What a New City Council Means for the Jewish Community

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (center) meets with Council member Chaim Deutsch (second from right) of Flatbush and Jewish community leaders at the home of Josh Mehlman (third from left), the chairman of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition. (Photo courtesy of Office of City Councilman Chaim Deutsch via The Forward)

With new leadership in the City Council and new members in influential positions, the Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis looks at whether the reshuffling of seats once held by Jewish lawmakers means less influence and leverage for the community in the next four years.

One “communal insider,” for example, says “yeshivas definitely need to be concerned” as two of the Council’s leaders, Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm, oppose programs that give funding to the schools.

Then there’s the Jewish social service organizations, some of whom…

…rely on the City Council for funding through member-driven discretionary grants, in which the interests of the council’s leadership influences disbursement. The speaker and his allies also decide which bills make their way to a vote.

Brad Lander of Park Slope, David Greenfield of Boro Park and Mark Levine of Upper Manhattan are among the Council members who will no longer have influential positions. Lander had been “the body’s kingmaker” while Greenfield led the Committee on Land Use.

Now, following a round of elections and a contentious battle for the role of speaker, Greenfield has left his seat to lead a Jewish social service agency, while Lander’s influence appears to be much diminished. Lander and Kalman Yeger, Greenfield’s replacement, were among the few council members not to receive committee chairmanships, though Lander remains the council’s deputy leader for policy. Meanwhile, Mark Levine, who represents parts of Upper Manhattan, will now be replaced as head of the body’s Jewish Caucus by Chaim Deutsch, a conservative Democrat from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

This change in the Jewish Caucus has some in the community concerned. Go to the Forward to find out why, as well as remarks from Jewish insiders and leaders who, on the other hand, have full confidence in Corey Johnson and see fresh opportunities under the new City Council.

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