Commercial Observer: Jewish Nonprofit Inks Direct Deal at 77 Water Street

Jewish Nonprofit Inks Direct Deal at 77 Water Street

This article originally appeared in The Commercial Observer and is authored by Nicholas Rizzi

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A large social services nonprofit, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, inked a direct deal with the William Kaufman Organization to relocate and double its offices at 77 Water Street, Commercial Observer has learned.

The Met Council signed a lease for 21,692 square feet on the entire top floor of the 26-story building between Old Slip and Gouverneur Lane, a spokeswoman for the landlord said. The spokeswoman would not provide terms of the deal, but CoStar Group data lists asking rents in the property as between $59 to $60 per square foot.

The nonprofit currently subleases space on the sixth and seventh floors of 77 Water Street and plans to move into its new digs in November. Its larger offices will accommodate Met Council’s growing team of 200 as well as let it expand its programming, including operating a food pantry for its clients inside, said David Greenfield, the CEO of the Met Council.
“It’s a great building and we’re very happy with the location,” Greenfield said. “We’re very excited to be staying in the same building and to be consolidating [to one floor] and growing.”

Aside from Met Council, William Kaufman also signed a direct deal with software developer Caissa to keep its space and expand, the spokeswoman said.

Caissa currently leases 2,865 square feet on the second floor and the new deal will bring its presence to 6,847 square feet on the 24th floor, according to the landlord and CoStar Group data.

Michael Lenchner of Sage Realty Corporation, the leasing and management arm of William Kaufman, handled the deal for the landlord along with CBRE’s Jonathan CopeAdam Leshowitz and Nate Katz

SL Green Realty Corp.’s Howard Tenenbaum and Gary Rosen represented Caissa while Met Council had no brokers. A spokesman for SL Green declined to comment.

“Since launching our new leasing campaign earlier this year, 77 Water Street has been very well-received by a wide range of different companies,” Lenchner said in a statement.

Other tenants in the 600,000-square-foot tower include law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, architect Arup and coworking company Regus.

YWN: Free Kosher Lunches In Brooklyn Parks This Week From Met Council

This article originally appeared on The Yeshiva World:

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This week Tuesday, August 27th through Thursday, August 29rd, Met Council will be giving away thousands of FREE kosher lunches in Boro Park and Williamsburg for kids. Grab a free box lunch for your kids aged 18 and under catered by Lou G. Siegel and under the hashgacha of the Tartikov Beis Din courtesy of Met Council.

“Met Council is proud to have the only free kosher summer lunch program for kids in New York,” said David G. Greenfield CEO of Met Council. “We give out free kosher lunches during the week between when camp ends and yeshiva begins to ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals. There’s no catch, just show up with your child and get a free kosher lunch for every kid that’s there!”

Lunches will be served from a mobile food truck in Boro Park on Tuesday, August 27th from 11:30 PM to 2:30 PM at Dome Playground located at Dahill Road and between 37th and 38th streets, and on Wednesday, August 28th from 11:30 PM to 2:30 PM at Gravesend Park located at 18th Avenue and 56th Street. In Williamsburg, the free lunches will be served on Thursday, August 29th from 11:30 AM- 2:30 PM at Middleton Playground on Middleton Street between Bedford and Lee Avenue.

In addition to the free food, on Wednesday, August 28th, Met Council will host a fun day of activities for kids at Gravesend Park featuring games, prizes, and other exciting activities starting at 1:00 PM.

Met Council is partnering with two of their sixteen affiliated Jewish Community Councils to ensure that the free lunch giveaway is a huge success. The UJO Williamsburg and Boro Park JCC worked with Met Council to advertise the program, recruit volunteers to allow the program to run smoothly and spread the word throughout the Williamsburg and Boro Park communities.

“Our community partners are invaluable to this effort,” Greenfield explained. “They have built a deep relationships with the local community and work tirelessly to make sure everyone in the community knows about this great program. We’re especially grateful for the Boro Park JCC, UJO of Williamsburg and Council Members Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Kalman Yeger Assembly Members Robert Carroll and Simcha Eichenstein and Senators Simcha Felder and Brian Kavanagh for their support of this important program.”

