Met Council Fund Freeze Over William Rapfogel Scandal Could Hit Jewish Poor

Aid to Seniors and Domestic Violence Programs Face Chop

Work in Progress: Alex Chernis, who runs Met Council-funded programs out of a center in Midwood, Brooklyn, says Jewish poor rely on the programs.
josh nathan-kazis
Work in Progress: Alex Chernis, who runs Met Council-funded programs out of a center in Midwood, Brooklyn, says Jewish poor rely on the programs.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 26, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.

Needy New Yorkers may lose out on programs for seniors, emergency food aid and domestic violence prevention as a result of the financial scandal engulfing the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, documents obtained by the Forward reveal.

City officials have suspended at least 30 grants to the Met Council, totaling nearly $1.6 million, or roughly 13%, of the government aid it receives annually.

William Rapfogel
met council
William Rapfogel

The funds will be frozen pending the results of a city investigation into alleged misconduct by William Rapfogel, the group’s longtime executive director. Rapfogel was fired August 12 amid reports of a kickback scheme involving an insurance provider for the Met Council.

The specific programs that were to benefit from the frozen city funds are itemized in a city budget document obtained by the Forward.

The Met Council is hoping to keep the city funding freeze from interfering with its work.

“We have been in contact with the government agencies responsible for awarding our grants and are committed to addressing any concerns,” said Steven Goldberg, an external communications consultant speaking for the group. “We will continue to work with them to ensure that our vital services are provided without disruption.”

It’s unclear how long the funding freeze will last or if the grants might be revoked. A spokeswoman for the office of the city’s Department of Investigation would not comment on the ongoing inquiry. According to the Department of Investigation’s website, the average inquiry by the agency took 164 days.

The office of New York State’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, did not respond to an inquiry as to whether state funding has also been suspended.

The Met Council announced the selection of a new executive director on August 18, a Wall Street veteran named David Frankel who is currently serving as New York City’s finance commissioner.

Rapfogel, who led the massive Jewish social service group for more than two decades, apologized for unspecified misdeeds in an August 12 statement. That apology won’t mean much to the organization’s clients if the programs on which they rely are disrupted.

Those programs include Handyman, a minor home repair service for the elderly and disabled that was slated to receive a combined $284,000 in city aid to install louder doorbells for the hard of hearing and railings for the unsteady.

Another $400,000 in aid for general Met Council senior services, some of which was earmarked for the Handyman program, was also frozen.

Grants totaling $117,000 for the Met Council’s crisis intervention services were frozen. So were grants worth $36,500 for the group’s food aid program, $155,000 for its domestic violence services and a $600,000 grant for general Met Council operating funds.

At a Met Council outpost in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, the site director described referring clients to some of the services threatened by the city freeze.



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