It’s said there’s no better marketing in the world than simple word-of-mouth.
In her many conversations with U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kept hearing a lot about this assisted living facility in Engel’s Bronx district, and decided the time had come to finally check it out.
The California Democratic leader toured the Hebrew Home at Riverdale on Monday, joining Engel and a handful of other elected officials like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and councilmen Andrew Cohen and Andy King.
“The Hebrew Home is important because of the care that it gives and the compassion that it’s known for, but also for the example it is to the rest of the country,” Pelosi told reporters afterward. “Eliot Engel has been singing its praises. He takes great pride in what’s happening here.”
The Hebrew Home is no stranger to hosting political heavyweights, with a roster of past guests that range from late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to even a stop in 2016 by President Bill Clinton while campaigning for his wife. And that doesn’t even begin to mention many city leaders, including a string of mayors like Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
“It’s quite a remarkable place,” Pelosi said. “Maybe people here might take it for granted, but it is very, very, very special.”
The former Speaker’s tour was led by Hebrew Home chief executive Daniel Reingold, who was quick to tell a crowd gathered in the facility’s atrium a short time later that Pelosi’s home state has 85 continuing care retirement communities. Reingold wants to open New York City’s first CCRC at Hebrew Home, but has faced opposition from neighbors surrounding the facility, who feel the planned transitional apartment buildings for people not quite ready to move into a nursing home is out of scale for its environmentally sensitive site.
But Pelosi and Engel focused instead on Republicans’ proposed health care cuts, including what the minority leader described as a $1.4 trillion reduction in Medicaid spending.
“It covers a large amount of elder care, long-term health care, whether at a community like this, or at home,” Pelosi told the crowd.
Protecting health care funding is the least this country can do for older Americans, especially those living at Hebrew Home, Pelosi said.
“All of you, thank you for making America what it is,” she said. “You have raised our families, fought our wars in some cases, but also been a great resource, not only in your own lives and to your own families, but to the future of our great country. We have to recognize and respect that.
“And that is what I saw here, the beauty of this place. The dignity of it all, respecting the dignity of each and every one of you.”
Pelosi’s visit may have been a welcome distraction, but the Hebrew Home is gearing up for what Reingold has hinted might be a battle for its own survival. Community Board 8’s land use committee is set to hear public comment once again Thursday night at Riverdale Temple on Independence Avenue, with the committee set to make its recommendation after a meeting Monday before going in front of the full board June 18.
A coalition of neighbors opposed to the expansion plan to offer a compromise at the June 7 meeting calling for a massive reduction in the proposed CCRC’s height. That includes reducing the planned 12-story building on the north campus to no more than eight, and reducing the south campus structures from a pair of four- and six-story buildings to one that basically fills the same physical space as the existing Passionist Retreat center.
The group also calls for a promise not to build on remaining open space on the south campus, securing it with a conservation easement, which they say will be harder to violate.
Hebrew Home spokeswoman Wendy Steinberg didn’t respond specifically to the neighbor coalition, but instead said in a statement that the facility “looks forward to continuing our participation” in the city planning process “as we present Community Board 8 and our elected leaders with our balanced plan for New York City’s first continuing care retirement community.”