For decades, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and William Rapfogel, the disgraced head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, have attempted to preserve the Jewish character of the Lower East Side – often at the expense of other communities.
According to the New York Times, Silver and Rapfogel – who was recently arrested for taking $7 million in kickbacks from Met Council’s insurance broker — worked behind the scenes to promote specific plans and favored developers for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, 20 acres along the southern side of Delancey Street. The site was bulldozed by the city in 1967, displacing 1,800 low-income families, largely Puerto Ricans`, with the promise that they could soon move back.
But thanks to the efforts of Silver and Rapfogel the site has sat empty for decades. Both opposed affordable housing, which would have changed the demographics of the neighborhood. And according to the Times, Silver occasionally misrepresented the desires of his Chinese and Hispanic constituents in conversations with city officials to undermine housing plans at SPURA.
“They would rather have the vacant lots and rats than have minority people there,” said Frances Goldin, a leader in the Lower East Side Joint Planning Council. [NYT] – Christopher Cameron