Andrew Cuomo paid a visit to Jewish leaders today, and found himself in the thick of Brooklyn’s political divide.
According to sources, he visited with four Hasidic rabbis, and at three of the meetings he was met by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez and Steve Levin, his former chief-of-staff who now serves on the City Council. At the fourth meeting, with Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Lopez was not present, but Lincoln Restler, a reformer who just won a district leader seat over a Lopez backed candidate, was. According to sources, Restler had tried to attend a meeting with a Pupa rabbi, but was asked to leave before Lopez arrived.
The Pupa sect were big supporters of Mario Cuomo when he was in office. There is a schism in the Williamsburg Hasidic community between those who follow Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum and those who follow Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, and Lopez has shredly courted the followed of Rabbi Zalman–who are more numerous in Williamsburg–to increase his political power in the wake of the ongoing gentrification of his home base which has driven many of his supporters away.
Cuomo also met with Zalman, and according to sources, little of substance was discussed at the meetings, although Cuomo did discuss a program that woud give more aid to religious schools.
It is also worth noting that a few weeks ago Cuomo said that his office was looking in to the finances of Lopez’s sprawling non-profit empire, Ridgewood-Bushwick senior center, which is the target of several federal and city inquiries.