New York City Councilman David Greenfield shocked observers on Monday by announcing that he would retire from the Council to lead the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. The two-term Councilman from Midwood and Borough Park was widely-recognized as the leading Orthodox Jew in New York City elected office. The chair of the Council’s powerful Land Use Committee, Greenfield had been running unopposed for re-election. Instead, he’ll hand over the reigns to his close ally Kalman Yeger, who had been running for Council against Yeger’s cousin-in-law Chaim Deutsch.
Wait, they can do that?
Greenfield dropped out after the deadline to submit petitions to get on the ballot for the primary. As a result, Greenfield’s committee on vacancies (a group of endorsers listed on his ballot petitions) got to choose who would replace Greenfield. Unsurprisingly, they elected to support Greenfield’s choice, Kalman Yeger, who had run Greenfield’s campaign accounts.
Good government groups decried the move. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, said that Greenfield’s action will “deny his constituency the right to a competitive election.”
Since no one else is running, Kalman Yeger is the de facto Democratic nominee for the Council seat. He currently lives in a different Council district and will need to move into the district by election day.
So is that it then?
Maybe. There was talk that either Senator Simcha Felder (registered as a Democrat but caucusing with the Republicans in the State Senate) or the son of Assemblyman Dov Hikind could find a way to run for the Council seat. Both are seen as major political players in the South Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community.
However, Yeger worked for Felder in the past and Felder announced he would not run. Assemblyman Dov Hikind suggested that given the districts right-ward leanings, a Conservative Party candidate could win and there is talk that his son, Yoni, would be the candidate.
If Yoni Hikind does not run, Kalman Yeger will have lucked into a Council seat without a competitive election. This is very similar to how Joe Crowley first won election to Congress. Crowley’s predecessor, Thomas Manton, announced his retirement after petitioning was over, and then called up Crowley to tell him that Manton had chosen Crowley as his successor.
What about the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty? What’s the deal with that?
The Metropolitan Council (commonly called the Met Council) is a massive social service organization that has recently undergone turmoil. Former CEO William Rapfogel stole more than $9 million from the Met Council by overpaying for insurance and then getting kickbacks from the insurance company. Rapfogel, whose wife was disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver‘s chief of staff, had brought in millions in state grants thanks to the connection. Investigators found over $400,000 in cash stashed in Rapfogel’s home.
After the scandal, there was talk that the Met Council would disband. Instead, however, they’ve chosen to make a big move by hiring Greenfield to be their CEO. Because of the troubled state of the Met Council, city and state agencies will need to sign off on Greenfield’s hire. So far, however, there’s no expectation that he will have trouble there.