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Brooklyn Bridge

Binyamin Rose

David Greenfield is arguably one of America’s most powerful Orthodox Jewish elected officials. His Brooklyn district is home to more than 120,000 Jews, but if you ask him, he insists the best way to serve them is to exert broad influence for the benefit of all his constituents. As Mishpacha’s news editor Binyamin Rose shadowed Greenfield for a full working day, Councilman Greenfield shared the political wisdom of a spiritual gadol, and disclosed how his yarmulke almost set off a Mideast crisis.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All little boys have big dreams, but only a few ever work their way into a position to make those dreams come true.DavidGreenfield did. As a child, he played in one of Brooklyn’s most crowded and run-down playgrounds —in the 18th Avenue Park — losing patience with the long lines for the one and only swing set. When he got elected to the New York City Council in 2010, at age 31, he decided to make park renovation his top priority. It took the next five years, dozens of meetings, and cutting through copious quantities of red tape before he secured $5.45 million to renovate the park. “When I broke ground on the project just a few weeks ago and thought about the tens of thousands of children who will enjoy the same park that disappointed me as a child some 30 years ago, I was elated,” Greenfield says, looking forward to the day when the park will boast not just two new swing sets, but four new playgrounds, brand-new basketball and paddle-ball courts, a new baseball field, new benches, trees, and lighting. As a member of the City Council, the Big Apple’s lawmaking body, Greenfield considers the $23 million he has already obtained for parks funding as his most significant accomplishment to date. City and State, a bimonthly magazine devoted solely to covering New York government and politics, ranks Greenfield as the 69th most powerful New Yorker, a position from which he should be able to make more of his and his constituents’ dreams come true. I catch up withDavidGreenfield on the steps of City Hall, after he emerges from an emergency session to negotiate the city’s $78 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016. And although I’m a bit jet-lagged following the flight fromTelAviv to New York the day before, Greenfield’s energy and enthusiasm level is contagious. While big political decisions are made behind closed doors, it is the informal political chatter that greases the wheels behind the scenes. With his black velvet yarmulke, Greenfield is one of the most influential members of a political culture that seats representatives of every ethnic and religious community under one domed roof.

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