The Met Council program mirrors the Citywide Summer Meals program while acknowledging the needs of kids who keep kosher. Met Council provides the additional funding necessary to pay for the higher cost of a kosher meal. Met Council on Jewish Poverty is New York’s largest tzedakah. Among its ten different services, Met Council runs America’s largest kosher food program which distributes food throughout the year to over 200,000 people in need.

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YWN: Met Council Fights For Low Income New Yorkers Losing Benefits [PHOTOS]

This article originally appeared on The Yeshiva World website:

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Is it possible to be worse off because of an increase in the minimum wage? In some cases, the answer is yes. Shira* is a home health care aide. She’s a divorced mother with three children. Her wages went up from $13.65 an hour to $15 an hour this past January due to the increase in the minimum wage in New York City. That should have been good news. As a result of the minimum wage increase, she’s making $235 more per month. The problem is that while New York adjusted the minimum wage it did not adjust the maximum earnings. So Shira lost $505 in SNAP (food stamps) benefits – meaning that her overall income went down $270 per month. “The minimum wage was meant to help low-income New Yorkers. However, in some cases, it’s actually costing them money. That is the Benefits Cliff and Met Council, as the largest Jewish charity serving the poor, is committed to fighting on behalf of these low-income New Yorkers,” explained David G. Greenfield, CEO of Met Council on Jewish Poverty.

That’s exactly what David Greenfield and Met Council did. They organized, lobbied and spend the last six months fighting on behalf of low-income New Yorkers. This past Friday morning all of their efforts bore fruit when at 6:45 AM, in a historic move by the New York State Legislature, they passed a law to form a task force to find solutions to the Benefits Cliff. Many low-income New Yorkers who are at risk of losing their benefits will be greatly served by this legislation. When Met Council first learned of the Benefits Cliff problem from a number of their clients, they worked hand in hand with Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol who introduced this Benefits Cliff bill in their respective houses. The bill will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the hundreds of thousands of working poor in New York.

“This is something that only Met Council can do,” said David G. Greenfield, CEO, Met Council. “While serving over 225,000 New Yorkers in need each year we come across every conceivable issue. We literally help tens of thousands of people access benefits each year, that’s how we saw the Benefits Cliff first hand. It’s so demoralizing to learn that some New Yorkers are actually losing money because of the minimum wage. That’s why we set out to fix it.”

“I have heard anecdotal stories that the minimum wage has negatively impacted individuals ability to receive benefits. This is largely because their increased income may disqualify them from receiving their usual supplemental government benefits,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. “This is an unintended consequence of the minimum wage increase. Make no mistake, these individuals still need help. It is our responsibility to ensure that the unintended consequences of legislation we pass are mitigated. I was happy to sponsor this bill to study how these impacts could happen and work to find a way to resolve this problem.”

“For many families, the abrupt drop-off in benefits as they reach a higher income bracket is both a trap and an obstacle to social mobility. As we work towards a fair system where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, we need to know how the benefits cliff affects New Yorkers’ ability to get out of poverty. Then we need to address the issue head-on. The passage of this legislation is an important step,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes.

Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein passed the first bill in New York that seeks to fix the Benefits Cliff on the issue of Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and championed the cause of low-income New Yorkers. In this case, tens of thousands of teenagers who were working in the summer through the SYEP program saw their families income go up and were inadvertently causing their families to lose benefits.

“The impact of the benefits cliff is real and affects thousands of low-income families,” said Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein. “My legislation that passed both houses of the New York State Legislature last week excludes the Summer Youth Employment Program earned income from the household annual income as it relates to public assistance. This legislation will ensure that more young people can participate in these enriching summer experiences helping them get a head start on acquiring work skills without fear of affecting their household’s public assistance.”

“We must ensure that we evaluate the effects of the increase in the minimum wage has on our working poor. Too many New Yorkers today are struggling with poverty or trying to make ends meet, with many earning the minimum wage. It is not only necessary but just that we ensure all services, programs, and subsidies that go through New York State do not contradict the living wage,” said Senator Roxanne J. Persaud, Chair of the Social Services Committee, who co-sponsored the SYEP legislation.

Greenfield also took the time to thank Assembly Member Helene Weinstein, Chair of Ways & Means, for her leadership in passing this legislation and Assembly Members Marcos Crespo and Andrew Hevesi for their support, as well. “We literally had the backing of dozens of elected officials. I’m especially grateful to them and to our JCC heads, Met Council staff and young leadership cabinet – all of whom came up to Albany to lobby on behalf of this bill. We could not have done this without their support.”

