantime, the administrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo are aggressively searching for available space (especially properties already configured for clinical use) in which to house the large numbers of patients projected to be stricken with the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
This spurred Lower East side activist Kathleen Webster, who leads a local grassroots organization, Neighbors to Save Rivington House, to inquire with Mount Sinai about whether they would make the block-long, 150,000-square-foot building available. She told the online newsletter Bowery Boogie that the current crisis, “made me think that perhaps Rivington House could yet play one last role in its brave history as a state-of-the-art infectious disease skilled care facility.”
According to Ms. Webster, representatives from Mount Sinai agreed, with the caveat that City and State officials will have the ultimate say over whether to commandeer the facility, and for what purpose. (It is possible that any new or additional capacity — such as the U.S. Navy hospital ship, Comfort, which is now steaming toward New York — will be used to absorb non-pandemic patients from regular hospitals, freeing up beds in mainstream facilities for more gravely serious cases.)
The purchase and subsequent sale of Rivington House unleashed a major scandal over what was widely perceived as the giveaway of a vitally needed (and very valuable) public asset. Multiple officials in City Hall claimed to have been unaware that the new owners could reap such a windfall or modify the building’s use. This claim was called into question when investigators discovered that James Capalino, a fund-raiser for Mr. de Blasio’s campaigns, who had begun a lucrative career as a lobbyist, represented several sides in the Rivington transactions, and had worked behind the scenes to get the deed restriction lifted. City Comptroller Scott Stringer described this web of deal-making as, “highway robbery.”
City Council member Margaret Chin, who was a vociferous critic of the sale and change of use at Rivington House, said at the time, “years after the problematic sale shook the Lower East Side community, our neighbors have been fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the critical health services that Rivington House has provided for 20 years for our most vulnerable community members continue. My office has been leading an effort to return much-needed nursing home beds to the community.”
NEWS FROM PREVIOUS EDITIONS
OF THE BROADSHEETDAILY
Cases of Corona Virus Reported in Lower Manhattan
Two employees of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday, leading that facility’s owner, the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), to announce that it will shutter the building on Monday, March 23, moving to all-electronic trading. In a statement, ICE said, “the decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19.” This statement did not acknowledge that two NYSE employees have been confirmed to be infected, nor did it specify when the Exchange might reopen.
In a separate development, a teacher at P.S./I.S. 276, in Battery Park City tested negative for the virus. (P.S./I.S. 276, like all New York City public schools, is closed until at least April 20.) To read more…
Meditations in an Emergency
Our Hometown and the Myth of Eternal Return
You tell yourself that you’ve seen this story before, and more than once: edifices falling; waters rising. And you reflect that the worst situations are not those that can’t get any worse. The worst situations are the ones that are going to get worse before they get better. So you hunker down.
You recall the Old Man deciding, a lifetime ago, that since you were too old for fairy tales, you were perhaps old enough for true confessions. How he showed you on a map strange names like Schweinfurt, Dusseldorf, and Hamburg. And his stories of seeing friends eviscerated in the seat next to him as they flew over these places, of watching planes alongside his evaporate in rondures of orange flame and black smoke.
And the rules he had set for himself in such moments: “Admit to fear, but never display it. Display courage, but never admit to it.” How he had formed his own checklist, separate from the one taught to all aviators. In bad moments, he said, “begin by doing what obviously must be done. Proceed next to what clearly can be done. And once these are both squared away, move on to doing what everybody knows can’t be done.”
Amid Coron-Apocalypse, City Offers Loans and Grants for Struggling Small Businesses
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has inaugurated a program to aid small businesses that have experienced financial hardship because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Firms with fewer than 100 employees, which have undergone sales decreases of 25 percent or more will be eligible for zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit. The City’s Department of Small Business Services is also offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months, to help retain employees.
Lower Manhattan Goes Quiet in Response to Corona Virus Pandemic
Tourists on Broadway and Wall Street
The local impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continued to widen over the weekend. Multiple new confirmed cases of infection were reported, including at the office of the U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York (One Saint Andrews Plaza, next to Police Headquarters), the Hebrew School of the Jewish Community Project (146 Duane Street, between Church and West Broadway), and New York Law School (185 West Broadway, at the corner of Leonard Street).
