|Member of the New York State Senate|
from the 17th district
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2013
|Preceded by||David Storobin|
|Member of the New York City Council from the 44th district|
January 1, 2002 – January 31, 2010
|Preceded by||Noach Dear|
|Succeeded by||David G. Greenfield|
|Born||December 30, 1958|
Brooklyn, New York City
Felder was first elected to his current office in November 2012, defeating incumbent Republican State Senator David Storobin. Within days of his election, Felder announced that he intended to caucus with the Republicans in the New York State Senate despite having been elected and being registered as a Democrat. Felder caucused with the Senate Republican Conference from 2013 through 2018; after six months without a caucus, he was accepted into the Democratic caucus in July 2019.
Life and career
Felder's father was Rabbi Harry Felder, spiritual leader of Beth Aaron Congregation in Borough Park.
Felder previously served as Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Accounting of the City of New York, having been appointed to the post by Comptroller John Liu on January 5, 2010. He also represented the 44th Council District on the New York City Council, which encompasses parts of Borough Park, Midwood and Bensonhurst. Felder served on the City Council from 2002 to 2010.
New York City Council
During his tenure on the New York City Council, Felder gained popularity among his conservative Jewish constituents for advocating strongly on their behalf and for supporting Israel. Although personally opposed to homosexuality as being against Orthodox Judaism, he backed Christine Quinn for City Council Speaker in what was seen as a political move to gain allies. Although Felder claimed to support Quinn, he said he could not actually vote for her because of religious reasons. When the time came to vote Quinn for Council Speaker, Felder did not cast a vote and took a trip to the restroom. Unlike nearly all other New York Democrats, Felder is a staunch opponent of abortion rights.
Felder backed city funding for religious schools, while maintaining that he opposes displays of religion in public schools. Felder has also gained attention by calling for better labeling of caffeine content in foods and beverages, as well as a ban on the distribution of unsolicited fliers. Felder is perhaps best known for his attempt to ban the feeding of pigeons in New York City.
He was Chair of the Council's Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime uses in his first term. In January 2006, he became Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations and in December 2008, he became Chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, a position he held until his resignation. As Chair of Governmental Operations, Felder supported Mayor Bloomberg's plan to curb Pay to Play contracting practices and the Mayor's bid to extend term limits so the Mayor could run for a third term.
The committee also provided oversight of the City Board of Elections' implementation of the Help America Vote Act and enacted legislation to transfer the Environmental Control Board from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. The Committee also enacted legislation to extend term limits from two terms to three. As a member of the Council's Land Use Committee, Felder was part of a group of New York state legislators that has consistently blocked plans to renovate United Nations headquarters, calling the UN anti-American and anti-Israel. In spite of such calls, the UN recently announced that it will undergo a $1 billion makeover.
In 2005, Felder raised eyebrows when he crossed party lines to endorse then-Republican Mike Bloomberg in his bid for reelection as New York City mayor. He asserted that Bloomberg is the only Republican he ever voted for and implied that he will be the only Republican he will ever support.
Felder again caught attention in 2008, when he announced his Democratic presidential primary election vote for Senator Barack Obama "in protest" for what he felt was bad behavior by the campaign of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, following comments made by former president Bill Clinton regarding the South Carolina primary.
Prior to becoming a City Council member, Felder was chief of staff to New York State Assembly member Dov Hikind. New York City term limits would have prevented Felder from seeking a third term in the City Council and he was widely speculated to be mounting a run for the citywide office of comptroller. Instead, Felder ran for state senate against Kevin Parker in the 21st District. Incumbent Kevin Parker won the 2008 race by getting 49% of the vote.
New York State Senate
Felder was elected to the New York State Senate in District 17 in November 2012. The district had been reconfigured as a "Super Jewish" district; reportedly, the Republican-controlled chamber drew the district specifically with Felder in mind. Even though Storobin had won the seat in a special election, the GOP offered little support to him, and Felder handily defeated him.
Following the election to the Senate, Felder announced that despite being elected as a Democrat, he intended to caucus with the Republicans. That decision, along with Felder's stated willingness to return to the Senate Democratic Conference if doing so would benefit his district, has attracted attention and speculation during his Senate tenure. Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio called Felder's defection a "disgrace and a complete betrayal of his constituents."