Met Council is the largest Jewish charity serving the poor in New York. They have ten different departments that work together to fight poverty including America’s largest free kosher food network, crisis intervention services, family violence prevention programs and the largest network of affordable housing in the Jewish community located in 20 building owned and operate by Met Council across the five boroughs of New York City.

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The Jewish Week: Met Council Lobbies, Without ‘Hired Guns’

Met Council Lobbies, Without ‘Hired Guns’

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week and is authored by Stewart Ain

Met Council’s David Greenfield, second from right, with a group of young professional during a lobbying trip to the statehouse in Albany. Courtesy of Met Council

Met Council’s David Greenfield, second from right, with a group of young professional during a lobbying trip to the statehouse in Albany. Courtesy of Met Council

Taking a page from AIPAC, which enlists its members to lobby Congress about pending legislation, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty bused a half-dozen young professionals to Albany last week to lobby state lawmakers to create a task force to study the unintended consequences of the higher minimum wage law.

It was the first trip of its kind by the agency, which recently launched a Young Leadership Public Policy cabinet to do hands-on lobbying.

The law, which became effective in the city on Jan. 1, increased the minimum wage from $13 to $15 an hour. Shortly after it took effect, “we started getting calls from dozens of clients who were telling us they were losing their benefits and asking us to help,” recalled David Greenfield, executive director and CEO of Met Council, which bills itself as the voice of the poor.

He explained that although lawmakers had increased the minimum wage, they failed to increase the income level for families to be eligible for such benefits as food stamps and child care.

“There are 50 different benefit programs across the city and state,” Greenfield said, adding that there is no easy fix because each has different thresholds and “could potentially cost millions of dollars.”

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) said that because further study is needed, he authored a bill to create a task force to study the issue.

“While we were trying to help people by raising their income, we don’t want them to lose even more,” he said. “We want to study this and once we get the lay of the land, we can think strategically to mitigate the slope. It’s a no brainer, and we have to give credit to Met Council” for bringing it to lawmakers’ attention.

Of particular help was the half-dozen group of young professionals in their 20s and 30s who took a day off from work last Wednesday and boarded a bus in the city at 6 a.m. for the trip to Albany and day-long meetings with 21 lawmakers.

“They really helped to get a number of co-sponsors on the bill,” Gounardes said.

One of them, Michael Davis, 39, founder of the Plymouth Group, a real estate and private equity firm in Manhattan, noted that “so much of the culture in Albany consists of hired guns and professional lobbyists. We found [our presence] clearly made an impression on the various elected officials. We were non-professional lobbyists who had come to advocate for an issue that was obviously well outside any of our own professional interests — low income people would be gaining a few extra dollars in their paychecks and losing out on tens of thousands of dollars in benefits desperately needed for their families.”

The increase in the minimum wage has also affected the summer youth employment program, according to Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Borough Park, Midwood). He said young people 16 to 24 years old who work a full seven weeks would earn about $2,150. His bill would exempt that income from the family’s annual household income so that it doesn’t jeopardize eligibility for public assistance. 

“We don’t want a situation where parents discourage their children from participating in the program because it helps them get a head start on entering the workforce,” he said.

The bill was adopted overwhelmingly by lawmakers and awaiting the governor’s signature.    

The Riverdale Press: Engel wins award for fighting anti-Semitism

Engel wins award for fighting anti-Semitism

This article origionally appeared in The Riverdale Press and is authored by Michael Hinman

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, left, and Jeffrey Moerdler were recipients of awards from The Met Council on Jewish Poverty. Engel won the Fighting Hate and Anti-Semitism Award while Moerdler was named volunteer of the year.  Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, left, and Jeffrey Moerdler were recipients of awards from The Met Council on Jewish Poverty. Engel won the Fighting Hate and Anti-Semitism Award while Moerdler was named volunteer of the year. Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty named U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel the winner of its Fighting Hate and Anti-Semitism Award at a legislative breakfast last week.

Engel was recognized for his work in Congress as both chair of the House Foreign Affairs Commitee as well as his role with the House Anti-Semitism Task Force.

