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Here’s how City Council wants to avoid future Rivington House scandals

New legislation would require the mayor to personally approve changes to deed restrictions

UPDATE: As expected, the City Council approved legislation Tuesday that would prevent future Rivington House-like sagas from ever taking place, Crain’s reports. From now on, New York City Mayors will have to directly sign off on any applications relating to the removal or the alteration of a deed restriction.

Introduced by City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, the bill already had the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose office said they had been coordinating the effort to get this bill passed. The Mayor will now have to sign the bill into law to make it official.

Before applications come to the mayor for their sign off, it will be reviewed by the Citywide Administrative Services and a special committee. The former agency will also have to inform local elected officials and the community board and respond to community feedback during the process.

To ensure that what happened in the Rivington House scandal doesn’t happen again, the City Council will vote today on new legislation that would require the mayor himself to approve alterations or removals of city-imposed deed restrictions, reports the New York Times.

In addition to requiring a personal review from the presiding mayor, the law would warrant a separate review from Citywide Administrative Services and a newly formed special committee prior to receiving the mayor’s final judgement. According to the Times, this would entail the following:

Specifically, the agency would have to consider the effect of removing the restriction on the surrounding community, conduct a land-use study with the City Planning Department, consult with local elected leaders and respond to feedback from a public hearing.

The proposed extra scrutiny is intended to prevent another Rivington House scandal—none of these provisions were in place when the former Lower East Side nursing home sold to a group of developers, who intended to turn the building into luxury condos, early this year. The ensuing brouhaha—public outcry, an investigation into the deal, and ultimately, the revelation that City Hall was mostly to blame for the mess—has gotten the city to where it is now.

An online tracking database that would aid city officials in monitoring properties with deed restrictions that date back to 2006 and any requested changes would also be created. The database would eventually date back to 1966, though it would take about five years before it would reflect that information.

The bill already has the backing of Mayor de Blasio, Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

“New York City lost an invaluable community resource because of serious missteps from City Hall and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services,” stated City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. If approved, the bill would “prevent future Rivingtons” from happening by providing transparency, says Brewer.