Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin unveiled new legislation this morning to reform the city’s practices concerning deed restrictions, the arcane process at the heart of the controversies surrounding the sale of Rivington House on the Lower East Side and a lot owned by the Dance Theater of Harlem in upper Manhattan.
The Brewer-Chin bill would create a public, searchable database of all properties with deed restrictions imposed by or on behalf of city, and would dramatically strengthen public notification requirements whenever the city considers changing or removing such a deed restriction. The bill will be introduced at today’s Stated Council Meeting with the support of Councilmembers Rosie Mendez, Mark Levine, Brad Lander, and Ben Kallos as cosponsors.
“Across the city, there are properties that are preserved for public purposes with deed restrictions — but we don’t have even have a searchable database cataloguing where they are, and they can be given away with next to no public notice,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “A searchable database and robust public notice requirements are commonsense reforms. If they had been in place last year, the only discussion we’d be having about Rivington House today is what kind of nonprofit healthcare facility should be there.”
“I will not stop fighting to restore Rivington House to the Lower East Side community that welcomed, fostered and preserved it. Together with Borough President Brewer and concerned neighbors, we will continue to demand answers from this administration about how our city failed to protect this incredibly important community asset,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “This legislation may not be able to change what happened at Rivington House, but it will ensure that what happened here does not occur ever again – not to this or any other community. I thank my elected colleagues on this legislation for their commitment to transparency and accountability.”
Brewer and Chin were spurred to craft the bill by the revelation that the city acted to remove deed restrictions at Rivington House on the Lower East Side with no public notice beyond a one-day listing in the City Record. This action paved the way for the former school building, long reserved for nonprofit healthcare uses, to be sold to a luxury condominium developer at a tremendous profit. Read more…