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“Without access to public funding, we simply will not be able to continue delivering the essential services we have been contracted by the city and state to provide,” Met Council said in its statement.
One powerful indication of Met Council’s reach into the world of influential developers could be seen August 15, 2012 — a year before the fraud at Met Council was first uncovered — at a lunchtime gala under the 59th Street Bridge.
The occasion was Met Council’s annual Builder’s Luncheon, a fundraising event that brought in roughly half a million dollars a year for the group. The venue was Guastavino’s, a wedding hall with high-vaulted ceilings and towering windows.
New York developers and contractors, many of whom had done work with Met Council, packed the venue alongside politicians and Jewish communal officials, including Rapfogel and Cohen. It was perhaps the best showcase of Met Council’s immense power and access.
Cohen, whom Met Council fired from his consultant position with the group on the same day this past August that it terminated Rapfogel, organized the luncheon. Joseph Ross, the insurance company executive who reportedly collaborated in Rapfogel and Cohen’s alleged kickback scheme, was a luncheon sponsor.
The general contractor behind Council Towers V, an 11-story development for poor seniors that was built by Met Council in the Bronx, was a luncheon sponsor. So was the firm that manages a handful of Met Council’s other six Council Tower apartment buildings for low-income seniors.
Jeffrey Levine, a developer better known for waterfront luxury high-rises who built a senior residence for Met Council at 171 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan was a sponsor. The managing partner of the architecture firm that designed a Met Council property currently being built in Staten Island was the honoree.
New York City Comptroller John Liu spoke, as did Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Fewer boldfaced political names appeared at the Builder’s Luncheon than at Met Council’s Legislative Breakfast the following June, at which Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Congress members Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler and Charlie Rangel all spoke. But at the Builder’s Luncheon, it wasn’t the politicians who were the main attractions.
The Builder’s Luncheon has been held each year in mid-August since at least 2008. Rapfogel’s firing by Met Council was announced August 12. This year, there has been no Builder’s Luncheon.