When Jews thought of trying to hire a Chief Rabbi for New York in 1879 they first thought of Malbim (1809-9.18.1879). Abraham J. Karp's article "New York Chooses a Chief Rabbi," AJHS 44 (1954-55) included as an appendix a circular written by supporters of the idea of bringing a Chief Rabbi to New York City. It reads, in part, "We believe that such a leader can be found in the eminent Rabbi Dr. Mayer L. Malbim, who possesses all the qualifications for the position; and arrangements are now in progress to have him assume control of our spiritual affairs." It goes on to say that 24 congregations, as well as many "good men, earnest in the cause" support this, with 25 more congregations promising their support as well. (The circular was printed in Philadelphia's Jewish Record on 8.22.79.)
Below is how the New York Herald reported a meeting about it on August 4, 1879:
And a New Orleans newspaper picked it up as part of a column of New York gossip:
As I indicated by including the date of Malbim's death, he died before he could even respond to the offer which, I believe, was formally extended. Instead, New York got the Vilner Maggid, Rabbi Jacob Joseph.
As you can see, the newspaper calls Malbim "Rabbi M. L. Malbini." Although I suppose it's possible that the reporter misheard the name, I think it more likely that he or an editor later misunderstood his notes, seeing the cursive "m" as "ni."
Here are some clippings from London's Jewish Chronicle:
August 22, 1879:
August 29, 1879:
September 19, 1879:
November 7, 1879:
As you can see, according to the report of September 19, by the beginning of September he had already accepted the post as rabbi of Kromontschau. However, by the date of this newspaper he had already died.
 It has been called to my attention (see comments) that there isn't a strong basis for saying that the offer had been formally extended. Rather, it seems that an informal offer had been made prior to the meeting of August 4th, such that it was known that the Malbim was amenable to making the move to the United States, and therefore funds were being raised to make it a firm possibility. Presumably then a formal offer would have been extended, assuming otherwise that one had never been.