18, No. 17
Sept. 8 - 21, 2005
Hoffnung, Feisty Challenger, Stresses
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
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
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
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
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
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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