Greenfielding – The “Greenfield Classic
The misadventures of David Greenfield, though heavily guarded by pseudo-legitimate politicking, has been the source of several articles we have written, and countless by those who have far more information at their disposal. Will Bredderman actually came up with a word to define Greenfield and his tactics “Greenfielding”. People “Google” information, “Tweet” texts “Facebook their friends” and David Greenfield engages in “Greenfielding.” In Bredderman’s articles, Greenfielding referred to Greenfield’s power and influence over the Borough Park Jewish community and the brazen way he got there.
There are two sides to David Greenfield, let’s just say, he covers his bases. There is David Greenfield a major “Player” in the Shomrim and their activities. His influence over the Shomrim – the Jewish “volunteer” police force being one side and his influence over New York’s Land Use Committee on the other side. Not only does he have an entire police force at his disposal and all of the perks associated with that; but he also has significant say in land use and redistricting for much of New York. Think Landau and Allure as prime examples of projects he could have (though we make no claims that he did) influence. What better way to “Take New York Back Again?” Own, in large part, the police force and control the land your herd of ultra-Orthodox sheep can plunder as they graze the fields you have plowed for them.
The catch phrases associated with Greenfield, the Greenfield mantra and the sound bites found in the pages of the Greenfield political playbook have been and continue to be:
- Re-zoning – think Allure and Rivington, Red Hook and flood zones, and the list goes on – the process by which properties zoned for one use get rezoned for a far more lucrative use, usually at the expense of taxpayers and anyone who has not sufficiently contributed to de Blasio’s campaign
- Affordable housing – think de Blasio and his disingenuous characterization of a program which should in theory be about New York City’s lower income families but is really a show – lip-service
- Mandatory Inclusionary Housing – another of de Blasio’s nonsense catch phrases – likely a Greenfield sound-bite.
- Shomrim (Borough Park) $300,000.00 since 2011 and at least $100,000.00 directed from Greenfield
- Pinny Ringel – ahhh…. another story in this saga
- Progressive – those who “bow down to Brooklyn’s ultimate insider and real estate millionaire ally ” (http://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2014/5/ww-web-greenfield-analysis-2014-01-31-bk_2014_5.html)
- Fund-raising prowess- “astounding”
- Domineering – Machiavellian
- Sephardic Community Federation – favored representative status – the consummate political whore
It is our opinion, that Councilman Greenfield’s power is largely unfettered, woven within the most influential aspects of New York politics and the practical application of the inner workings of every aspect of government. That power is in our view sadly directed by a challenged moral compass.
Brooklyn’s Private Jewish Patrols Wield Power. Some Call Them Bullies.
Every summer for the last six years, members of the Borough Park shomrim and officers from the 66th Precinct have come together for a softball game called the Greenfield Classic. The annual event, with its free kosher hot dogs and chummy competitive spirit, is named for David G. Greenfield, a city councilman who represents the district.
“They improve police-community relations,” Councilman Greenfield said of the games. “Hundreds of people show up. That’s why, when you walk down the streets of Borough Park, people have respect for the police.”
In many Hasidic neighborhoods, shomrim groups court the police, honoring them at breakfasts at kosher bakeries and attending — sometimes planning — retirement affairs for officials who are leaving the department. When Stephen McAllister took command of the 66th Precinct in 2002, a crowd of Hasidic men, many from the shomrim, stood in line for hours at the station house to welcome him.
“It was a weird, but great, experience,” said Mr. McAllister, now the police commissioner in Floral Park, N.Y. “All of them came in saying: ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so. I’m the most important guy around. Don’t pay any attention to the next guy.’”
In his three years running the precinct, Commissioner McAllister worked closely with the shomrim and came to respect them as liaisons to a community where he would always be an outsider. Once, he recalled, a controversial rabbi came from Israel to speak at a synagogue and some angry members of the audience threw eggs. “I told the shomrim, ‘You go into your own people and shut that down,’” he said. “ If the police had waded into that scenario, it could potentially go bad.”
