18 Oct IT’S TIME FOR “POLITICS UNUSUAL” An Exclusive Interview with NYC Councilman Candidate Yoni Hikind
AH: You are telling people that you are going about this election as though it is a job interview. If this were a job interview, what would you say the job description of a councilman is?
YH: Firstly, to be available on all levels to the constituents. They should have the feeling that there is someone who is absolutely available for them at all times. They should be someone who listens to people. Secondly, to be a spokesperson and representative of the community for issues that are vital to our neighborhood. A councilman has to be prepared to fight the battles in City Hall for the community. It’s up to him to cut through the red tape and set uplegislation that will benefit the people. Governance should be about getting things done for all the individuals of the district; not about politics.
AH: In what ways do you think you can help the district?
YH: There are many things that we should be getting more of our fair share in- the cost of tuition, for example. A lot that is available out there is not being taken advantage of, sometimes because of that red tape. It is dependent on the elected official to be a problem solver and to be creative in figurng out how to make certain resources available. What I believe I am bringing to the table is that through my dialogue, relationship building strategies, and how I deal with people on all sides, wherever they are on the political spectrum, I will need to make sure that whatever is available to the community should be made accessible. I believe that often in politics, whatever one person or a group wants, there is another group or force that opposes it. And whether that is fair or not, the challenge is to have dialogue and find compromise between two opposing sides.
AH: How do you think Councilman David Greenfield has performed at his job?
YH: He’s managed to create and do a lot for the community. I’d like to take his legislative accomplishments a step further. He did a wonderful job with passing legislation for security guards in yeshivas, but there are serious limitations to it. Yeshivas that have less than 300 children are not eligible. So there’s more to do and there’s room to grow. The work must continue.
AH: How do you compare to your opponent Kalman Yeger?
YH: When I decided to run, I realized that my job was not to compare myself to anyone else. My job is to make my case, my commitment, and my motivations clear. Let the voter decide between the two – that’s democracy. I’m glad that I was able to give the voters a choice after the primary was taken out of the hands of the voters, because that is what democracy is all about. I know myself and I know where I’m coming from. I believe I’m the right candidate for the job and I’m looking forward to the voters’ decision.
AH: What is specifically on your agenda that you plan on pursuing?
YH: There is a lot to get done. Town Hall meetings are what I hope will be the start of a wonderful four years. I want to really be involved with my constituents and to hear what their issues are and what’s going on. I already made a commitment to Town Hall meetings once a month. We’re going to continuously look at all the issues: congestion, traffic, sanitation tickets, etc. Sanitation tickets must come with a picture so that it’s fair. We are committed to security legislation so that it shouldn’t be limited to schools with 300 or more students. And we need to be realistic, but creative at the same time.
AH: What are the top three things you’ve learned from your father about politics?
YH: 1) Never give up. 2) Do your part. 3) Never be scared.
AH: How old was your father when he became involved in politics?
YH: My father was involved in Jewish advocacy and action way before he was formally involved with politics. He was involved with Russian Jewry back in the 70’s before he was elected. He was about 27 when he became an Assemblyman. What I saw from him was that it was never about being an elected official. I remember when a reporter once asked my father: Are you a Republican or a Democrat? He answered, “I’m a Jew.” That never left me.
AH: Do you typically agree or disagree with your father?
YH: I agree to a large extent with the way he views things, but I have my own style in how I go about doing things. I thrive on peace and harmony and my strength is listening to everyone and trying to get along.
AH: Is there anything your father has ever done recently with which you’ve really disagreed?
YH: Come to our Shabbos table, and you’ll see plenty of disagreements! We are strong in different ways. I know that my father’s heart and intentions are always good.
AH: It’s no secret that your father and David Greenfield have had many issues over the years. Some people believe that that is why you’re running. For the record, does it have anything to do with why you’re running?
YH: Absolutely not. David Greenfield is leaving for a potential job as the CEO of Met Council and he created a situation where there was, or should’ve been, an open seat. Ironically through that, it opened an opportunity for me to “throw my hat in.” I’ve known all along, that the time would come when I would run for office. I always believed that there would be things I could bring to the table. I’ve always wanted to be there for the people and to make the community proud. My father was not part of this decision. There was an open seat and this was my opportunity to do what I’ve wanted to do all along.
AH: So, you’re not married… What are “life experience” makes you experienced enough for the job?
YH: Life experience is the quality of experiences you have. I have spent 36 years in a family who only wants to help.
I’ve learned sensitivity, caring, and compassion. These are the life experiences you need to be a great elected official.
AH: Is there anything else that you would like to tell readers of The Vues?
YH: I would just like to wish everyone a happy, healthy & zissen year!!!
FAVORITE GEMARA: Yevamos
FAVORITE JEWISH SINGER: Mendy Wald
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: T-Fusion
FAVORITE PRESIDENT: George Bush
FAVORITE PERSON IN TANACH: RUS
METS OR YANKEES: Mets!
FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL BALL PLAYER: KOBY BRYANT
3 DINNER GUESTS QUESTION: If you could invite 3 dinner guests, let’s say for a Friday night Shabbos meal, anyone from the beginning of time, who would you invite? It could be anyone in Tanach, a Rebbie of yours, a politician, relatives, a person known in sports or music, etc.
A nice mix! James Hetfield, John F. Kennedy – he revolutionized politics so I’d like to meet with him- & the RAMCHAL (Author of Mesilas Yesharim)!
Yonatan (Yoni) Shalom Hikind
Elementary School: Toras Emes
High School: YTT in Staten Island
Yeshiva in Israel:
Lev Aryeh and Mir Yeshiva
Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Shani & Assemblyman Dov Hikind
Currently lives in: Midwood
Avenue N Jewish Center, under Rabbi Eisenbach
Work Experience: Social Worker- worked with teenagers at drop-in centers like “Our Place” and private practice. Worked in Assemblyman Peter Abbate’s office, attended community events and community board meetings. Also served as a liaison for the Jewish part of the district.
Position running for: Councilman of NYC’s 44th Council District
The 44th district consists of: Boro Park, Midwood/Flatbush,
Bensonhurst and Gravesend.
Party: Independent party called “Our Neighborhood.”