PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 18, No. 17 Sept. 8 - 21, 2005



     
 

Hoffnung, Feisty Challenger, Stresses Commitment

By HEATHER HADDON

Ari Hoffnung prides himself on his math abilities, and in the last days of his bid to unseat Councilman Oliver Koppell in the 11th District, numbers are on his mind. “About 20,000 [people] will vote in the election,” said Hoffnung, 31, a Riverdale resident and investment banker. “Can I meet all of them? No. But I’ve been meeting a lot of people and it adds up.”

Hoffnung has focused on hitting the streets to deliver his core message that Koppell is a part-time politician who has failed his district. While not always as pointed on what he would do specifically for Norwood and Bedford Park, Hoffnung says he has worked hard to learn local concerns.

“Am I the best expert on the issues concerning the people of Norwood? No. I’ll be honest about that,” he said during an interview at the Norwood News last week. “But I’ve made it a priority to become familiar with people’s issues.”

Hoffnung has targeted crime as an important area concern, and says he’ll push for more cops and a higher base salary for new recruits. His platform also includes installing more security cameras in subways and combating identity theft.

Hoffnung says his campaign workers called local residents about their crime concerns, and he thinks policing needs to be beefed up on the side streets off East 204th Street.

Hoffnung has gotten a lot of attention for his support of the filtration plant while chairing Community Board 8’s Parks Committee. Pragmatism fueled his decision, he says. “I felt like it was something that was going to happen, like it or not,” Hoffnung said. “I think there are more important issues to focus on now.”

One of those is the mitigation monies. Koppell’s opposition to building the plant in Van Cortlandt Park, in Hoffnung’s eyes, made him a weak negotiator for local parks in the $240 million allocation to Bronx green spaces. He cited Riverdale parks that were missing from the list but not local ones.

Hoffnung’s support of the plant likely played a role in an endorsement last week by the New York Building and Construction Trades’ Council, a large construction union.  Hoffnung is also backed by musician, carpenter, mason, and painter unions.

During a visit to John F. Kennedy High School, Hoffnung was incensed over the rampant overcrowding, which has been exacerbated by the placement of smaller high schools within the building. “To put a small school in an already overcrowded school just rings of craziness,” said Hoffnung, a former high school tutor. He also worries that the reorganization of the city Department of Education has made for cookie-cutter solutions to school problems.

Koppell appointed Hoffnung to Community Board 8 and to the board of a local development corporation. But Hoffnung has aggressively attacked Koppell since he first announced his campaign last fall. Both candidates are taking the race seriously, and they have raised comparable amounts of contributions. At least 50 volunteers staff Hoffnung’s campaign office on Riverdale Avenue, including a dozen full-time canvassers over the summer. He hits the subway stations beginning at 7 a.m., including the No. 4 and D-line, and his sharp “Hoffnung for Council” signs are tacked up in many local storefronts.

If elected, Hoffnung says he would operate a satellite office in Norwood, probably along 204th Street. He promises to keep it open full-time, a jab at Koppell for his office hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “People are really becoming outraged that they don’t have a full-time advocate,” said Hoffnung. (Koppell insists he puts in 40 hours a week at the Council.)

While he lives and conducts much of his civic work in Riverdale, Hoffnung says he would not neglect the Norwood and Bedford Park areas of the district. “There are serious issues in Riverdale, but they are not of the same magnitude or nature of those that exist in Norwood,” he said. In addition to targeting crime and education, Hoffnung supports creating more affordable housing, thought he views rising private development in the area as a good thing.

Given his background, Hoffnung would be interested in serving on the Council’s Parks and Finance committees. He received his MBA from NYU, and has worked for a Manhattan investment firm since 1997.

Hoffnung wouldn’t say if he would run again in 2009, when term limits will bar Koppell from running, if his bid doesn’t bear fruit. For now, he’s just focused on next week.

“We’re certainly going to give [Koppell] a run for his money,” he said.


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