Of course, this sort of hands-off treatment has led to accusations that the shomrim’s ties to the police can be corrupting. While building relationships with local precincts has been vital for communities where, 40 years ago, calls to the police might have been dealt with slowly, some opponents say that the shomrim have wooed officials into deference.
“Who is really controlling the Borough Park police station?” asked Joe Levin, a Hasidic private investigator who has clashed with the shomrim. “It’s not the N.Y.P.D.”
A few years ago, Mr. Levin said he handled a divorce case where a husband was beating his wife. One day, he added, the woman was hurt so badly that an ambulance removed her from her home on a stretcher. The police and the shomrim were also at the scene, he said, but no one did a thing when the husband rushed out, flipped the stretcher and knocked her to the ground.
“I saw this with my own eyes — everybody did,” Mr. Levin said.
Leiby Kletzky, 8, who was murdered in 2011 after being kidnapped from the streets of Borough Park. Credit New York Police Department, via Associated Press
Another case that is mentioned in discussions of the shomrim’s bonds with the police is that of Leiby Kletzky, an 8-year-old boy who in 2011 was murdered after being kidnapped from the streets of Borough Park. Leiby’s parents initially reported his disappearance to the shomrim, who waited at least two hours before calling 911. Though the killer was eventually arrested, Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner at the time, said the delayed notification was a “longstanding issue” with the shomrim.
Many shomrim members have attended the Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy, a 14-week program where students go through role-playing games and policing simulations, officials of the organizations say.
Mr. Daskal, the safety patrol leader in Borough Park, said the shomrim got nothing from their bonds with the police. “Maybe a mitzvah” — a blessing — he said, “or a feeling that our community is safe.”
But aside from training and certifications, the shomrim have received quite a lot. In 2012, State Senator Simcha Felder, then the city’s deputy comptroller, helped secure money from the City Council for a $300,000 mobile command center for Mr. Daskal’s group. The custom truck, like some that the Police Department owns, has a 12-person conference room and advanced communications technology. This year, Mr. Greenfield alone gave $30,000 to the Borough Park shomrim, according to a Council website. Other patrons, like State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, have also earmarked tens of thousands of dollars to the shomrim over the years.
“We’re not talking about a lot of money and it’s money well spent,” Mr. Hikind said. “There are real things that the shomrim needs money for — insurance, phones, vehicles.”
While Mr. Hikind said “the long marriage” between the shomrim and the police had been a good one, he acknowledged that the relationship had gone through rocky patches.
“Sometimes, if you get very close, you forget the fact that they are the police and we are the shomrim,” he said. “There has to be a barrier. Has it sometimes not been healthy? That could very well be.”
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Orthodox Shomrim Patrol Faces New Questions After Brooklyn Bribery Scandal
The Shomrim, headquartered on 14th Avenue in Boro Park, consist entirely of married Orthodox men, many of them owners of small Boro Park businesses. While the criminal complaint against Lichtenstein asserts that he is a member of the Shomrim, officials with the group say he dropped out after moving to Rockland County. Yet Lichtenstein played on the Shomrim softball team in an August 2015 game against the 66th Precinct, and a photo tweeted from the official Shomrim twitter account less than a week ago appears to show Lichtenstein in attendance at a Shomrim meeting with the current commanding officer of the 66th Precinct about the upcoming Passover holiday.
Founded in the early 1990s as the Bakery Boys, a loose gang of young Hasidic men who worked nighttime delivery jobs, the Shormim were formalized under the tutelage of the 66th Precinct. The group was officially incorporated in 1995 as the Shmira Civilian Volunteer Patrol of Boro Park. (Confusingly, Shmira is also the name of a rival Boro Park volunteer patrol. The original group is known on the streets as the Shomrim, despite the official designation on its tax forms.) Today, the Boro Park Shomrim are largely government-funded, according to the group’s tax filings, with New York City giving the organization over $300,000 since 2011. New York City Council member David Greenfield alone has directed more than $100,000 to the group during that period. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s liaison to the Jewish community, Pinny Ringel, is a former member. One of the Shomrim leaders, Marc Katz, is president of the city-supported Community Council that advises the 66th Precinct.