Engel received the award from Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Combatting hate and anti-Semitism remains a huge priority of mine, especially in these trying times,” Engel said, in a release. “The rise of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored or swept under the rug, nor can the rise in Islamophobia, racism and other forms of hatred.

“We need to be clear that those who seek to tear us apart because of our religion, race or background are un-American, and have no place in our society.”

Also recognized at The Met Council breakfast was Jeffrey Moerdler, a lawyer who also volunteers his time as an EMT for the Riverdale chapter of Chevra Hatzalah Volunteer Ambulance Services, one of the largest volunteer ambulance service in the United States. He was the named volunteer of the year.

The Met Council on Jewish Poverty describes itself as the voice of the Jewish poor and the first line of defense for the Jewish community’s needs, according to its website.

Founded on Jewish values, the group serves anyone in need regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.

The City: Hike in Minimum Wage is Net Loss for Those Whose Public Benefits Collapse

This article originally appeared on The City website and is authored by Yoav Gonen:

Iris Dionicio with her 5-year-old son, Riley, in The Bronx.  Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Iris Dionicio with her 5-year-old son, Riley, in The Bronx. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

After years of alternating between public assistance, night school and part-time work, Iris Dionicio got a full-time job in December as an executive assistant for a Bronx nonprofit.

The timing seemed perfect, coming just as the city’s minimum wage was set to increase from $13 to $15 an hour this year.

But her higher pay also triggered the loss of most of her public benefits — including a generous rent subsidy and monthly cash assistance payments that had been keeping her and her three kids stable.

“And this is where my worries started,” said the 28-year-old Bronx woman.

Dionicio is one of thousands of New Yorkers who could be impacted by unintended consequences of the city’s higher minimum wage, which is knocking some workers out of eligibility for benefits that are worth more than the pay hike.

Nonprofit officials have sounded the alarm in recent months about the phenomenon, known as a “benefits cliff” — which is expected to grow as more people renew throughout the year.

Albany Tries to Help

Last week, the state Senate and Assembly passed a bill at the end of a busy session that calls on the state Department of Labor to study the complex issue.

“The point of the bill is to take what we kind of understand as a conceptual matter and try to pin it down,” said State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn), sponsor of the Senate bill. “We really want to figure it out and see if there’s things we can do to help mitigate this cliff.”

Dionicio had been working part-time as a medical assistant from November 2016 to March 2018, clocking in about 25 hours a week at an hourly rate of $10.50.

The lower pay and fewer hours made her eligible for public assistance, including approximately $340 per month in SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, as well as $1,410 in rent payments under a program called CityFEPS, and Medicaid for her and her kids.

She stopped working in March 2018 when she was five months pregnant, and her benefits increased while she remained out of work.

On Jan. 19, 2019, just weeks after she landed a job at Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, she got a letter from the city Human Resources Administration saying she no longer qualified for the rent subsidy — this time under a state program — because her monthly earnings were now $211 over the federal income limit.

The letter also said her SNAP allowance — temporarily raised to $642 per month because of the loss of public assistance — would end on June 30.

Dionicio has since been forced to appear in Housing Court twice because of her struggles to meet the $1,532.24 monthly rent for her two-bedroom apartment in Kingsbridge.

She received a one-shot cash payment of $3,061.15 from the HRA on April 10 to avoid eviction, but has been told she needs to pay back $1,711.15 of it.

“I’m holding onto dear life by my teeth. It’s been a challenge,” Dionicio told THE CITY. “I have to hold on. I have three kids that depend on me so I have to make it work.”

In April 2019 about 1.5 million people in New York City received SNAP benefits and roughly 335,000 got cash assistance — but the impacted universe is expected to be a fraction of that.

City HRA officials said they’ve seen a small uptick in SNAP cases — which are determined by the federal government — closed because a recipient’s earnings went up. But they said only 1% of rental voucher recipients typically become ineligible as a result of higher earnings, and that people earning the new minimum wage shouldn’t be losing their vouchers.

“Because every case is unique, with many impacting factors, we cannot specifically determine if a household is no longer eligible for benefits due to one particular factor, like the minimum wage increase but, generally speaking, we have not seen notable changes in benefits utilization as a result of increased earnings,” said HRA spokesman Isaac McGinn

The state Department of Labor did not respond to requests for comment.