During his Senate tenure, "Felder was the only [Democratic] no-vote on the $15 minimum wage. He cast pivotal votes killing the immigration-friendly DREAM Act... He called the elimination of stop-and-frisk policing a mistake. He helped torpedo 5-cent plastic bag fees and won himself the 2016 'Oil Slick Award' from the advocacy group EPL/Environmental Advocates. Felder also supported pro-Israel policies like anti-BDS legislation and Iran divestment." On the final day of the 2013 legislative session, Felder voted against a hostile amendment that would have attached a pro-choice bill to an unrelated piece of legislation.
In April 2018, top lawmakers accused Felder of "essentially holding the $168 billion budget hostage until the state agreed not to interfere with the curriculum at the private Jewish schools known as yeshivas."
After an April 2018 agreement returned the Independent Democratic Conference (a breakaway faction of Democrats) to the mainline Democratic conference, Felder became the swing vote in the State Senate; this placed a spotlight on his continued affiliation with Senate Republicans. On April 24, 2018, Felder announced that he intended to continue caucusing with Senate Republicans during the remaining weeks of the 2018 legislative session; Felder made this statement despite the possibility that two special elections being held that day could give the Democratic Party a numerical majority in the State Senate, and despite Governor Andrew Cuomo's public support for Democratic control of the Senate. On April 25, Cuomo sent Felder an open letter to pressure him to rejoin the Senate Democratic Conference. Felder continued to caucus with the Republicans.
According to a May 2018 article in the Times-Union, Brooklyn insiders believed that Felder would not be swayed by pressure, and that the Democratic establishment did not understand the "transactional" approach most of Felder's Orthodox Jewish constituents take to politics. Several people familiar with the district's dynamics told the Times-Union that most of Felder's constituents wear their party registration very loosely. According to one of them, Jacob Kornbluh of Jewish Insider, the area's voters mostly register as Democrats in order to have a say in local elections, but prefer Republicans at the state level. On paper, Felder's district is one of the more conservative districts in New York City. Donald Trump carried it with 52.8 percent of the vote in 2016, and Mitt Romney carried it with 58.3 percent in 2012. In both cases, only the Staten Island-based 24th District gave a higher vote percentage to a Republican presidential candidate.
In June 2018, Democratic State Committee members approved an informal resolution recommending Felder's ouster from the party. Former state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, speaking to reporters afterward, reiterated their exasperation with Felder: “It's my belief is that the party is not merely a vessel for someone's personal ambition to take someone from where they are to where they want to be. The party represents certain principles. Here you have someone who took the Democratic line, ran on it, won on it, and immediately stood with the Republicans.”
In the 2018 Democratic primary in September 2018, Felder defeated Blake Morris, a lawyer. Morris was endorsed by Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, the labor union SEIU 32BJ, and the progressive group Our Revolution. Felder won re-election on November 6, 2018.
The 2018 elections saw the Democrats win control of the State Senate for only the second time since World War II. Felder sought to rejoin the Senate Democratic Conference. However, on December 31, 2018, the Senate Democratic Conference announced that Felder would not be allowed to rejoin its ranks. Even without Felder, the Democrats had 39 Senate seats, seven more than the 32 needed for a majority. On January 9, 2019, the New York Daily News reported that Felder had decided against caucusing with the Republicans, and was looking forward to rejoining the Senate Democrats "'at the appropriate time'". Felder was accepted into the Democratic caucus July 1, 2019 after having voted with the Democrats on multiple major pieces of legislation.
In April 2006, Felder accused the highest-ranking uniformed member of the NYPD, Chief Joseph Esposito, of using inappropriate language when Esposito attempted to quell individuals who entered a police station house during a riot in Borough Park. Felder indicated that he personally heard the chief say, "Get the fucking Jews out of here." The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates police misconduct, later found the accusation against Esposito unsubstantiated, but did reprimand Chief Esposito for using profanity. When subsequently asked to comment on the Review Board's finding, Felder's office stated that Felder had "no comment" about the incident and that he "wants to put the matter behind him".
- Rivlin-Nadler, Max; and Evans, Lauren. "Meet The Senator Who Stands Between New Yorkers And Universal Health Care", The Village Voice, May 25, 2017. Accessed February 8, 2019. "That one vote is represented by State Senator Simcha Felder, of Borough Park, Brooklyn."
- "G.O.P. in Surprise Fight to Hold New York Senate". New York Times. November 7, 2012.
- "Beth Aaron Congregation". Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- "Council's Felder Sides With Mayor". New York Sun. April 14, 2005.
