William Rapfogel's Empire at Met Council Extends Deep Into Real Estate

Anti-Poverty Group Has Wide Footprint — and Influence

met council

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 14, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

From his office above Manhattan’s Financial District, William Rapfogel controlled a charitable empire much larger than most understood.

His organization, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, gave food to poor Jews. But it also cooked up massive real estate deals with powerful for-profit developers, throwing up new low-income housing across the city.

All told, Met Council and its nearly 30 not-for-profit subsidiaries spent $112 million in 2012. That’s far more than the $27 million budget of Met Council itself, which has been cited widely in coverage of the group since Rapfogel’s surprise August departure in connection with a corruption probe.

That makes Met Council one of the dozen or so largest Jewish charities in the United States.

Today, the organization says that its very existence is threatened. Rapfogel was charged in September with stealing $5 million from Met Council; his predecessor, Rabbi Dovid Cohen, is reportedly under investigation for participating in the same scheme. City and state officials have suspended nearly $13 million in pending grants.

“We take these matters extremely seriously and are working as hard as we can to restore the confidence of our government regulators,” a Met Council representative said in a statement. “The freezes on our city and state contracts have the potential to affect the long-term viability of Met Council.”

If Met Council were, indeed, to become unviable, its fall would echo far beyond its Maiden Lane headquarters, and even beyond the soup kitchens and social service outreach centers it supports in the outer boroughs.

Met Council owns and operates 25 low-income housing developments and has two more in the works, plus a large home health care arm. The entire apparatus received $90 million from state, local and federal governments in its 2012 fiscal year. The council has also nurtured close relationships with many of the city’s largest developers, who have collaborated with it on projects and have rubbed shoulders at its galas.

City and state authorities began freezing pending grants in August, when Met Council terminated Rapfogel and Cohen. Those frozen funds represent some $8.2 million on an annualized basis for Met Council, according to a person familiar with Met Council’s state and city contracts. The grants support programs that serve 60,000 people. It’s unclear how long it will be until Met Council runs out of money to operate the programs.

One government-funded Met Council program that helped seniors navigate the Affordable Care Act has been frozen since early October, when a New York Post story revealed that it had been awarded a new contract despite the corruption probe. Seven Met Council employees hired to run the program have been let go.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.