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'Rivington Act' to Prevent Nursing Home Loss Rejected by State Committee

By Allegra Hobbs | April 25, 2017 3:53pm
 Rivington House shuttered in February 2015 after decades of providing long-term care for HIV/AIDS patients.
Rivington House shuttered in February 2015 after decades of providing long-term care for HIV/AIDS patients.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

LOWER EAST SIDE — A bill introduced in the wake of the Rivington House scandal aimed at preventing future nursing home closures has been rejected by the State Senate's Health Committee.

The "Rivington Act," named for the Lower East Side nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients that in 2015 was shuttered and sold to condo developers, would have created a community-driven vetting process to make it more difficult for an operator to close a nursing home.

The bill would have required the Department of Health commissioner to disseminate a report to city and state officials as well as the local community board assessing the impact the closure would have on the community. Community members and elected officials would have then made recommendations to DOH before the agency made a decision on the plan to close.

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It was first introduced by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon last year.

But the bill was voted down Tuesday afternoon by the Senate's Health Committee after committee chair State Sen. Kemp Hannon recommended a "No" vote, noting the bill was not "near shape" to become law.

"I don’t think it's in anywhere near shape to possibly become law, so I would recommend a 'No' vote, but if Senator Squadron’s going to pursue — and he’s not a shy one about pursuing — pursue the discussion we may see this bill again," said Hannon at Tuesday's committee hearing. 

"It's defeated, but we will see it again," Hannon said after the vote.

The Rivington Act as it is currently written will not likely be voted on again during the current legislative session, said a spokesman for  Squadron. However, the committee chair has committed to revisiting the issue of nursing home closures sometime during this session, according to Squadron, who nonetheless expressed disappointment in the vote.

"'The 'Rivington Act' is based on a simple concept — communities should have a voice in healthcare in the community. That didn't happen at Rivington House, and unfortunately, was blocked by the Senate Majority today," said Squadron in a statement. "The Chair committed to taking up this issue this session — I stand ready to work with him on his concerns and ensure Senate action this year."

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Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in a statement blamed the rejection on Senate Republicans prioritizing "partisan politics" over the need for transparency surrounding nursing home closures, calling the move "apalling."

A spokesman for Hannon did not immediately return a request for comment.

Community activists who have called for the return of Rivington House and rallied around the need to preserve Manhattan nursing home beds also decried the outcome.

“The Senate Majority had a choice: to allow the continued eviction of the elderly, the ill and the disabled from their homes in secrecy in order to line the pockets of profiteers or work towards passing this law," said Kay Webster of Neighbors to Save Rivington House in a statement. "The Health Committee's decision means that those with little means and time left on this earth will suffer this choice and will live more precariously because of it."