A Common Problem

Nonprofit leaders and elected officials say they’ve heard of dozens of cases of severe benefit losses under the new minimum wage, including of child care and housing vouchers.

Earlier this month, union officials at 32BJ sought a legislative remedy for airport workers who now find health insurance unaffordable in part because of wage increases.

Officials at the nonprofit Met Council on Jewish Poverty say they’ve been trying to help a green card-holding woman who is a home care worker, whose salary was recently raised from $13.65 to $15 an hour.

The single mom’s income gain of $235 per month was offset by a steeper loss of $505 in SNAP benefits, the group says.

“We’ve seen dozens of clients who are losing all sorts of benefits simply because they’re making a couple of dollars more an hour — and they’re losing more in benefits than they’re making in wages,” said David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council. “We’re cautiously optimistic that this can be addressed strategically and quickly.”

Jennifer Jones Austin, president of the nonprofit Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, noted that a family with two people making $15 an hour — for a combined annual salary of roughly $62,000 — can still find it challenging to pay for a New York rent, child care and other necessities without some type of subsidy.

“We’ve seen instances where people have actually said, ‘Don’t give me that raise — I don’t want that increased wage, because it can cut off these income supports,’ ” she said.

The issue is hitting New York City before the rest of the state because the minimum wage has been raised sooner within the five boroughs.

It’s currently at $11.10 in most of the state, $12.00 in Long Island and Westchester and $13.50 for businesses in New York City with fewer than 11 employees.

The minimum wage is set to increase to $15 per hour for all New York City workers on December 31.

A Broader Issue

Heather Hill, an associate professor at the Evans School of Public Policy & Government at the University of Washington, has been studying the impact of the $15 minimum wage on workers in Seattle, which hit that rate in 2017.

She said that families or single parents with kids are among the most vulnerable to the benefits cliff.

“This is not at all specific to minimum wage increases,” said Hill. “It’s a broader issue of how we’ve set up programs that help low-income families.”

This year’s legislative session in Albany has already addressed one related quirk that arose from work development programs targeted at teenagers and young adults over the summer.

Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein (D-Brooklyn) found that a number of participants in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program were inadvertently pushing their families over the benefits eligibility limits with their earnings of as much as $2,150.

So State Senate and Assembly passed legislation last week that would newly exclude that income from a family’s total when it comes to calculating public benefits eligibility.

“We do not want to discourage our young adults from participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program,” said Eichenstein.

The Jewish Voice: New York’s Elected Officials Turn Out for Met Council Breakfast to Fight Hate and Poverty

New York’s Elected Officials Turn Out for Met Council Breakfast to Fight Hate and Poverty

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Voice:

L-R Councilman Rafael Salamanca, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Israel Nitzan, Deputy Consul General of Israel, Eric Goldstein, CEO UJA Federation of New York. Photo Credit: Rod Morata / Michael Priest

L-R Councilman Rafael Salamanca, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Israel Nitzan, Deputy Consul General of Israel, Eric Goldstein, CEO UJA Federation of New York. Photo Credit: Rod Morata / Michael Priest

Met Council on Jewish Poverty hosted sixty-seven elected officials and hundreds of community leaders, policy makers and heads of affiliated Jewish Community Councils at their annual Legislative Breakfast at The Yale Club in Manhattan. Nearly 400 participants in the breakfast were there to celebrate on Sunday morning June 2nd as the largest Jewish charity serving the poor honored key legislators for their advocacy on behalf of the poor. This year’s breakfast boasted Met Council’s best political turnout yet as an incredible 40% of New York City’s elected officials attended the breakfast – the most widely attended of any Jewish event each year.

L-R David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Jeffrey Moerdler Esq., Met Council Volunteer of the Year

L-R David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Jeffrey Moerdler Esq., Met Council Volunteer of the Year

This year’s breakfast was in tribute to the memory of Councilman Lew Fidler who embodied the spirit of giving back to the community. His wife Robin and family were presented an award by Senator Chuck Schumer inscribed with the phrase from Pirkei Avos that read “in a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader.” Senator Schumer told a number of stories about how Councilman Lew Fidler “used his political strength to help others.” Fidler was a life-long advocate for fighting poverty in the Jewish community.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, Borough President Gale Brewer, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council

Comptroller Scott Stringer, Borough President Gale Brewer, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council


“Met Council helps over 225,000 needy New Yorkers each year,” said David G. Greenfield, CEO of Met Council. “Legislators are the backbone of fighting poverty in New York. Just about every good poverty fighting idea comes from legislators, so this is our opportunity to say thanks and celebrate the work we do together fighting poverty.”

