In his days as a competitive eater, Leon Feingold performed under the nom-de-guerre “Justice.” Now members of New York’s polyamory community accuse him of just the opposite.
Feingold — a man with an IQ of 168, former professional baseball player, trained lawyer, current real estate broker, Burning Man enthusiast, Freemason, three-time participant in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest world championships in Coney Island and public face of New York’s polyamory movement — is battling accusations that he was too slow to remove a man accused of sexual assault from the community.
As of last month, he is no longer part of the leadership of Open Love New York, an organization that runs educational and social events for polyamorous New Yorkers. Over the weekend he announced his resignation “from all leadership roles within the sex positive community.” He is also assuming a reduced role in New York Dangerous, a group that organizes an annual camp at the Burning Man music festival and has more than 2,000 members on Facebook.
Feingold’s critics claim he hesitated to ban a man accused of physically abusing women from polyamory events and allowed him to join his camp at Burning Man this year. In Facebook comments, several women accused the man, who is known for organizing rope-bondage classes, of a series of assaults. They accused him of unwanted conduct during sex; biting one of his alleged victims; and allegedly throwing another woman down a flight of stairs. They claimed Feingold knew of some of the accusations for more than a year but kept allowing the alleged perpetrator to join social events. (Because no charges appear to have been filed by alleged victims, The Real Deal is not identifying the accused man.)
Lila Kay, who described herself as a member of New York Dangerous’ leadership, said that while she is “physically sick that so many people have been harmed” by the alleged perpetrator, no assault occurred at the camp itself. She added that the group took steps to ensure the “errors of 2017 will not be repeated.” She said that Feingold made a mistake and she welcomed his stepping down but also believed Feingold showed “sound judgment” in many other cases as a camp leader over the years.
Last week, Feingold published an at-times defensive post on Facebook, acknowledging that he should have removed the person sooner, but claimed that calls for him to step down from leadership positions and to be blacklisted from polyamorous events amounted to “character assassination” and a “misguided witch hunt.” Feingold claimed that he flagged the person’s behavior to others in the community’s leadership and acted slowly in part because he didn’t want to “ring a bell that cannot be unrung, ruining a man’s reputation without due process.” He also blamed his mistakes in part on the fact that he is on the Autism spectrum.
Feingold declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a statement sent to TRD this week, he wrote: “I regret making statements that were hurtful or dismissive; most of my criticism came from people trying to protect our community. Their hearts were in the right place and I shouldn’t have reacted so defensively. But while I understand and share their passion for safety, it was their projections onto my actions I challenged. Not their version of events.”
The post spawned an online debate with hundreds of comments. Some sprang to his defense. “Leon I support you (…) and know you wouldn’t hurt a fly if you didn’t intend to,” wrote one commenter. Others piled onto him. “WOMEN’S BODIES ARE NOT EXPERIMENTS FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP LEARNING PROCESS,” one alleged victim wrote to Feingold.
TRD reached out to several of Feingold’s critics and to alleged victims, but they all declined to comment or did not respond. A spokesperson for Open Love New York (OLNY) confirmed that Feingold is no longer a member of the group’s leadership and that the alleged predator “was banned from OLNY for complaints about his behavior that were investigated and verified.”
On Saturday, Feingold published another Facebook post announcing his resignations and acknowledging that he “screwed up big time” and has “a lot to apologize and atone for.”
Some of Feingold’s defenders pointed out that he has had a difficult year. In October 2016, Feingold got engaged. About a week after the engagement his fiancee was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died in March. Prior to her death the couple founded the charity Church of Good Deeds, which has raised $51,796 from 769 donors as of Tuesday.
A former pitcher for the State University of New York Albany, Feingold played professional baseball in the minor leagues and also in Israel (which earned him a snarky blog post on Deadspin). The 44-year-old New York native runs the small Manhattan residential brokerage Masonic Realty.
The company appears to be a one-man show. StreetEasy shows seven apartment sales and 34 rental deals with Feingold as listing agent — mostly small apartments in Manhattan. It currently has one active listing, according to StreetEasy: a one-bedroom apartment on West 72nd Street asking $679,000.
He is best known for being a public face of New York’s polyamory movement.
In 2015, he held a TED talk explaining the polyamorous lifestyle. It has since clocked more than 80,000 views on YouTube. That same year New York magazine published an interview with Feingold titled “What it’s like to be a polyamorous genius.” “You know, there’s this thing called ‘New York single.’ Unless you’ve had ‘the conversation,’ you assume people are seeing other people,” he told the magazine. “So, nobody had a problem because we never discussed exclusivity. Everyone I was dating had something to offer. Some were gorgeous. Some were smart. Some were fun. Some were really intriguing. Some liked to go to certain parties. So seeing so many people triggered so many parts of my brain and I was really happy with it.”
Fratty website Brobible published a summary of the interview under the headline “Meet the guy with 168 IQ who dates up to a dozen women once — but only for their minds.” Feingold also made an appearance in the HBO documentary “Americans in Bed.”
He popped up in the tabloids as the real estate broker of the 15-bedroom “Hacienda Villa” in Bushwick, a house for polyamorous tenants. “It’s not a sex-fest. It’s not a place to come and get your freak on,” he told the New York Daily News in 2015. “It’s a place to come home to.”
The alleged perpetrator, who is also a licensed real estate broker, declined to comment.