The Giuliani Dilemma

How Freddy and Mark Used Rudy to Define Themselves

When Mark Green arrived at Rudy Giuliani's West Side emergency command post last Wednesday, a little after 5 p.m., he didn't know why the mayor, who'd once barred him from a seniors' center, was suddenly asking him to come to an urgent private meeting. He also didn't know that he was just three hours away from a defining moment in a two-decade career in New York politics, one that would test his will and his wisdom more than any challenge he'd confronted in the largely powerless public posts he'd held for the last 12 years.

Green was with two of his young and centrist policy-wonk aides—38-year-old David Eichenthal, the longtime $117,000-a-year chief of staff in the Public Advocate's office, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, 39, a recent arrival from the Clinton administration who's quickly assumed a pivotal, at-Green's-side role in the campaign. They were asked to wait outside while Green was ushered in for a five-minute, face-to-face exchange with the man whose handling of the city's worst crisis has made him an overnight international icon.

Giuliani had spent eight years spitting in Green's direction, even putting a wildly unsuccessful charter proposal on the ballot in 1999 to bar Green from succeeding him. The abuse wasn't just historical—only two days before, a Giuliani aide had complained to the Times' Jennifer Steinhauer that Green "had not attended enough planning meetings" since the World Trade Center attack and that he'd "fiddled with his Palm Pilot during one"—charges that a Green spokesman angrily rebutted.

Illustration by Alan Carlstrom

The mayor himself said on Tuesday—just as Freddy Ferrer and Green were placing first and second in the Democratic mayoral primary—that "some" of the candidates had been "helpful" in the crisis and "some have not," promising to rate them in the near future. His aides simultaneously whispered to the Times that it was Green who would soon be skewered.

A stinging Post gossip item the same day, inspired by the mayor's aides and contending that Green had left the Saint Patrick's memorial service early to schmooze with cops, raised Green camp fears about an orchestrated tabloid blitz that could cripple him in his October 11 runoff with Ferrer. Giuliani was already so petty and aggressive that he even managed to find time in between funerals and death-toll briefings to personally call his former emergency services chief, Jerry Hauer, and blast him for appearing at a Green press conference announcing a new, post-WTC security plan for the city.

That was the baggage Green brought to the meeting, where the mayor quickly got to the point. He wanted an extension of his term. He wanted the three candidates still in the race—including Republican nominee Michael Bloomberg—to agree to take office in April or so, which would also mean they'd support state legislation to change the mandatory January inauguration date.

The emergency required it. Unifying the city required it. A "seamless transition" required it. The fact that such an extension had never been granted anywhere in America was not mentioned as either an obstacle or a motive—though it was unmistakably both—and the two instead talked about details, as if this "indispensable man" exception were reasonable on its face.

The candidate for mayor who had turned his "no one has stood up to Rudy more than me" boast into a campaign chant was being asked to step aside for him. The white candidate who'd just won 35 percent of the profoundly anti-Giuliani black vote was being asked, less than 24 hours after the primary polls closed, to give Rudy part of the mayoral term they'd offered him. The Naderite founder of the Democracy Project was being asked to suspend it.

Indeed, the lifelong smartest kid in the class was being told that someone else could do the job he coveted better until things got back to normal. He was being told that a man whose budgets he'd assailed in annual press releases would shape his for the first year and a half of a prospective four-year term. He was being robbed of the right to create and set in motion the reconstruction mechanisms that would bring this city back at a cost greater than the annual budget, even though he alone among the candidates had announced a plan to do it, albeit a sketchy one.

Green left the bunker quickly, considering the request, consulting Eichenthal and Ben-Ami. It was getting close to sundown on Yom Kippur, a solemn High Holiday. He went to synagogue and a family meal, where he discussed it with Stephen Green, his multimillionaire Republican brother and major fundraiser, Mark's conduit to the city elite. He made a few calls, though he won't say to whom. He did not call the out-of-town David Dinkins, a top supporter who'd been through two mayoral transitions, his conduit to black voters. He called Rich Schrader, his campaign manager, and Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner, his conduit to white moderate voters. Schrader, who is Green's most liberal adviser, was amenable to the mayor's plan; Bratton, who saw Giuliani up close in lesser crises, won't say what his advice was.

Green also reportedly called powerful Albany insider Denny Farrell, a backer who chairs the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, to check out what was plausible at a state level. Green told the Voice he wanted to call Speaker Sheldon Silver but felt "inhibited" by the holiday and Silver's Orthodox seclusion. Silver had already been in the news that day—telling reporters that Giuliani had called him just hours before summoning Green and asked him to push a bill repealing term limits through the assembly. Silver's statement had left the door on repeal slightly ajar, enough to give Giuliani's proposition a carrot/stick allure: "Give me three months, or I'll take four years" was the implied message.

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