all the time, ask for my card, and then trade them at school. I think you can get like five cards for one Greenfield, so that’s pretty cool.
What did your parents do? My father is deceased. He was an attorney and business-man who specialized in turning around failing businesses. After school I’d go to his office. People would come to him with their problems, anything from needing business or marital advice to help finding a job. He spent as much time helping other people as he did on his own business. My mother still lives in Brooklyn, a few blocks from where we grew up. She’s in her late 60s. We have a Jewish tradition of not asking our parents how old they are, so I don’t know her exact age, or I won’t admit to knowing it. She spends most days volunteering, doing things like taking people to the hospital and helping get food for people who need it before the holidays.
How did you get your start in politics? I was a corporate lawyer. I went to Georgetown Law and worked at Rosenman Colin. When my father died at age 54, I realized that if you want to do things, you shouldn’t push them off. I reexamined my priorities and decided I wanted to save the world.
Dov Hikind recently said he’d reveal the reason there’s animosity between you two in a book. What is he talking about? No idea. Politics in this town is a funny business. People who are your enemies today are your friends tomorrow. The year before I ran for City Council, [Dov] honored me at his club dinner. The next year, when I ran he supported my opponent. I don’t take any of it personally, I view it as political posturing.
Do developers try to give you gifts? I have a very strict no-gift policy. Literally today my assistant got a call from a developer saying, “Hey, can we have your address, we want to send something over for the holidays.” I politely said, “We appreciate that, but we don’t accept any gifts.” You’ve got to follow the rules, which is under $50. But I’ve kept it simple: no gifts, not even a cup of coffee.
Who was a developer expecting to get whatever they wanted? One of the earliest projects I worked with was with TF Cornerstone in Helen Rosenthal’s district. There was a new mayor and council, and I don’t think folks understood how the politics had shifted. At one point I said, “OK, here’s what we need,” and … they said, “If that’s your position, then we may tell our client to just kill the project. And I said, “Great, I’ll be a hero to Helen Rosenthal.” They were shocked. Their thinking was, “How is it possible that you’re going to shut
上海夜网论坛 down a project that’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars?”
The council spent a lot of time working out a rezoning for Midtown East, to which REBNY essentially said, “Thanks but no thanks.” Did it feel like a waste of time? If everybody’s a little bit grumpy at the end, I feel like we did our job. I tend to feel that way about Midtown East. If you walk away from the project and somebody’s jumping up and down, I get a little bit nervous and I say, “Did we really cut as fair a deal as possible?”
What are the major misconceptions about NYC’s Orthodox Jewish community? People come to Borough Park and they see a lot of big houses and assume everybody’s rich. People don’t realize that the Orthodox Jewish community is one of the few communities where the very rich and very poor live side by side. So you could literally have somebody living in a $10 million mansion and have a three-story walk-up next door where some people are on Section 8.
What’s the best meal in Midwood? If you don’t keep kosher, it’s Di Fara Pizza. If you do, you go across the street to Kosher Bagel Hole, which in my opinion has the best kosher bagels in New York.
Does the extravagant wealth of the real estate industry put you off? I drive a Ford Fusion, so I certainly don’t fall in the category of people who have fancy lifestyles. Part of this business is you get to see massive displays of wealth. The fact that you own six homes and a private jet and a collection of cars, I don’t think is what should be impressive about you. It’s a great thing that you have so much money, but have you really made a difference?
Will you run for public office at some point? If you had asked me six months ago if I thought I’d be running the largest Jewish charity in New York, I’d say no. So in this business, the short answer is: you never know.
Advice for the next land use chairman? Play it straight and people will respect you.
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