Chris Bragg reports: None of the three prospective candidates lives in the New York City Council district, but another elected official who does is trying to determine which of them gets to replace Council Member Simcha Felder.
Assembly Member Dov Hikind, an influential powerbroker in the Jewish Orthodox community of Boro Park, is seeking to use his influence to narrow the field of candidates who are planning to run in the special election, expected for sometime in March.
Hikind said he is trying to dissuade either Joe Lazar, a longtime local government official, or former Council Member Noach Dear, a Brooklyn Civil Court judge, from running because he fears they could split the Boro Park vote, and hand the election to David Greenfield, the founder of Teach NYS.
Greenfield has tangled with Hikind and Hikind ally Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in recent years.
“That’s the goal of everybody, to be united [against Greenfield],” Hikind said.
Greenfield has already declared that he will run for Felder’s seat, and is seen as the strongest candidate in Council district’s neighborhoods outside of Boro Park. If multiple Boro Park candidates run against Greenfield, this would give Greenfield a leg up in the special election, Hikind said.
Greenfield served as Hikind’s chief of staff from 2001-2004. But political insiders say Greenfield is more independent of the Boro Park political establishment than other potential candidates in the race and represents a threat to Hikind’s influence.
“Dov has a tremendous disdain for the fact that Greenfield does and says whatever he wants,” said one political insider in the neighborhood, who is not affiliated with any campaign.
Hikind declined to comment on the reasons why he opposes Greenfield.
Thursday morning, Hikind is expected hold a meeting with Lazar where the two will discuss whether Lazar will stay in the race, Lazar confirmed.
“I’m meeting with Dov, and I really need to talk with Noach as well to see what’s going on,” said Lazar. “It is my intention to run, but I need to see what’s going on.”
Several political insiders in the neighborhood said they expected Hikind to ask Lazar to drop out of the race. Lazar is extremely close to Hikind and likely would drop out if asked by the Assembly member, said several people close to the situation.
Dear, meanwhile, is a near-lock to run for the seat whether Hikind wants him to run or not, said several neighborhood insiders. Dear also would likely be a more viable candidate than Lazar, given his two decades of building name recognition as a Council member in the 80’s and 90’s, they said.
Hikind, however, said he had no intention of asking Lazar to step aside at the meeting, and said that his goal is simply to get a single candidate running against Greenfield-whether Lazar or Dear.
Meanwhile, it struck some Greenfield supporters as odd that Hikind would go to such lengths to thwart Greenfield’s political ambitions.
“That’s fascinating,” said Council Member Lew Fidler. “David used to be [Hikind’s] chief-of-staff, so I don’t know what category to put that in.”
Though Greenfield does not have Hikind’s support, he is not lacking for endorsements. He has already privately lined up the support of Kings County Democratic Party Leader Vito Lopez, State Sens. Carl Kruger and Marty Golden and Council Members Domenic Recchia, a source close to the Greenfield campaign said.
Greenfield said that he was not concerned about who would be running against him and that he is planning on making Hikind’s brand of old-school politics a talking point in the campaign.
“This is the exact type of backroom, smoke-filled room politics that I’m running against,” Greenfield said. “This backroom deal-making is not going to select the City Council candidate.”