NY State Attorney General Letitia James was the featured guest speaker and spoke passionately about fighting anti-Semitism, “I dare anyone to engage in hate while I am Attorney General,” said Attorney General James while vowing to crack down on hate crimes as Attorney General of New York State.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, Commissioner Steven Banks, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council

Congressman Gregory Meeks, Commissioner Steven Banks, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council

Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA- Federation of New York introduced Israel’s Consul General Ambassador Dani Dayan. The Ambassador talked about the amazing work of Met Council. He also called on everyone to demand real action from our elected officials in proactively fighting Anti Semitism. Congressman Eliot Engel, who was still jetlagged from a trip to Israel he had just returned from, received the Fighting Hate and Anti-Semitism Award. He thanked Met Council not only for his award but for their role in unifying the Jewish community. Engel is the chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee and vowed to use that perch to fight anti-Semitism across the world.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Councilman Mark Treyger, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Councilman Mark Treyger, David Greenfield, CEO, Met Council

Other distinguished honorees included: The Honorable Gale A. Brewer (Manhattan Borough President), The Honorable Helene Weinstein (NY State Assembly), Commissioner Steven Banks (NYC HRA), The Honorable Peter J. Abbate, Jr. (NY State Assembly), The Honorable Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (NY State Senate), The Honorable Joseph R. Lentol (NY State Assembly, The Honorable Rafael Salamanca, Jr. (NY City Council), The Honorable Mark Treyger (NY City Council), Betsy Jacobson (United Jewish Council of the East Side) and Met Council volunteer Jeffrey A. Moerdler (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.)

Met Council is the largest Jewish tzedaka serving the poor in New York. They have ten different departments that work together to fight poverty including America’s largest free kosher food network, crisis intervention services, family violence prevention programs and the largest network of affordable housing in the Jewish community located in 20 building owned and operate by Met Council across the five boroughs of New York City.

NY Daily News: More than 100 nonprofits want change to City Charter to help them get paid on time

More than 100 nonprofits want change to City Charter to help them get paid on time

This article originally appeared in The Daily News: and is authored by Jillian Jorgensen

A review by Controller Scott Stringer (center) found that 81% of new and renewal contracts in the city were sent to his office for registration after the contract’s start date had passed. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

A review by Controller Scott Stringer (center) found that 81% of new and renewal contracts in the city were sent to his office for registration after the contract’s start date had passed. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

Nonprofit organizations tired of being paid late by the city are looking for a little help — in the form of a change to the City Charter.

More than 100 nonprofits have signed on to a letter to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, seeking reforms that would create a "strict time frame" for city agencies to register their contracts with nonprofits that do crucial work like helping the homeless.

The letter was spearheaded by the Human Services Council, an advocacy group representing the city's nonprofit human services sector.

"For nonprofit human services organizations, delays in contract registration create administrative headaches but also have real financial costs; providers are not paid until the contract is registered so often they have to take out lines of credit or delay payments to third parties while waiting for payment," the coalition wrote.

A review by city Controller Scott Stringer found that 81% of new and renewal contracts in the city were sent to his office for registration after the contract's start date had passed; that number was even higher, 90.8%, for human services contracts, and half of those were late by six months or more.

"We're really asking the Charter commission to resolve a decades-old problem, and one that is becoming more serious because of the fact that the city is now contracting billions of more dollars out," said David Greenfield, a former Brooklyn city councilman who is now CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

The city has $5.7 billion worth of contracts with more than 1,000 nonprofits across the city, he said — and the average one is registered 210 days after the start date.

"Many of the smaller nonprofits are actually struggling to stay open, and literally have to beg or borrow to pay the bill," he said. "And for bigger nonprofits like us, we actually loan money to smaller nonprofits so they can stay in business."

Greenfield said the instability can also make it hard for nonprofits to attract staff.

"You don't want to come work for an organization if you're not sure whether or not you're going to get paid," he said.

The nonprofits are making their plea to the Charter Revision Commission created by the City Council — which will be the second body to review the City Charter in two years.

