In March, the New York Times published an article highlighting New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s involvement in a late 1970s push to keep a 20-acre lot in his Lower East Side district free from the construction of new affordable housing (the vast lot remains vacant to this day, to the consternation of housing advocates). The article reported that the young assemblyman, along with his longtime friend William Rapfogel, the disgraced former CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Jewish Poverty who last month admitted to stealing $7 million from the charity, worked behind the scenes, at times under the auspices of an organization known as the United Jewish Council, to promote certain developers and advocate proposals that were aligned with their goal of maintaining the neighborhood’s Jewish character.
It’s a pretty damning revelation. Silver, however, has an alibi. According to a new Times article, the assemblyman says it wasn’t him doing some of the things they accused him of doing, it was another Sheldon Silver. Sheldon E. Silver, to be exact: a local Brooklyn lawyer who also briefly worked for the United Jewish Council.
“I was forever confused with this guy,” Mr. Silver said at a breakfast he hosted on Thursday at the state Democratic Party convention. “Even after he left there, I got phone calls from people who I knew.”
Misdirected phone calls aside (and aren’t they annoying?), the Times points out that documents like minutes from meetings with city officials and letters issued on official State Assembly letterhead suggest it was in fact the Sheldon Silver who was behind the push to build a mall instead of housing developments on the Delancey St. lot.
The family of Sheldon E. Silver, who died in 2001, has reportedly found the whole thing amusing, if a bit irksome.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.