Take It or Leave It, Mark Green

Brooklyn Assemblyman Roger Green’s Challenge to a Turncoat Liberal

Can Mark Green win back the hearts and minds of black and Latino voters?

If the shunned Democratic mayoral nominee wants to atone for participating in the most divisive political campaign since Ed Koch's 1988 assertion that Jews would be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson, he must bow to a list of six conditions, the Voice has learned.

These conditions are contained in a strongly worded letter that Brooklyn assemblyman Roger L. Green, the powerful chair of the state's Black, Puerto Rican, and Hispanic Caucus, quietly dispatched to Mark Green four days after the bruising October 11 runoff.

Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Roger Green's choice for mayor, narrowly lost; partly because Mark Green operatives—fearing the city's Public Advocate might lose—shamelessly appealed to white New Yorkers' anxieties about police protection and economic survival in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In retaliation, Green has been treated like a pariah in black and Latino communities.

On the one hand, Roger Green's letter, published here for the first time, reads like a black politician's indictment, charging that Mark Green betrayed African Americans and Latinos. On the other, it's a take-it-or-leave-it challenge to a Democrat some blacks are calling a turncoat liberal. The Voice obtained a copy shortly after the assemblyman, Al Sharpton, and Bronx Democratic County boss Roberto Ramirez stormed out of an October 19 unity rally that concerned Democratic Party officials had hastily organized to hype Ferrer's surprise endorsement of Green. In the letter, Roger Green refers to the six conditions as a "bill of particulars that could address the growing divisions that threaten the political solidarity within the Democratic Party and social solidarity of our city." This is what he says Mark Green should do:

  • "Apologize for those remarks that you made which were associated with the Happy Land fire, and which were perceived as devaluing the lives of victims and the suffering of families connected to this tragedy.

  • "Disassociate yourself and your campaign from anyone involved in the construction and promotion of negative advertisements that demeaned the competence and character of Mr. Ferrer's leadership.

  • "Disassociate yourself and your campaign from anyone who participated in the racial denigration of Mr. Sharpton during this campaign.

  • "Support the appointment of a Latino as the next New York State Democratic Party chair.

  • "Support a person of color as the next speaker of [the] New York City Council.

  • "Support the [gubernatorial] candidacy of [African American state comptroller] H. Carl McCall."

Mark Green's dream of occupying Gracie Mansion may hinge on the political stock he places in the assemblyman's solution for healing the widening rift between the "Two New Yorks." But Mark Green may decide it's not worth it because Sharpton wants political revenge for portraying him to moderate white voters as the Osama bin Laden of New York.

"I am going to the Wailing Wall to promise God that I will not support Mark Green for mayor," Sharpton vowed before departing for the war-torn Middle East last Saturday.

When Al Sharpton bounded off a hotel podium packed with high-ranking Democrats two weeks ago in downtown Manhattan, he was visibly disgusted by their lukewarm condemnation of the right-wing tactics Mark Green had resorted to in order to defeat Fernando Ferrer in the mayoral runoff.

Hot on Sharpton's heels was former jailmate and political gadfly Roberto Ramirez. But as Sharpton raced to a back exit—muttering invectives, swearing to God that neither Mark Green nor the Democratic Party would embarrass him ever again—a voice called out to the civil rights activist, "Al! Al! Al!" On the fourth appeal, Sharpton spun around. He came face to face with Roger Green, his critic during the Tawana Brawley fiasco, who had become a close ally in recent months. Green began to console the whipping boy of the radical populist right, whom candidate Green had been reluctant to chastise.

Tears that had brimmed in Sharpton's eyes after he watched Ferrer's feeble embrace of his former rival, gushed as he stared at the sallow-faced Green.

"Do you believe this mess?" Sharpton asked.

"Unbelievable," Green replied. "That in there was unbelievable, Reverend."

As both leaders headed toward the lobby, Green whipped out a copy of the October 15 five-page letter he had written to Mark Green. Like many disillusioned African Americans, Green struggles to redefine the once vaunted liberal. "What are you?" the assemblyman asks Green in the letter. "Progressive? Neo-liberal? Neo-conservative? Conservative Democrat?"

In the letter, Roger Green expresses his "disappointment with the tactics and tenor" of Mark Green's campaign. This race for Gracie Mansion, he complains, "took on the characteristics of racial insensitivity, racial divisiveness." According to him, the views that he has so carefully outlined in the letter, regarding Mark Green's behavior during the campaign, "are now widely prevalent within the African-American and Latino constituency of the Democratic Party." Green, he contends, derailed an effort by grassroots voters to "build a coalition of conscience around a progressive political agenda that transcends race and ethnicity."

In damning detail, he revisits Green's attacks on Ferrer. He begins by recalling the October 7 televised debates, in which Green belittled and blasted Ferrer for mentioning the city's 1977 blackout and the Happy Land Social Club fire that killed 87 people in the same context as the September 11 terrorist attacks. "To compare this catastrophe, the mass murder of 5000 people, 100,000 jobs lost, $100 billion hit in the economy, to the Happy Land fire, and the blackout of 1977 . . . shows a lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the economic impact, the safety impact, and the federal impact," Mark Green said.

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