Team Greenfield Money Machine Defends Itself On Fundraising Practices

City Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park, Midwood, Bensonhurst) today defended himself against an explosive Observer story published yesterday documenting how he socked away more than $300,000, mostly from real estate interests, in a state polical account under the home address of Kings County Democratic political operative Kalman Yeger  and his wife Jennifer Berger, who works for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Mark-Viverito appointed Greenfield as chair of the powerful Land Use Committee in January 2014 and hired Berger a few months later as a legislative aide working as a liaison to the Jewish community.

The 22-member Land Use Committee is a crucial gatekeeper for all developers seeking zoning changes in the five boroughs. Berger has extensive experience in political fundraising, having worked on the financial side of campaigns including for Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Public Advocate Letitia James.  

Besides the state fund, listed as the GreenfieldNY account, the lawmaker has a whopping $855,342 in his City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) filings. This is more than any other Brooklyn City Council member, and more than double Council Member Brad Lander‘s nearly $370,000, who has the second most amount of money in CFB filings.
City Councilman David Greenfield

Greenfield sources attribute this to the fact the councilman has many wealthy friends. It also makes Greenfield the go-to money man in the Kings County Democratic Party, where he can donate the CFB maximum of $2,750 to cash-strapped colleague campaigns from his own campaign account, and get wealthy friends to help fund other candidates for everything from local district leader races to judicial and legislative races.

Greenfield also held a fundraiser for Yeger, who is eyeing a run against one of Greenfield’s political rivals, City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch.  In less than two months he helped Yeger raise a hefty $84,616.

But for all the money raised and spent, team Greenfield says it’s by the book.

“A review of every contribution since Councilman Greenfield became chair finds that not a single one had business in front of the city of New York,” said a Greenfield Campaign Spokesperson. “The Councilman takes his role as Chair very seriously. His focus is on balancing the needs of all New Yorkers while maximizing the creation of affordable housing.”

The spokesperson said since Greenfield assumed the Chair of the Land Use committee, he has vetted every single contribution through a data base to ensure that the donor doesn’t do business with the city even though the law allows those donations.

But according to the Observer story, Greenfield received several questionable campaign contributions, including in the last year, $10,000 each from the Chetrit Group and Cornell Realty Management.

This past December, Chetrit revealed it hoped to rezone a vast eight-acre industrial tract in Maspeth, Queens to allow residential development.

In November, Cornell unveiled a vision in January of two 16-story towers on a pair of properties in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, the construction of which would require the city to raise height restrictions.

It withdrew the plans temporarily in January after local protest, but said it would resubmit them in the near future.

Neither of these developers have gone before the Land Use Committee as of yet, but would need to do so to get any rezoning approved. The Greenfield campaign spokesperson said that in any case of possible conflict of interest before the Land Use Committee, Greenfield would recuse himself from the hearing and stated this for the record several times.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

A Greenfield source noted that it is common for candidates and lawmakers to establish a separate committee for a potential future race – in fact, NYC law requires it. CFB provides a mechanism to disclose other committees to the CFB, so CFB can review for compliance. This committee has been disclosed to the CFB since it was established.  Like other candidates with more than one committee, this committee does not expend funds, with the exception for legally required expenses specified by CFB’s advisory opinion and applicable NYC law, the source said.

The Greenfield source said the state fund was established because Greenfield was considering a run for a state office. It is well-known in political circles that there is little love lost between Greenfield, and his two orthodox Jewish political rivals, State Sen. Simcha Felder and Assemblyman Dov Hikind. All three represent the same neighborhoods in their respective legislative chambers.

Mark-Viverito did not respond to several inquiries as to whether she thought there was any conflict of interest in her appointment of Greenfield as Chair of the Land Use Committee, or if she has any concerns that an employee under her was allowing her address to be used for hefty contributions from the real estate industry.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story had Greenfield throwing a fundraiser for City Council Member Laurie Cumbo. This information was incorrect. Greenfield never hosted a fundraiser for Cumbo. He did donate money to her campiagn as he has done for several city council members. 

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