Mt. Sinai to use Rivington House for behavioral health

At a rally to save Rivington House earlier this year, neighborhood residents decried the then-plan to convert it into luxury condos. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Mt. Sinai Health System is planning to relocate its behavioral-health facility to Rivington House.

The hospital signed a letter of intent with Rivington’s owner, Slate Property Group, Mt. Sinai spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt confirmed.

Behavioral-health facilities, such as inpatient behavioral health, detoxification and rehab, at the Bernstein Pavilion near Stuyvesant Town will be relocated into a new, “one-stop” center at 45 Rivington St., under the plan.

“When behavioral-health services are more critical than ever, we are pleased to announce plans to expand and enhance our behavioral-health offerings to the Downtown community at a new Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center located at 45 Rivington St.,” Riegelhaupt said. “The new Center will be a state-of-the-art, community-oriented destination for behavioral healthcare and a ‘one-stop’ location of services for mental health, addictions, physical health and social service needs for the Downtown community.”

Rivington House, a former nursing home and care facility for people with H.I.V. / AIDS, was nearly turned into luxury condos after a scandal that rocked the Lower East Side and has dogged the mayor ever since. The group Neighbors to Save Rivington House has been pushing the city ever since to reopen the building as a 24/7 care facility for the elderly and disabled.

At a protest in April 2016 outside Rivington House, City Councilmember Margaret Chin, speaking above, joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senator Daniel Squadron and other local elected leaders and community members in condemning the property’s stealth sale to a luxury residential developer. The shady deal — which involved the quiet lifting of deed restrictions — had been exposed two weeks earlier. Villager file photo

The group was blindsided by the Mt. Sinai news.

“Once again a deal is being attempted without notice to or involvement of the community most impacted by the removal of 219 nursing home beds in Rivington House,” the group wrote in a statement on Mon., Dec. 17. “Unacceptable. While it is heartening to hear that our relentless three-and-a-half years of advocacy appears to have succeeded in staving off a luxury condo development, Mt. Sinai Hospital is a newcomer to the neighborhood, and this community’s advocacy and its needs are requisite to any final outcomes here,” the statement said.

Slate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Councilmember Margaret Chin said greater transparency is needed and that she will push for increased community involvement on the issue.

“While we understand there is a significant need for behavioral-health services, we can’t lose focus on the fact that 219 nursing home beds were lost,” a Chin spokesperson said. “The fundamental issue here is improving transparency in this process, and ensuring that the Lower East Side community’s unique healthcare needs are addressed. As more details on these plans are released, Councilmember Chin will continue to push for opportunities for the community — especially the advocates at the forefront of the fight to save Rivington House — to play an active role in future conversations.”

Facilities at the Bernstein Pavilion, between E. 15th and 16th Sts. on the eastern edge of Stuyvesant Square park, will remain open and operational until the Rivington site is ready, to avoid any time without existing services, according to Riegelhaupt.

Additional services, including intensive-crisis and respite beds, primary care and a partial hospital program will be added at the Rivington site, on the Lower East Side at Rivington and Forsyth Sts. The number of beds has not been set, though the hospital noted that less than 65 percent of Bernstein’s existing beds are used, on average.

The Bernstein facility is 60 years old and too antiquated for its services, according to the hospital. Riegelhaupt said it is too soon to know Mt. Sinai’s plans for the Bernstein property, but if it is sold, 100 percent of the money would be reinvested back into the new Mt. Sinai Downtown Network.

K Webster of Neighbors to Save Rivington House emphasized her longtime fight was to restore the Rivington building as a full-time nursing home.

“For people who really have to have 24/7, long-term care in the age of Alzheimer’s…our mission was to return this to people who need nursing home beds,” she said.

Community members met with local politicians and Mt. Sinai on Wednesday. Slate is expected to schedule a meeting with all stakeholders soon, according to Webster.

“This was rather sudden,” she said. “Why the secrecy?”

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