Reporter and Back-Room Broker on Rudy, Green and the Mob

Okay, once more on that long-running and slightly silly argument between allies of Rudy Giuliani and Mark Green over who deserves credit for removing the mob from the gabage industry. (It’s worth settling, if only because the accomplishment is a central biographical selling point of Green’s attorney general campaign — and at least a tangential one in Giuliani’s national marketing effort.)

Selwyn Raab, the former Times investigative reporter and author of “Five Families” – the highly authoritative book on the mafia in New York – was kind enough to give me his assessment of the situation, which is essentially that it was Giuliani who got it done, but that it couldn’t necessarily have happened without Green.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “There’s diffuse credit.”

Raab, whose reporting has been cited at various times by both sides to prove their points, essentially said that Green deserved a major amount of credit for using the “bully pulpit” while he as consumer affairs commissioner under David Dinkins to draw attention to a scary and obvious crime problem that had been completely ignored for decades by everyone from the mayor on down. And he recalled that it was Green who brought testimony from one intimidated industry witness to the attention of Robert Morgenthau, eventually leading to the massive investigation and series of indictments that set the stage for Giuliani’s reforms.

But, he said, “it was a Giulaini-Randy Mastro concept” of institutionalizing licensing and background checks – and not Green’s original proposals, which got Raab a front-page byline but otherwise “went nowhere” — that finally broke the mafia’s control.

And, Raab noted, “Giuliani doesn’t like to take any prisoners. He doesn’t like to give any credit to anyone else.”

I got a similar take from former Councilmember Ken Fisher, a Democrat who acted as something of a mediator between Giuliani and Green during the passage of the original legislation to reform the carting industry.

Here’s what he had to say about Randy Mastro’s recent comment that Mark Green had nothing to do with the anti-mob reforms:

“I guess it’s not a secret that Mark Green and Mastro didn’t really get along well. But it’s kind of like saying Roosevelt didn’t really need Churchill’s help to win World War II. I think the historical record is pretty clear.”

More, if you can stand it, after the jump.

As for the highly imprecise science of actually determining the amount of credit Green deserved for the legitimate triumph over organized crime garbage cartels during the Giuliani era, that’s where it gets a little more complicated.

Fisher emphasized that Mastro is technically correct in that the specific proposal’s at the heart of Green’s vision – the creation of a number of “zones” within which the city could award carting franchises through an open process – were opposed by the mayor and eventually fell by the wayside. But he also suggested that Green’s help, in coordination with the Giuliani administration, was necessary in assembly a coalition to get the reforms passed against stiff opposition from the carting industry and assorted “real estate big shots” who had cut deals of their own.

“The question was, did the Giuliani administration and the public advocate work together to pass the bill — the answer is absolutely yes,” he said.

“Obviously, the major force on this was Giuliani. Without him putting some muscle behind it it wouldn’t have happened. But Mark brought me on board. I brought Vallone on board. All of us were in awe of what Morgenthau had done. Mastro was under police protection. Everybody played their role. But could it have hapend without any of us? All I know I know is that’s the way it happened.”

Just so it’s clear, the fight over credit may be newly relevant, but it is decidedly not new. Raab said he remembers being chided about a decade ago by a Green aide for writing a story about one of the mayor’s announcements on regulating the waste industry without mentioning the public advocate.

So some things never change.

— Josh Benson

Reporter and Back-Room Broker on Rudy, Green and the Mob