The Kid From Great Neck

Grown-Up Green Is Poised to Run ‘the City’

Incredibly, when Deni and Mark moved to New York in 1980, they lived at 444 East 86th, one floor below the apartment Donna and Rudy bought a couple of years later. Green remembers seeing Rudy in the lobby shortly before he moved north to 530 East 90th Street—where he lives to this day. Green and Giuliani have talked frequently of the neighborhood walks they each took to Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion, just three blocks from the building they both then lived in. Green even identifies four traits he says he and Giuliani share: "We're energetic, goal-oriented, hardworking, and love policy combat."

Yet, in countless other ways, the two could not be more dissimilar. Green became a Dodger fanatic in the Jackie Robinson era; Giuliani put on a Yankee uniform while living within a stone's throw of Ebbett's Field. In the early '70s, Green rode his motorcycle one midnight after another to the Mayflower Hotel near the White House to get The Washington Post's early-edition latest on Watergate, while onetime Democrat Giuliani spurned George McGovern in 1972 and worked in the Nixon Justice Department.

The two even traded cities in 1980, with Green moving to New York to lose a congressional race and create his progressive Democracy Project, while Giuliani, already an "independent," formally became a Republican and Ronald Reagan's associate attorney general. By 1986, Rudy was doing a drug-bust stunt in Hells Angels garb to help re-elect the man who'd made him New York's top federal prosecutor, Senator Al D'Amato, while Green was running against D'Amato and, subsequently, pressing the Senate ethics charges that damaged him badly.

Finally, over the last seven and a half years, the contrast has been so stark that Green became New York's anti-Rudy—evicted from a senior center and barred from speaking, targeted in a failed charter referendum, and ridiculed as a liberal relic. He sued Giulani again and again. His reports barked. He never winked or flinched. It is not just name recognition that has carried him to the top of the polls; it is voter recognition that he stood tall at a time when others wavered.

Green has spent a life in pursuit of causes; Giuliani is his own only cause. Green regards the reception he receives among black voters—which is strikingly warm, even from the usually more reserved black men—as a powerful validation of his advocacy career. Giuliani takes the same sort of pride in their rejection, converting it into a sign of his unwillingness to pander.

Giuliani changed his party registration three times, moved from embracing Mario Cuomo to Newt Gingrich in a matter of months, and shifted from trying to post the Ten Commandments in the schools in 2000 to revealing the one he'd happily broken. Green, on the other hand, is rooted in a Jewish reform and liberal tradition in New York politics that started in 1932 with the election of Governor Herbert Lehman but has never set a mayoral agenda. Abe Beame was always a clubhouse functionary and the onetime hair shirt Ed Koch actually celebrated his many machine and ideological compromises. After a near century of Jewish reform influence, Mark Green may represent the best chance ever for this city to see how it governs.

There are, however, worrisome chinks in Green's liberal armor. In 1999, already preparing for this mayoral run, he declared for the first time that he favored the abolition of parole, seconding Governor Pataki's State of the State address. While Green denies it, the sudden call for what he called a Truth-in-Sentencing law looked like a calculated counter to the predictable campaign charge that he is soft on crime.

Though Green usually assiduously studies issues before taking a position, his staff could only point to conversations with one Vera Institute criminal justice expert and a talk with a single assemblyman. Despite the disproportionate stake that minorities have in the issue and the unanimous, public opposition of the state's Black and Latino Caucus to Pataki's proposal, Green jumped aboard without speaking to a single leader of color.

When the Voice asked him what felonies released parolees in New York are most likely to have committed, he paused, obviously aware that parole has already been eliminated for violent felons, and specified, "assault without a dangerous weapon, larceny." When told that two-thirds of the felons released last year were convicted only of drug offenses, he launched into a call for "dramatic change" of the Rockefeller drug laws, which have resulted in long jail terms for minor offenses. He did not seem aware that parole is the only way out for those crushed by the mandatory Rockefeller sentences. Asked if he was making parole abolition contingent on Rockefeller reform, the candidate who has already featured his throw-the-keys-away position in get-tough mailings to voters, replied: "Would I accept one without the other? I'll have to think about that." The quickest mouth in the mayoral race had reduced himself to mumbo-jumbo.

Similarly, as activist as Green has been on minority issues like police brutality and children's services, he has been mute about the fate of the 600,000 who disappeared from welfare rolls under Giuliani and, aside from a single, vague 1997 report, silent about the horrors of the workfare program. Green has so carefully calibrated a support of affirmative action, ever vigilant about any whiff of "quotas," that he got the lowest audience rating among the mayoral candidates at a packed Harlem AIDS forum last week when he balked at creating any funding preference for black-run AIDS groups.

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