As a result of the federal investigation, the city froze $35,000 worth of city contracts with the Shomrim, according to a report in Politico New York.
The NYPD declined to make the current commanding officer of the 66th Precinct, Captain Kenneth Quick, available for an interview. But from the group’s early days up until just weeks ago, police officials who work with the Shomrim on the ground have seemed particularly enamored of them.
In a 2015 interview posted on the local Jewish news website JPUpdates, Quick calledthe Shomrim a “good force multiplier.”
And Joseph Esposito, a former top-ranked NYPD official who was stationed at the 66th Precinct from 1986 until the early 1990s, eventually serving as the precinct’s commanding officer, said he “felt the Shomrim, the Bakery Boys that run in the 6-6, was one of the best-run, most controlled civilian patrols I’ve ever experienced in my tenure in the police department.” Esposito went on to become the Chief of Department, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD, and serves today as commissioner of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management.
“What we did in the 6-6 could be a model for the rest of the city,” he said.
The Shomrim reinforce their ties to police through official dinners and fancy parties. On March 22, a Shomrim coordinator and a member of its board of directors, Simcha Bernath, hosted a meal at a pricey Boro Park kosher steakhouse for roughly 30 NYPD officers and brass, including Quick and the high-ranking commander of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, Assistant Chief Steven M. Powers. Also in attendance was Deputy Chief Eric Rodriguez, Powers’s second-in-command, who was transferred to desk duty on April 8 amid the FBI investigation.
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De Blasio’s Affordable Housing Plan Heads to an Uncertain City Council
Politics and policy will be at play as the City Council considers Mayor de Blasio’s effort to re-zone the city in pursuit of affordable housing
“Our goal is to make changes. We’re going into a discussion with the intention of tweaking both of these programs, and to what extent and how and what the details are, that’s something we’re going to explore,” said Councilman David Greenfield, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the Land Use Committee.
While the proposals were approved by the City Planning Commission last week, the road en route to the council has not been smooth. The plans—MIH, which will require developers who need city approvals to build condos or apartments to include affordable housing, and ZQA, which will make a slew of zoning changes including allowing taller buildings—have met with considerable opposition from community boards and borough presidents. As Mr. Vacca said, their reasons have been diverse: some say the plan isn’t affordable enough, some are worried about up-zoning and increased density, others fear any market-rate housing, even if it comes with affordable units, will hasten gentrification and push out residents, some are frustrated that the buildings won’t have more parking.
“It is clear that we need a better citywide policy to increase affordable housing to meet the needs of working families who have been struggling for far too long,” Councilman Donovan Richards, chair of the zoning subcommittee, said in a statement. “My committee and I are prepared to hear all sides during the next two days to ensure that the concerns of all New Yorkers are considered as work towards finding a more aggressive and inclusive housing plan.”
And in addition to policy concerns, there are, of course, political factors at play. In addition to community boards and borough presidents, progressive groups—some smartly organizing with labor unions who want prevailing wages set—have opposed aspects of the plan. And while Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly argued that community boards do not have a final say in the policy, they matter to council members: some of whom rose up through the community board ranks, others who fear challengers emerging from them.
“Starting a council timeline with so much community opposition obviously makes life more difficult,” said Councilman Dan Garodnick, who sits on the crucial Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. “That said, we have the power to amend the plan, and there clearly are many important elements here that deserve our attention.”
“Residents are fearful because they have seen neighborhoods change, residents change, and they have seen the push-out/price-out effect—and they don’t want that happen to them,” Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson said.
In interviews, several council members cited the concerns of their community boards and other local groups as they begin to deliberate the plan in earnest in the coming weeks.
“Council members don’t like to vote against their local community boards and borough boards and borough presidents,” said one council member, who did not want to be identified. “So you have a lot of pushback here—and especially folks who are very sensitive to their community’s interests, their communities have many concerns. There’s certainly deep concerns among a large portion of the council.”
Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who represents a part of the Bronx being specifically targeted for development, said she expected local groups to continue to be “very vocal” about their concerns.
“I think the fact that the majority of the community and borough boards have not voted to support this measure is really a loud message for us in the City Council. I think many of us are looking for opportunities for a couple things,” she said, to be added to the plan.
She rattled off a few: deeper affordability (or more units reserved for the most poor residents in the city), developments encouraging economic diversity by putting affordable units in the same building as market-rate ones, union labor or prevailing wages, and protection for current residents from raising rents.
“Residents are fearful because they have seen neighborhoods change, residents change, and they have seen the push-out/price-out effect, and they don’t want that happen to them,” Ms. Gibson said. “And they have a lot of validity to feel that way, because there’s a lot of distrust of government.”
While council members are facing intense pressure from community groups, they’ll also undoubtedly face pressure from Mr. de Blasio’s administration. And it may not be lost on council members that the mayor has expended quite a bit of his political goodwill in the last few weeks, leaning hard on them to pass a ban on horse-drawn carriages in city streets that eventually fell apart on Friday morning.
“It’s a factor,” Mr. Garodnick said when asked about that recent council fight. “It’s hard to say how much of a factor, but it’s a factor.”
Another council member, speaking anonymously to discuss the dynamics at play, said in addition to policy concerns and fear of push-back from building trade unions and progressive groups, there was another factor at work: “mounting displeasure with the mayor in the City Council,” fueled by things like the carriage ban.
“I think the question going forward, and we don’t know this yet, is how strongly does the coalition break down along allies and opponents of the mayor?” this member asked. “Do we once again get in that position? And there’s every reason to expect that we will because of lingering wounds from the most recent fight.”
But others argued the fight was likely to be non-ideological.
“Although the mayor has probably exhausted his political capital, I don’t know how relevant that is for this issue,” Councilman Rory Lancman, a Queens Democrat, said. “The horse carriages, truly people really didn’t care… That’s different from you local community board taking a position on re-zoning and mandatory inclusionary housing and listing their concerns and addressing those concerns.”
In a briefing today, the mayor’s affordable housing triumvirate—Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod, and Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been—hinted that there might be room for adjusting the definition of “affordable,”but they were very cautious in that regard, saying the current plan had struck a balance of being both economically feasible, built to weather potential economic downturns, and constitutionally do-able. And they noted that while some members want to see union labor at work on these housing developments, the zoning code—which is what is being amended—cannot mandate what type of labor is used.
The administration also just fundamentally disagrees with some critiques of the plan, including the idea that development will make neighborhoods targeted for housing, like East New York in Brooklyn, less affordable.
“People are already moving into other neighborhoods. The world is not static,” Ms. Glen said. “And the notion that doing something is worse than doing nothing is a ridiculous premise.”
Asked how they planned to get the unwieldy crew of fifty council members—one seat is vacant—on board, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the administration had seen an “radical shift” in the last few months toward members being more supportive of the plan, at least if it encompasses some of their tweaks. But it wouldn’t be New York, she argued, if everyone agreed with the plan.
“When you try to do anything that’s citywide, you realize what an incredibly complex eco-system this is,” she said.
That gets to the heart of the opposition to the plan from Councilman Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican and the minority leader.
“I have a problem with the one-size-fits-all approach, basically taking it out of our hands,” Mr. Matteo said. “It goes back to that age-old question about local control. And for me, elected officials and community members and just members of the neighborhoods, they know whats best for their neighborhoods.”
Mr. Vacca—representing a very different segment of the Bronx than Ms Gibson, where parking and density is the main worry—said members will be thinking carefully about what their constituents think.
Greenfield’s impending appointment to the helm of the Land Use Committee was one of the first details to leak out on the deal between the Progessives and Brooklyn Dem boss Frank Seddioto put Viverito at the top of the Council food chain — just at the moment when real estate interests were lining up to oppose the left-wing East Harlem councilwoman’s rise to the speakership. The leak that a figure closely aligned with major property ownerswould be given authority over zoning and public land dispositions was no accident, according to insiders.
