Yeger Trounces Hikind in NYC District 44 Elections

As predicted by pundits in the course of an unusually acrimonious political contest over New York City’s district 44, Kalman Yeger emerged victorious in the Nov 7, 2017 city elections. He is taking over the council seat of David Greenfield who had announced his decision not to run for reelection in July 2017.

Kalman Yeger, Winner of NYC Council District 44 seat.

Yeger had received the nomination of the city’s Democratic Party without having to compete against any other candidates in a primary. This was accomplished by his protege and ex-employer, David Greenfield, through the late timing of Greenfield’s announcement not to seek reelection –after the July 14 deadline for filing with the city as a partisan candidate. According to NYC law, party committees then get to decide who should be on their party’s ballot. Greenfield, through his influence on the “committee on vacancies” had persuaded party bosses to nominate Yeger.

In a municipal political machine awash in backroom deals, Greenfield’s devious tactic, meant to circumvent the normal primary procedure, would normally not have attracted much attention. Given Greenfield’s longtime feud with Assemblyman Dov Hikind, however, the latter was incensed by Greenfield’s act, and encouraged his a proxy of his own –no other than his son Yoni Hikind– to run against Greenfield in the general election by appearing on the ballot as the nominee of the ad-hoc Our Neighborhood party.

NYC 44th Council District

The city district in question, number 44, comprises the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Midwood. The district’s population as of the 2010 census was 164,000 –predominantly Orthodox Jewish. Although a sizable portion of the Jewish population in these neighborhoods is Hasidic, and the Hasidic sector is growing faster than the Lithuanian one, it is as of yet unprecedented for any Hasidic person to serve as an elected lawmaker in either City Hall or Albany. All of Yeger, Greenfield, and both Hikinds are either Lithuanian or conduct themselves accordingly, e.g. they do not grow peios.

Greenfield was first elected councilman in 2010. He assumed a seat previously occupied by Noach Dear (1992-2001) and Simcha Felder (2002-2010), both moderately Orthodox Lithuanian politicians. Greenfield’s decision not to run for reelection is most likely prompted by the temptation of money at the expense of fame: he was offered the position of CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (known as the Met Council), an office that commands a $500,000+ salary per year instead of the “meager” $148,500 per year awarded to city councilmembers. With his ability to still be somewhat influential in politics through his now-elected protege, Kalman Yeger, he gets the best of both worlds by resigning from politics. Greenfield is considered grandfathered in and exempt from the city’s two-term limit enacted in 2010.

Yoni Hikind

Greenfield had first dabbled in politics as an aide to Dov Hikind. It isn’t clear what exactly had triggered the fallout between them, but by the time Greenfield sought the 44th district councilship, Hikind was already vehemently opposed to him. Jealousy may have been a factor, as the young Greenfield did not pay sufficient deference to his elder and former boss, and ran for an office that was at least as important as that of assemblyman. (Hikind’s 48th assembly district represents a population of 129,000 and commands a salary of a mere $78,000 compared to Greenfield’s 44th district council that represents 164,000 people and pays double that amount).

Through the years the two politicians kept butting heads, e.g. the tiff over whether a particular incident in 2014 in which a constituent was hurt was a deliberate “knockout” or not.

Hence the strong opinions engendered within the Brooklyn Ortho

Yeger Campaigning at Bobov

dox Jewish community in the just-completed 2017 municipal election cycle. Both Yeger and Hikind had armies of young supporters, the former through his advocacy for the community over nearly a decade, and the latter through his social work (Yoni Hikind has been a practicing LMSW on behalf of “weak” yeshiva students in Midwood/Flatbush). Both had invested great effort and considerable sums in courting the dozens of shuls and Rabbis scattered through the district. Neither candidate had managed to secure a definitive endorsement from any major Rabbi, probably because Rabbis had little to gain from going out on a limb for either one since there would be little to gain in political favors over and above other Hasidic entities who will have supported a losing candidate: a city council member does not have sufficient power and his actions are too closely scrutinized by the public for him to be able to dish out the spoils of war to his warriors upon victory.

Dov Hikind’s 48th Assembly District

Nevertheless, while Satmar and others hemmed and hawed, Bobov bravely entered the ring. Bobov 45 had emphatically endorsed Hikind and Bobov 48 had sided with Yeger.

And yet, Hikind had little chance of winning. With the public opinion within the Jewish community seemingly at a toss up, the odds of winning were decidedly on Yeger’s side owing to his appearance on the ballot as the nominee of the Democratic party and the tendency of so many New Yorkers to vote Democratically straight down the ballot.

After the votes were tallied, Yeger won by a landslide of 69% of the vote to Hikind’s 29%. The only thing the Yoni’s supporters could brag of was that despite his uphill climb he managed to secure 5,000 votes.

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One Response to Yeger Trounces Hikind in NYC District 44 Elections

  1. Mo says:

    “Noach Dear (1992-2001) and Simcha Felder (2002-2010), both moderately Orthodox Lithuanian politicians.”

    Neither is Lithuanian.

    Felder’s father founded and presided over a nusach Sfard shtiebel.

    Litvaks daven nusach Ashkenaz.

    The lack of a shtreimel alone does not a Litvak make or signify.

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