- "Boro Park Pol Favors Gay Speaker Hopeful". The Jewish Week. December 30, 2005.
- "The Calculating Clown". City Hall News. April 17, 2007.
- "Felder's Private Office". New York Observer. January 13, 2006.
- "NYS Sen. Dems Delay Abortion Vote". The Lid. July 7, 2013.
- "City Adds Funds For Catholic, Jewish Schools". New York Sun. July 10, 2006.
- "Simcha Felder Against Allowing Religious Symbols In Schools". New York Sun. June 19, 2007.
- "NYC Councilman Wants Caffeine Labeling". Associated Press. February 20, 2007.
- "Law would destroy my livelihood!". The Brooklyn Paper. May 5, 2007.
- "$1,000 fine for feeding pigeons? N.Y. considers". NBC News. November 14, 2007.
- "The Last Days of Pay to Play". New York Magazine. February 26, 2007.
- "UN Takes A Beating". The Jewish Week. December 17, 2004.
- "U.N. signs contract with Skanska for HQ renovation". Reuters. July 27, 2007.
- "Felder: I'm a Malcolm Smith Democrat". New York Daily News. June 2, 2008.
- "Felder is Not a Doghouse Democrat". Room Eight NY. August 4, 2008.
- Simcha Felder for Obama. YouTube. January 30, 2008.
- "Felder Switches To Senate Run". New York Observer. June 1, 2008.
- "Citing Bloomberg, Felder Makes Senate Run Official". New York Daily News. June 4, 2008.
- "Silver Staves Off Challenge; Connor Is Out". New York Sun. September 10, 2008.
- "Sen. Simcha Felder, explained". May 30, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Brooklyn Dems' Frank Seddio Calls Simcha Felder Plan To Caucus With Senate GOP 'A Betrayal'". New York Daily News. November 14, 2012.
- Runyeon, Frank (October 4, 2016). ""Heretic." "Maverick." "Opportunist." "Advocate." Who is the real Simcha Felder?". City & State. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- "Group picks slick pol for Oil Slick Award - From what we know about State Senator Simcha Felder he doesn't care much about labels. The former city councilman from Brooklyn was elected in November 2012 to the State Senate defeating incumbent Republ..." Retrieved August 22, 2018.
- "Klein Offers Hostile Abortion Amendment, Fails (Updatedx2)". State of Politics. June 21, 2013. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- Campanile, Carl (July 6, 2013). "Senate Shabbat Scheme". New York Post. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- Balofsky, Ahuva (July 11, 2013). "Abortion Bill Scheduled for Shabbat". BreakingIsraelNews.com. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
- Wang, Vivian; McKinley, Jesse (April 3, 2018). "The Curious Case of the Yeshiva Carve-Out". New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
- Campbell, John; Spector, Joseph (April 24, 2018). "Simcha Felder to stick with Senate Republicans, denying potential Democratic control". Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
- "Cuomo crows about a Democratic Senate majority as he waits on Simcha Felder". Retrieved November 8, 2018.
- "Sen. Simcha Felder, explained". May 30, 2018. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
- "Daily Kos Elections Statewide Results by LD (public)". Google Docs. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
- "Blake Morris". Our Revolution. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Endorsements". Blake Morris for District 17. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "2018 Elections in New York State - 32BJ SEIU". Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- "Blake Morris". Our Revolution. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
- "Simcha Felder Is Kingmaker No More — Faces 'Different World' In Albany". Retrieved November 8, 2018.
- Lovett, Kenneth. "EXCLUSIVE: NYS Senate Dems say thanks, but no thanks to Simcha Felder's return to Democratic conference - NY Daily News". nydailynews.com. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
- Lovett, Kenneth. "Without the Dems or the Republicans, Brooklyn state Sen. Felder an island to himself". nydailynews.com.
- Reisman, Nick (July 1, 2019). "Felder Joins Senate Dem Fold". NYstateofpolitics.com. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
- "Probe: Chief didn't use slur". Newsday. August 4, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
- Simcha Felder contact page
- SimchaFelder.org Simcha Felder Campaign Site
- Felder2009.org Another Simcha Felder Campaign Site
- Simcha Felder for New York State Senate Facebook Group
- Ballotpedia: Simcha Felder
| New York City Council, 44th District
David G. Greenfield
|New York State Senate|
Martin Malave Dilan
| New York State Senate, 17th District