Powerful councilman to step down, choose own successor

How’s that for gratitude?
Photo by Steve Solomonson

A powerful Borough Park councilman announced yesterday he will not seek reelection this November, apparently so he can hand-pick his successor.

Councilman David Greenfield (D–Borough Park) said he will not run for his seat later this year, but his decision came after a key July 13 deadline for Council campaigns, and locked out candidates who might have run for the seat had they known the well-funded incumbent was stepping down.

Instead, Greenfield has assembled a “committee on vacancies” — which includes his wife Dina along with four other appointees — that will name the councilman’s substitute on the ballot by Friday.

By removing the competition, Greenfield’s candidate will most likely win, and some good-government groups say that undercuts the democratic process.

“He’s putting in place a political ally that will continue to match his interests and philosophies without the benefit of any real primary election,” said Dick Dadey, head of Citizens Union.

Greenfield, who was voted into office during a special election in March of 2010 after Councilman Simcha Felder stepped down, and subsequently reelected in November of that year and again in 2013, could have served one more term in office before term limits kicked in — and kicked him out.

Whoever his successor is could potentially be in office for two full terms until 2026 after running virtually unopposed this year, detractors say.

“It’s a sneaky move,” said lawyer and activist also-ran John O’Hara.

As of Monday, Greenfield’s only challenger to register candidacy with the city, David Mandel, had dropped out of the race, according to Campaign Finance Board Spokesman William Fowler.

Kalman Yeger, a political ally mulling a challenge to Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay), is considered Greenfield’s likely pick.

Yeger could not be reached for comment by press time.

In a statement, Greenfield, who is the chairman of the powerful Committee on Land Use, said he looks forward to serving impoverished New Yorkers in his new role as chief executive officer at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which boasts more than $53 million in assets, according to guidestar.org.

“I was humbled to be asked by the lay-leadership to serve as its next leader, subject to government approval, and am excited about galvanizing this critically important organization to serve our city’s neediest for years to come,” Greenfield’s statement read.

Greenfield did not respond to requests for comment regarding the timing of his announcement.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.