As they toured the heavily Jewish summer vacation areas of the Catskills Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilman Simcha Felder appeared as they usually do — good friends with common interests.
They have developed a strong rapport over the years, with Felder, who represents Borough Park, often accompanying the mayor not only to Jewish events and areas in the city but to Israel and upstate.
Felder campaigned strongly for Bloomberg’s 2005 re-election, and is on board for the mayor’s third bid.
The friendship works both ways. Bloomberg backed Felder’s 2006 unsuccessful campaign for state Senate. And Felder revealed this week in The New York Times that City Hall granted his request for nearly $700,000 to fund organizations in his district.
But their cozy kinship may have hit a speed bump this week as Felder and a spokesman for the mayor traded conflicting accounts of how Felder’s name ended up on requests for more than $1.5 million in grants to two Jewish organizations: Agudath Israel and Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services.
The mayor’s discretionary fund, according to rules, may not give out any money without a request from a City Council member. Felder told the Times this week he never requested the grants, notwithstanding his name on the paperwork.
“I did not ask for it,” he told the Times, to which mayoral spokesman Mark Lavorgna said, “We disagree with the councilman’s recollection.”
Perhaps adding to the tensions are reports that Felder actively pursued the open job of city finance commissioner, recently vacated by Martha Stark, to no avail. The job went to David Frankel, the mayor announced Monday.
Felder did not return calls seeking comment about his relationship with Bloomberg. A spokesman, Eric Kuo, said Felder did not seek the finance post.
Spokesmen for Bloomberg’s campaign and at City Hall also declined to comment.
Michael Fragin, a former aide to Gov. George Pataki who worked with Felder on Bloomberg’s 2005 campaign, said any tensions between the two were likely minimal.
“Their relationship must be strong because [Felder’s] former and current chiefs of staff are working on the Bloomberg campaign,” Fragin said of Ari Hoffnung and Fern Weinreich. Hoffnung, who works part time for Felder, is also in charge of field operations in the Jewish community, while Weinreich runs one of the campaign’s Brooklyn offices.
“I think the mayor has a soft spot for Simcha and he likes him,” said Fragin, who now works in the private sector, noting that “he was pictured pretty happily with the mayor on Sunday.”
Fragin added, however, that unlike Felder, “if I was asked the same question [about the funds for Agudah and Ohel] I probably would have said ‘no comment.’ ”
Bloomberg and Felder on Sunday visited the summer camp of the Hebrew Academy for Special Children in Parksville, a girls’ camp in Ferndale and Jewish shops and eateries in Woodbourne.
Rabbi Shlomo Stern, director of Camp HASC, said the mayor “was very warmly received. Friends and board members felt very moved that [he] took time out of his busy schedule to visit.” The rabbi said the rapport between Felder and Bloomberg was “very friendly. They came in the same entourage.”
In other campaign news, the Daily News reported this week that Bloomberg 2009 was handing out flyers seeking “well-spoken, persuasive, confident, and hard-working” Hebrew and Yiddish speakers to get out the vote for the mayor in Brooklyn and Queens.