The Green Team

Does the Voice Whispering in Mark Green’s Ear Have His Own Agenda?

At first, Joe DePlasco said Mark had "no recollection" of discussing the issues with Stephen, implying that whether or not they did was of no importance. Pressed by the Voice, the candidate decided they hadn't talked, adding that Stephen doesn't "have any particular knowledge or interest in either." DePlasco insisted that Stephen neither reviewed nor had input in the speech—though it was Mark's major economic policy address.

Actually, Stephen has stakes in six buildings near Javits that arguably could benefit from the northern expansion that Mark detailed in the plan he offered at a July 17 press conference. The theory of Green's plan, much like the one offered by the state, is that expansion will vastly add to the overnight convention business that the comparatively small Javits has long been unable to generate, stimulating hotel and other economic development on the west side in the 30s and 40s.

The center currently extends from 34th Street to 38th on Eleventh Avenue, and Mark favors extending it to 42nd Street. Stephen's buildings include 440 Ninth Avenue at 35th Street, 321 West 44th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, 1370 Broadway at 37th Street, 469 Seventh Avenue at 36th Street, 1250 Broadway at 32nd Street, and 1466 Broadway at 42nd Street.

The Green company also acquired the first mortgage on 636 Eleventh Avenue (at 46th Street) in 1998 and subsequently lost a bidding war to buy the building out of bankruptcy. A block-long industrial property that Green no longer has anything to do with, it was strikingly out of place among the second-tier office buildings that the company usually controls.

While the potential benefit of Javits's expansion varies greatly among these properties, all have been purchased since 1998, when the expansion movement began heating up. Some of the buildings—together with several other Green holdings that aren't listed here—have more of a Times Square aura to them than far West Side, but Mark Green's Javits plan explicitly links northward expansion and Times Square. In opposing the southern expansion to the low 30s favored by the Giuliani administration, Green said his proposal would "prompt developers to erect hotels much faster and in much greater volume" because of 42nd Street's "proximity to Times Square and the midtown core," precisely where many of Stephen's properties are.

Two months before Mark announced his support for the stock exchange deal—the biggest giveaway of direct city and state subsidies ever—Stephen acquired 90 Broad Street, a 25-story office building and parking lot far away from Green's usual midtown fixation yet adjacent to the proposed exchange site. The company had already acquired another building a few blocks away—17 Battery Place. Green has been the building's manager since 1996 and he bought it in 1997, when his brother first indicated that he supported the concept of a subsidized exchange. Late last year, the company sold both properties as part of a self-described repositioning in favor of midtown, buying new buildings on the west and east sides and the terminal area with the profits from the Wall Street sales.

There is no indication that Mark Green's endorsement of these projects had anything to do with his brother's interests. But their juxtaposition makes them perfect examples of why the candidate owes the public a clear statement now of just how insulated he plans to be from his brother's helpful advice. In both instances, Green plunged ahead to champion enormously costly pro-business extravaganzas, pitting himself against his mentor Ralph Nader on the exchange deal and community groups on Javits, without doing the serious policy work that is the norm for him.

His Javits report, issued by the Public Advocate's office rather than his campaign, echoed the findings of hired-hand consultants who travel the country making the same grandiose revenue projections for every city or state that wants numbers to justify billions in stadium or convention-center expenditures. Green's staff did not even meet with Javits's neighborhood opponents, talking to them by phone a few days before the recent press conference (and not at all when he backed it in 1999). Green never reached out to the academic critics of these boondoggles, who can trot out example after example of how wrong the hocus-pocus consultants have been, starting with the predictions before Javits was built.

Green's support, however, seems far more likely to have been linked to his budding relationship with the Hotel and Restaurant Workers than with his brother. Local 6 gave Green $1000 two days after the speech in 1999, and the Hotel Trades Council, a related umbrella union organization, kicked in another $1000 eight days after the speech. The union's lawyer, Vincent Pitta, immediately began bundling contributions for Green, raising $2750 in June and July 1999 and giving another $2500 himself this March. The two union committees reached the $4500 legal maximums in June 2000, while another local that's part of the trades council maxed out in 1999.

The two committees nonetheless tried to give another $9000 this May, but the campaign had to return the gifts because they exceeded the limits. In August, shortly after the Javits press conference, the committees gave another $2200 apiece, this time legally because the donations were earmarked for the runoff. A few days before the press conference, a state committee of hotel workers, also chaired by Local 6 and HTC president Peter Ward, maxed out at $4500.

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