Last year, Mayor de Blasio created a commission to make recommendations for Charter revisions related to elections and civic engagement. Changes to the campaign finance system and term limits for community board members suggested by that panel were approved by voters in November.

This year's commission will have a broader scope, and its recommendations will also have to be approved by voters.

The nonprofits are hoping the commission will set a specific time frame in which city agencies have to review and approve contracts. The groups are also looking for the creation of a publicly accessible system for tracking the progress of those contracts.

Stringer is joining the nonprofits in calling for a change to the Charter to fix the longstanding problem.

"It's an outrage and it must stop," Stringer said. "The city has to start paying its bills within a reasonable time frame and create long-overdue transparency."

Jose Bayona, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the city was working to put the procurement process online, a project dubbed the Procurement and Sourcing Solutions Portal, or PASSPort.

"PASSPort is a technology solution that is designed to create visibility into the contracting process, enhance collaboration and facilitate timely contract registration," he said, adding that nonprofits and vendors were being consulted in its implementation.

But the portal will be rolled out over three releases, the final not coming until 2020 when all aspects of the procurement and contracting process will be online.


New York Times: Stabbed by Her Husband, She Tries to Keep the Lights On for Her Children

New York Times: Stabbed by Her Husband, She Tries to Keep the Lights On for Her Children

This article originally appeared in The New York Times and is authored by Remy Tumin

Ana Helfer, at home with one of her cats, Marley, survived years of emotional and physical abuse from her husband  Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Ana Helfer, at home with one of her cats, Marley, survived years of emotional and physical abuse from her husband

Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Ana Helfer replays the day over and over in her mind.

In the winter of 1997, she had just loaded her car with groceries when she discovered that she needed a jump-start. She called everyone she knew, but no one picked up. So she walked back to her Staten Island apartment to see if someone could help.

“No one was around, not one person,” Ms. Helfer, 55, recalled. “But I did see his car in the driveway, so I went and asked him if he could help me out.” The car belonged to her landlord, Brian Helfer.

After helping with her car, he asked Ms. Helfer on a date. They married the next fall. Afterward, she said, he quickly became emotionally and physically abusive.

“I always think, ‘Why?’ Why didn’t I just call one of the tow companies to give me a jump?” Ms. Helfer said recently in her Staten Island home, shaking her head. “Why didn’t I just sit and wait for someone to come. The hell with the groceries. You go with the woulda, coulda, shouldas, and it eats you away. It does nothing, because it doesn’t change anything.”

Ms. Helfer described looking back on that day as “going into a spider web.”

“I remember his look — he was smiling, he was happy,” she said, “but lo and behold, you look back, and there’s more to a smile.”

Ms. Helfer grew up in Harlem. Her father was a veteran and a custodian; her mother stayed home to raise Ms. Helfer and her sister.

She eventually moved to Staten Island and commuted from there to Manhattan, where she was an executive assistant at Bear Stearns. Once the Helfers had their first child, Justin, in 1999, they agreed that Ms. Helfer would stop working. Looking back, she remembers that her husband wanted to marry quickly and have children right away.

In addition to Justin, a sophomore at the State University of New York, Oswego, they had Kayla, 13, and Joshua, 18, who has high-functioning autism.

Ms. Helfer thought about leaving her husband once when she was pregnant with Kayla, and she told her father that the marriage was troubled.

“He says, ‘Come home. Come home. Don’t worry. We have room. You know you can always come home,’” Ms. Helfer recalled. “I started crying because I was like ‘You know something, I can do it, I know I can, I’ll take my boys and I’ll go.’”

Ms. Helfer found a mover who could help get her out within 24 hours. But her father died the day after her call with him, and Ms. Helfer felt she and her children would be too much burden on her mother at the time, so she stayed with her husband.

Mr. Helfer, a bus driver for the city, controlled the finances, and he would criticize his wife for buying too many groceries and not cleaning the house well enough.

A collage by Ms. Helfer’s son Justin, hanging in her home on Staten Island  .Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

A collage by Ms. Helfer’s son Justin, hanging in her home on Staten Island

.Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

If he became angry at the children, she said, she would step in. “He was brutal. He was cruel the way he spoke to them sometimes,” she said. “You don’t talk to children to destroy something in them so young. So if I saw it happening, I refocused him to come back at me.”

