Three generations of Padernachts have called Shalom Aleichem Houses off Sedgwick Avenue home, beginning with Sydney just after World War II, followed by Howard, and then his three sons.
Dan Padernacht, who left the apartments only briefly to attend college and law school out of state, remembers stories about the FBI camping out in front of Jerome Park Reservoir, keeping an eye on the residents there.
“Shalom Aleichem was supposed to be a co-op, kind of like the Amalgamated,” Padernacht said. “It was for socialists by socialists, but built during the Great Depression, so that didn’t exactly work out. It went to private ownership right away, but a lot of the socialists moved in anyway.”
It’s the kind of colorful history that comes with the kind of roots the Padernachts have put down in Kingsbridge over the decades. And it’s those very roots Dan Padernacht himself hopes will lead him to the city council.
Padernacht made his candidacy official Tuesday, despite the fact Andrew Cohen isn’t due to term limit out until 2021. But it’s never too early to start.
“I didn’t want to wait to let the community know that I’m running,” Padernacht said. “It gives me more time to answer questions, and give people the opportunity to get to know me.”
Many likely already know the real estate attorney who, by night, is a prominent member of Community Board 8 — including three years as its chair. Padernacht now leads CB8’s traffic and transportation committee, a group that has made its own noise in recent months, including its opposition to the controversial re-striping of Broadway in North Riverdale.
But his interests go beyond just streets — Padernacht also wants to do a lot more for young people in the community.
“We need to create programs of opportunity for them, so that they can avoid getting caught up in gangs,” he said.
That could come in the form of stronger community centers, but also in better relations between young people and police. One idea Padernacht offered was setting up some sort of anonymous hotline similar to 311 where both children and adults could communicate with local authorities.
“We already have anonymous hotlines to report crime, but we need something that’s more about communicating with the community, and actually showing results.”
Padernacht dipped his toe into the election waters in 2010 when he eyed the state senate seat ultimately won by Gustavo Rivera. A few years later, his name popped up for the very council seat he’s seeking now — at least until the party moved behind Cohen.
Another name mentioned at the time was Eric Dinowitz, a public school educator and the local Democratic district leader. He’s also the son of prominent Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
The younger Dinowitz wouldn’t say if he planned to seek the seat as well, but wouldn’t dismiss the idea either.
“I think it’s pretty well-known that public service is something that I am very interested in,” Dinowitz said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life, and city council is certainly a way that I can serve the public.”
And starting early like Padernacht might not be a bad idea, he added.
“People open campaign committees at a time that is appropriate,” he said. “That way they can raise money and get the word out, so they’re prepared to run when the time is right.”
If past contested elections are any indication, a successful candidate will likely have to raise more than $100,000 — something Cohen needed to do in order to defeat a challenge by Cliff Stanton in 2013.
Dinowitz may have been raised in the shadow of public service, but Padernacht boasts that kind of pedigree as well. His father, Howard, virtually saved Shalom Aleichem by securing city funds that helped renovate the 236-unit complex.
But the younger Padernacht has spent countless hours as a CB8 member, and strives to improve the standing of community boards with the rest of city government.
“The City of New York generally can use community boards much better than they do now,” Padernacht said. “I think that many times, the city sees community boards as a hurdle rather than as a wealth of information. I think across the city, there’s different views about community boards, and in my time as chair, I think our board worked well with elected officials.”
Although at least two potential candidates are measuring the curtains in the city council offices, Cohen really isn’t thinking much about who might succeed him, according to spokesman Miles Burnett.
“At the moment, Councilmember Cohen is focused on the needs of his constituents and on supporting the governor and his partners in the state legislature with their current re-election campaigns, as well as electing a new attorney general,” Burnett said in a statement. “It is too early to speculate about who will succeed him.”
Padernacht, however, is ready now.
“People might not like the (election) machine, but if they don’t have a choice, there is nothing they can do about it,” Padernacht said. “Now they’re getting a choice.”