BOROUGH PARK – Councilman is a new title for Kalman Yeger, but he’s no stranger to public service. “I love public service,” Yeger said. “There’s not a single time when I walk into the city hall that I’m not in awe of the opportunity that’s been given to me and that my community has entrusted me with.”
The newly elected councilman of District 44, serving parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Midwood, had his first job as an assistant to Councilman Lloyd Henry when he was 19 years old. He later worked under the Bronx Borough President for six years before serving on Community Board 14 for 17 years, ending his term in December after being elected to his current position.
While serving as a community board member, he was also a senior advisor to Councilman David Greenfield. Greenfield later selected Yeger to replace him for the Democratic nomination when he decided not to run for reelection after the candidate petition filing deadline. He won over 66 percent of the votes in the general election.
Yeger said that parks, schools, and traffic congestion are important to him in his communities, adding that it is important for elected officials to view things as achievable and not impossible.
“We’ve already begun working with Parks to look for ways to expand our district’s acreage,” Yeger said. He added that he’s looking at ways to expand both the natural borders of existing parks in the district with the Parks Without Borders initiatives and to identify places where new parks or Tot Lots can be developed.
Another issue he is passionate about is school safety.
Yeger hopes to expand Greenfield’s school security guard legislation, which he helped to write while working for the councilman. The bill, which was approved by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio in 2015, requires the city to pay for private security guards in private and religious schools with 300 or more students. Yeger, whose district includes 102 schools of which 70 are private or religious schools, wants to lower that number to 150 students.
“There are schools of 212 kids that can’t qualify for the program so I think it’s important to try to figure out a way to expand that,” Yeger said.
He adds that most Yeshivas in his district are able to benefit from the program, however, Catholic and Muslim schools are not benefitting because of their sizes. “Schools are sensitive places,” Yeger said. “It doesn’t matter to me what kind of school your child attends. Your child is in a school, your child should be protected during that period of time.”
Yeger said that the incident in Parkland, Florida shows the challenges of school safety. “The reason for this program is not to protect children from each other,” Yeger said. “It’s not to protect the teachers from the children, the children from the teachers, it’s to protect the children from the outsiders coming in and wishing to do them harm. And isn’t that our obligation?”
The Daily News reported that the city expected to pay $19.8 million for the program in its first year, Yeger’s office confirmed that the city spent about $20 million on the program last year.