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Powerful Brooklyn council member and land-use chair takes on challenging role at the Met Council

Brooklyn City Councilmember David Greenfield, chairman of the City Council’s powerful Land-Use Committee, will leave his post to helm the once-prestigious Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. This move appears to be a calculated one, as Monday, July 17, when his move become public, was the last day to vacate a Council seat and allow the campaign of the departing incumbent to essentially appoint a replacement candidate for the fall election.

That replacement is longtime Brooklyn activist, attorney and Greenfield political colleague Kalman Yeger. Yeger will run on the Democratic ballot line for Greenfield’s seat in a race he will likely win. “Good government” watchdogs and editorial boards will definitely not take this move kindly, as many have long pointed to election-law maneuvers like these as thwarting an open democratic process. Particularly in districts with such a dramatic registration advantage for a particular party, such as Greenfield’s council district, having the initial candidate’s “Committee on Vacancies” select a replacement candidate is akin to election.

However, any analysis of Greenfield’s departure, and Yeger’s candidacy, should not overlook their professional backgrounds and pedigrees. Greenfield, once an aide to former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, was executive vice president of the influential Brooklyn-based Sephardic Community Federation, and an education and schools organizer active in city and state politics. Also an attorney, he practiced law at large law firms after graduating from Georgetown Law School, and recently taught at Brooklyn Law School. Yeger, who has been active in southern Brooklyn civic affairs and politics since the early 1990s, was a top aide to former Bronx borough president and mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer. He has worked with nonprofit and social service organizations, is a graduate of New York Law School and has served as counsel to public officials throughout New York City.

The role Greenfield will play is a challenging one, but with a tremendous upside for a council member and community leader who many have said is among the more ambitious, and talented, of the current members. Greenfield has certainly not been one to shy away from the spotlight—as an especially outspoken member of the Council and a frequent guest and host of radio and television programs throughout the metropolitan area.

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty was once a powerhouse of fundraising, social-service agenda—setting and networking that boasted influential boosters including then-Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former NYS Board of Regents Chair Merryl Tisch and many other boldfaced names. After a multimillion-dollar kickback scandal that led to the executive director’s serving prison time, the nonprofit saw its political power and private fundraising dry up, with key service contracts and funding streams moved to other nonprofits.

Reviving the Met Council will certainly take a yeoman’s effort. But the upside to bringing this nonprofit back to prominence and the potential impact it could have on communities in New York City and beyond could be huge.

Already being widely discussed is how Greenfield’s arrival will affect the current makeup of the Met Council, which has undergone a whirlwind of organizational changes over the past several years. Its restructuring was followed closely by nonprofits and the government alike, as various oversight measures and protections were put in place directly relating to the scandal that rocked the mega nonprofit.

The next several months of transition into this role for Greenfield, alongside Yeger’s running to replace him, is certain to be a bit of a high-wire act, which New York Jewish Life looks forward to covering in a fair and balanced fashion.

 

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