“It’s not that hard to connect the dots,” one source said.
Greenfield is perhaps the single most influential political figure in Brooklyn today, thanks mainly to gerrymandering and a nearly bottomless supply of cash from deep-pocketed backers.
Sources say Greenfield derives his power from two sources — his ability to collect donations from wealthy Sephardic Jewish real estate moguls, and his ability to act as an intermediary with the religious Jewish community for other councilmembers.
Greenfield’s sway over multi-millionaire Middle Eastern Jewish community stems from his pre-Council stint as executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, a post sources said he obtained through a personal connection with the group’s founder. Greenfield is Ashkenazic, or European Jewish extraction, but he nonethelessquickly became the Sephardic community’s favored representative to the political world, with a reputation for delivering.
“What happens is they go to him with what they want, and David creates a forum where that can happen,” a former Greenfield associate said.
Even before Greenfield became a councilman, his influence over Sephardic dollars obligated elected leaders to pay him respect. His son’s 2009 bris drew a veritable who’s who of Brooklyn pols. And when he decided in 2010 to run to replace then-CouncilmanSimcha Felder, he received the backing of then-Dem boss Vito Lopez and the entire Sephardic community. The names of major Sephardic real estate families — Sitt, Sutton, Tawil, Jerome, Bailey, Laboz, among others — now appear in the campaign filings of nearly every candidate that Greenfield endorses.
Greenfield’s fund-raising prowess has astounded members of his own party.
“He’ll just show up with checks from people you never heard of and you’ll ask ‘who the hell is this?’ And he’ll say ‘don’t worry about it,’ ” one Democratic leader said.
The Sephardic community has seen a remarkable return on their investment. In the three years since Greenfield entered the Council, more than $2 million in taxpayer funds have gone to Sephardic organizations in Brooklyn.
Insiders said Greenfield also directs his land-owning backers to have Seddio and his law chairmanFrank Carone — both attorneys — handle the legal paperwork on their real estate transactions, which translates into even greater influence over the party machinery for Greenfield.
“He gets the two of them a lot of work, and so when he says ‘jump,’ they say ‘how high?’ ” a party insider said.
Greenfield now reportedly helps the county organization select candidates for endorsement, using a simple criteria — anyone too intelligent or too independent is automatically ruled out.
“He likes to work with councilmembers who aren’t that smart, or at least aren’t as smart as he is, because that means they’re easier for him to control,” an insider said.
A spokesman for Seddio and Carone denied that they have received accounts through the Councilman, and Greenfield denies streering business their way.
Once in the Council, Greenfield quickly became co-chair of the Brooklyn delegation and its budget negotiator. He later gained further influence from the Council redistricting soon after he took office, which divvied up the core religious Jewish neighborhoods of Borough Park, Crown Heights, and Midwood among several councilmembers, who turned to Greenfield to gain entrée to that tight-knit community.
Sources said Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Flatbush) was terrified of an Orthodox insurgency in the Crown Heights section of his turf in 2013, and had Greenfield take him on a tour to introduce him to the major players in the Jewish community. Eugene denied being scared of any demographic, but admitted he had received Greenfield’s assistance
“Councilmember Greenfield, when I go to his community, he makes me feel comfortable,” Eugene said.
Insiders say the only check on the power Greenfield wields over his colleagues and the Brooklyn Democratic machine is how much his colleagues loathe him.
“He would definitely agree with Machiavelli’s theory that it’s better to be feared than loved,” one observer said.
In City Hall, Greenfield’s behavior is described as domineering, and two insiders recalled Greenfield once reducing Councilwoman Darlene Mealy (D–Brownsville) to tears with a barrage of pointed questions. Greenfield, however, said he and Mealy have “great working relationship,” and the councilwoman declined to comment.
Sources said that Greenfield twice lobbied his Council cohorts to name him head of the powerful Finance Committee, but the distaste for the councilman was too great.
“They said ‘no way,’ because they f—— hate him,” one insider recalled.
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