When he was physical with her, she said, he made sure “you couldn’t get up.”

“I would try to fight back,” Ms. Helfer said. “But he made sure he’d hit you and kick you long enough to keep you on that floor.”

The police were called once when Mr. Helfer became jealous of Ms. Helfer’s new cellphone.

“He picked me up, I mean lifted me up, like a wrestler, and threw me down on the floor,” she recalled. “I tried to keep my wits about me. He kept on hitting, he wouldn’t let me get up. All I wanted to do was not even touch him. I was just scared to stay on that floor. He kept kicking me and hitting me, and finally I got up and I ran.”

When she reached a neighbor and called the police, she discovered that a call had already been made. Mr. Helfer had called the police first and accused her of hitting him, making scratch marks on his face to make it appear as if Ms. Helfer had attacked him.

“I’m sitting in the front. He’s out by the mailbox, laughing and talking with the police, accusing me,” said Ms. Helfer, who said she then lost hope of pursuing charges against him.

On July 13, 2014, her tumultuous marriage hit its breaking point. Ms. Helfer woke up with a burning pain in her neck.

Ms. Helfer urged other victims of domestic violence to seek help. “You’re scared, but if you can just reach out to someone, and maybe that person can get you all the information to help you out.”  Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Ms. Helfer urged other victims of domestic violence to seek help. “You’re scared, but if you can just reach out to someone, and maybe that person can get you all the information to help you out.”

Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

“I thought he punched me,” Ms. Helfer said. “I didn’t realize that was the first stab wound.”

Mr. Helfer stabbed Ms. Helfer more than a dozen times.

“The look he gave was a look that you only see in horror movies,” Ms. Helfer said.

Justin, then 15, got a bat and tried to break down the bedroom door.


“I heard this scream from upstairs, that kind of scream you’d never heard before,” Justin, now 19, said in an interview. “I started hitting the door hard, really hard with the bat. Those seem to have stopped my father from doing whatever he was doing. He went to the door, opened it, and we were all standing there.”

Justin said his father walked right past them.

“It was like he was staring through us, like we weren’t there,” he said.

When Ms. Helfer woke up in a hospital three days later, she learned that her husband was dead. After the attack, he had driven to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and jumped.

Today, memories from the past still sneak up on Ms. Helfer regularly.

“You could be washing dishes and all of the sudden, boom, you’re in the moment,” she said. “All the sudden you’re reliving that moment, and it’s so surreal.”

Ms. Helfer’s abusive relationship with her husband culminated one morning in July 2014, when he stabbed her more than a dozen times. She can still count the scars.  Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Ms. Helfer’s abusive relationship with her husband culminated one morning in July 2014, when he stabbed her more than a dozen times. She can still count the scars.

Credit Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Since the attack four years ago, Ms. Helfer has received physical and occupational therapy and counseling. In the immediate aftermath, though, her concern was for her children.

“I took care of them instead of helping myself also, so what happened was, I ended up losing myself in the process, and I fell into a deep depression,” she said.

In addition to the emotional hardship, Ms. Helfer is in financial distress. She is behind on payments for her mortgage and lost part of her Social Security survivors benefits once Justin turned 18. Her other son will also lose his benefits at the end of the school year. Currently, the benefits total $3,570 a month.

In October, Ms. Helfer visited the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island to use the food pantry. The center is a beneficiary agency of UJA-Federation of New York, one of the eight organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

There, she was referred to a social worker at Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, also a beneficiary agency of UJA, to speak about her needs. She received $500 in Neediest Cases funds to help pay her Con Edison bill. This month, the council allocated an additional $800 in Neediest Cases funds for Ms. Helfer’s Con Ed bill arrears to keep her service going.

The family still lives in the house where the attack happened because the children told Ms. Helfer they wanted to return home.

Ms. Helfer encourages other victims of domestic violence to reach out to someone for help.

“Try, as hard as it is,” she said. “You’re scared, but if you can just reach out to someone, and maybe that person can get you all the information to help you out. That person might be the source of you escaping a nightmare.”

Ms. Helfer said she hoped sharing her story would help others bring their abuse out of the dark.

“It might be the hardest thing they’ll ever do,” she said, “but it’ll be the best thing.”

If you or someone you know is being abused, support and help are available. Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-7233.