City Council Holds Hearing on Controversial Lifting of Rivington House Deed Restriction

On Thursday, the City Council had its opportunity to ask the de Blasio administration questions about the controversial lifting of a deed restriction at a former hospice on the Lower East Side. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Top members of the de Blasio administration streamed into the City Council chamber on Thursday for a much-anticipated hearing on a controversial project known as Rivington House.

They were there to explain how an AIDS hospice center on the Lower East Side could be converted into luxury housing thanks to the lifting of a deed restriction by the city last year.  

The deal has been the subject of several investigations, some of which have already found there was mismanagement on the part of City Hall. Thursday was the Council's turn to ask questions, for six hours.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris took pointed questions for two-and-a-half hours, saying the city was misled by the developer.

Brooklyn City Councilman David Greenfield: Who screwed up in your team and how are they being held accountable? There were no screwups? Nobody screwed up? So when you went and you gave a directive as the first deputy mayor, that didn't happen, but nobody screwed up?
Shorris: The system was flawed and didn't yield the result that I wanted.

Officials are trying to reverse the damage. On Thursday, City Hall announced it had found a site to build new senior housing on the Lower East Side, at a repair yard. 

Despite that sign of good faith, the deputy mayor could not escape the hearing without controversy. 

The council was allegedly told Shorris had to leave early because of a trip to Oklahoma with Mayor Billde Blasio for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos: I think what was represented to us was that you have to attend the Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma.
Shorris: No, I'm not attending the Conference of Mayors. The mayor's attending the Conference of Mayors. He's actually the mayor.
Kallos: That was the only reason why I agreed to only two-and-a-half hours.

The incident prompted a heated exchange between both sides of City Hall. A Council spokesperson claimed the administration misled the Council and called it unacceptable. The mayor's press secretary fired back, saying the council always knew Shorris' availability. He said the Council owes Shorris an apology.

After all, Shorris is acting mayor while de Blasio is out of town. The mayor's office said they made that crystal clear.

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