These are in addition to confirmed cases reported earlier last week at Brookfield Asset Management (250 Vesey Street, within Brookfield Place), Meridian Capital Group (One Battery Park Plaza, at the corner of State and Pearl Streets), and an employee 100 Church Street (at the corner of Barclay Street), a building that houses multiple City and State agencies.
The decision has been made to close Church Street School’s in-person programs at both onsite and offsite locations through the end of March, when we will reassess the situation. We are planning to initiate our online program offerings beginning Monday March 23rd, and you will hear more about that in the coming days.
Lisa Ecklund-Flores, PHD Executive Director, Founder
Church Street School for Music and Art
As news has developed, our leadership team has determined that the best course of action for the immediate future is the following:
Our community center is closed and all our offices are closed!
All our programs are closed until we figure this out.
Bob Townley, Founder and Executive Director
Fraunces Taven Museum
The Museum will be closed through March 30.
New York Public Library
After carefully considering a multitude of factors and the rapidly changing situation in New York City around novel coronavirus (COVID-19),all New York Public Library locations will be closed to the public through, at least Tuesday, March 31.
All late fees will be suspended and due dates extended during the closure period.
The Library is working to expand access to e-books and increase awareness of our vast array of online resources. All branches will be sanitized before they reopen.
Anthony W. Marx
President, The New York Public Library
Poets House is postponing all public programs scheduled throughout the rest of March. The library will be closed until further notice.
The decision was made to suspend March programs. We are setting up live-streaming options for programs moving forward and we already have online learning options for adult language and literature classes for our spring semester starting on April 6. Kids classes will follow.
South Street Seaport Museum will close to the public for at least two weeks.
National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian will close to the public starting Saturday, March 14. We appreciate your understanding at this time. The museum staff and I look forward to welcoming you back when we reopen.
Kevin Gover (Pawnee) Director
Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
It is with an abundance of caution that we have decided to postpone the majority of our public programming, including the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art’s gallery hours, until March 31.
Lower Manhattan Property Values Catch the Flu
Wall Street’s Bear Market Extends to Condominium Prices
The pandemic Covid-19 virus and stock market meltdown are accelerating a trend that was already gripping Lower Manhattan: declining property values. The prices for condominium apartments Downtown peaked in late 2017, and have never since recovered their previous highs.
Local kids help break ground for the Battery Playscape
Joined by elected officials, Lower Manhattan leaders, and a couple of excited Downtown kids, the Battery Conservancy broke ground on March 12 for the Battery Playscape, an unusual playground for children of all ages and abilities. To open in Spring of 2021, the Battery Playscape will feature resilient design that evokes five geographical zones created when water shapes land: bluff, marsh, dune, meadow, and riverbed. Each of the zones will offer unique play elements, such as large granite slides; multilevel, interconnected playhouses, including an ADA-accessible treehouse; and an improv/puppet theater.
The Battery Playscape is designed by BKSK Architects and Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, and is located across from the SeaGlass Carousel. On March 12, three-year-old James Callegari and his one-year-old friend Cecilia Petrilli, helped shovel dirt at the construction site. “James didn’t want to stop shoveling!” noted his mom Angela Callegari before she whisked him off for a thrilling ride on an iridescent fish in the SeaGlass Carousel.
Photos courtesy Angela Callegari
Eyes to the Sky
March 16 – 29, 2020
Find Orion and tell “Globe at Night”
March 16, through next Tuesday, March 24, when the moon is dark, known as new moon, there will be only morning crescents during the early hours before sunrise. This period is optimum for stargazing and for contributing in a small but significant way to astronomical research. Astronomers need eyes in the field all over the world to learn about stargazing conditions beyond their observatories – including hearing from cities. This is an easy and enlightening assignment. It can be fun to share with family and friends, too.
Church Street School of Music and Art could not have made it to its 30th birthday without the support of families like the Kleimans of Battery Park City. This year, in celebration of 30 years of music and art making, the school honored the Kleiman family on March 10 at its annual fundraiser, The Event.
