Silver-Rapfogel political machine still rules Grand Street despite conviction, indictment, and scandal

Grand Street connections

If you thought robbing the poor to fill your mattress with $3 million would lose you friends and influence — if you thought being charged with fraud and extortion would loosen your grip on the local political machine — then you haven’t been living on Grand Street long enough.

This month, petitions were filed for the kind of small, local political posts that machine politics are built on, and the names of candidates and petition carriers read like a who’s who of Coop Village.

Current and past presidents of East River Housing; current and former board members from Hillman, Seward, and East River; even family members and staff of the Coop Village management office had no qualms about carrying petitions for, and running alongside, Rapfogels and Silvers, the wives and children of our disgraced neighbors.

These party positions can hold a big influence in certain situations. If Sheldon Silver were convicted on federal corruption charges, members of the Democratic County Committee would get to choose the nominee for the special election to fill his seat — which in this heavily Democratic district means they would get to hand-pick Silver’s successor.

And since Silver has hand-picked those committee members, you shouldn’t expect his grasp on power to diminish.

Who would pick Silver’s successor?

Silver’s wife, Rosa Silver, would be on that committee. So would Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s chief of staff and the wife of William Rapfogel who pled guilty last year to embezzling millions of dollars meant for the poor from the huge nonprofit he ran for many years. Also Rapfogel’s son, Marc Rapfogel, and sister Freda Rapfogel Fried (a former board member at Seward) would have a hand in deciding the fate of that assembly seat.

Two of Silver’s staff members, Tunisia Wragg and Zachary Bommer, spent time on Grand Street collecting signatures for their boss. This was a calculated, organized attempt to control the future of Silver’s seat if he is convicted this fall.

Current East River board president Gary Altman would also be on that committee. So would former East River board president Leonard Greher, current board member Rachel Ehrenpreis, and Jacob Goldman, the brother of another current East River board member, Dov Goldman.

Longtime district leader for Silver’s assembly district and former Hillman board member David Weinberger would be on that committee as well, as would his wife, Hedy Weinberger. A current Hillman board member, Judith Mitrani, also collected signatures from local Democrats.

Earlier this year, the Forward predicted that Silver’s arrest, following Rapfogel’s conviction, signalled the end of an era on Grand Street, noting that the only member of the “lower east side power troika” left standing was Harold Jacob, general manager of East River and Hillman. But with Jacob’s daughters carrying petitions for Silvers and Rapfogels, and even one of Jacob’s office staff landing a spot on that key county committee, the end of that era still seems a long way off.

Links: 65A Truman Petition 2015 1 of 2 and 65A Truman Petition 2015 2 of 2