CB1 Mulls Tolling Plan, While Albany Feuds with Washington
Dr. Betty Kay: “The bottom line is tolls must generate $1 billion per year. The idea is to encourage people not to bring their cars in.”
A recent meeting of the Transportation Committee of Community Board 1 became the forum for a heated discussion about the merits of the congestion pricing plan that is slated to bring tolls to vehicles entering Lower Manhattan (including those of residents) as soon as next January.
Committee chair Dr. Betty Kay began by outlining the rationale for the plan, saying, “there are some benefits to doing this. The State’s Climate Leadership law requires that we reduce carbon output to 40 recent of 1990 levels by 2030. And the Department of Transportation says that the transportation sector is responsible 35 percent of the State’s carbon. It’s transportation that has been lagging, while buildings and waste have already made cuts. So we need a lot of cuts to transportation carbon.” Other projected benefits of congestion pricing, she noted, “would include reductions in air pollution and noise pollution.”
I usually never, and I mean NEVER read the paper which is common for a teenager like myself, but today was different. I was working as a security guard in Tribeca today, and a guy came in to deliver your papers to the residents and to my surprise he handed me a paper for myself to read.
I opened the paper and a section immediately caught my attention and this section was called “Affordability Elsewhere” by Matthew Fenton. To start off, I do not live in Manhattan, I live in the Bronx and while living in the Bronx for so long you become very aware that it is way easier to find an affordable apartment there than in Manhattan, but nobody would look at statistics or the facts to back up this statement.
With that being said, I want to thank Matthew for his section in your paper and I hope he and the Broadsheet overall continue to make more sections like this and continue to shine light on the problems in finding affordable housing especially in Manhattan; Although I am unsure if the Broadsheet cares about who reads and doesn’t read their papers, I want them to know they have gained a new reader, a young one at that!
Due to the COVID19 Pandemic, the cruise ship industry has cancelled cruises through the middle of April and possibly longer.
The Staten Island Advance reported that a 2-year-old tested positive for the virus while aboard the Norwegian BLISS, above. The vessel left New York on Tuesday and will linger off Bermuda for the time being.
Today In History March 20
Map of Boston in 1760, showing the extent of the Great Fire
141 – 6th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet
1760 – Great Fire of Boston destroys 349 buildings
1815 – Napoleon enters Paris after escape from Elba, begins 100-day rule
1852 – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” published (Boston)
1861 – An earthquake completely destroys Mendoza, Argentina.
1890 – German emperor Wilhelm II fires republic chancellor Otto Von Bismarck
1920 -First flight from London to South Africa lands (took 1½ months)
1934 – Rudolf Kuhnold demonstrates radar in Kiel, Germany
1944 – Mount Vesuvius, Italy, erupts
1947 – 180 tonne blue whale (record) caught in South Atlantic
1954 – First newspaper vending machine used (Columbia, Pennsylvania)
1958 – 50″ snow across the Mason-Dixon line
1969 – President Nixon proclaims he will end Vietnam war in 1970
1976 – Patricia Hearst convicted of armed robbery
1995 – Dow-Jones hits 4083.68 (record)
1997 – Liggett admits cigarettes are addictive
John and Yoko
43 BC – Ovid, Roman poet (d. 17)
1828 – Henrik Ibsen, Norway, playwright (Peer Gynt, Hedda Gabler)
1873 – Sergei V Rachmaninov, Russian/US pianist/composer (Aleko)
1906 – Abraham Beame, (Mayor-D-NYC)
1922 – Carl Reiner, Bronx, comedian
1925 – John D Erlichman, Politician (Nixon aide, Watergate)
1952 – Geoff Brabham, Australian racing driver
1969 – Beatle John Lennon marries Yoko Ono in Gibraltar
1413 – King Henry IV of England (1399-1413) dies at 45
1933 – Giuseppe [Joe] Zangara, electrocuted for assassination attempt on FDR
1962 – Andrew E Douglass, Dendrochronologer (Study of Tree Rings), dies