Feature: The Devil & Carl Greene

Is he a serial sexual harasser and tyrannical boss, as some of his former employees allege? Or is he the most effective public-housing leader in the history of Philadelphia, as he and his defenders contend? Or could Carl Greene, somehow, be both?


Meanwhile, Fumo took Greene aside after one neighborhood meeting to tell him, “If this doesn’t work out, we’re going to take over the PHA, and we’re going to blow it up.”

Greene was undaunted. He understood that Fumo, Street, Rendell — they all wanted what was right from one perspective or another. Then there was his perspective. “I wanted them to allow me to do it my way — proper procurements, bids, selection of contractors, and protection of residents,” he says. “My way. I’m the trained professional in public housing.”

But Spring Garden — not to mention the mess of an agency that he inherited and the politics he had to wade through — all that came at him when he was still commuting from Detroit. Before Carl Greene was even living in Philadelphia. Which makes you wonder: Who would even want that job?

CARL GREENE, you might say, was born into it. He grew up in public housing in Washington, D.C., the seventh of eight children. The older six had one father, Greene had another, and his younger brother had a third. “The last time I saw my father,” Greene says, “I was three or four years old. I couldn’t tell you what he looked like.”

He always felt like he was on his own. But he says he was “good at resource development”: When he was seven years old, Greene collected bottles in a little red wagon to return for deposits. He delivered papers. He had summer jobs.

Greene got the attention he craved through school and sports, and he was very good at both. In fact, he was a high-school football star, a linebacker who by his senior year was receiving letters from schools, feelers for scholarships, maybe his ticket out of poverty. But a week after being named local high-school player of the week by the Washington Post, Greene hurt his arm in practice. Pushed by coaches to suit up for a game, he severed nerves in his shoulder and lost the use of his arm. Over the years, it has atrophied and now hangs, with his hand, tiny and curled, turned out from his body. Eventually, Greene would sue his high school and win $1.5 million.

The injury spun him into a severe depression. There was no one to help him — his mother had never even bothered to attend one of his football games when he could play. Greene cobbled enough aid together to attend the University of Maryland, but he was isolated there, too. He didn’t date. He didn’t join a fraternity. He didn’t feel “a connection to the rest of the world physically.”

His junior year, Greene headed to Key West during spring break to visit an old neighborhood friend, then stayed for another month, hanging out on the beach, eating crabs. He was still severely depressed, and at risk of simply giving up. But he returned to the University of Maryland, finished his degree in 18 months, got a management accounting job with the Washington, D.C. lottery commission and then one with the D.C. housing authority. He’d decided to run hard toward success. Greene would move on to the housing authority in Atlanta, then become the head of housing in Detroit in 1995 at age 39.

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  • KJ

    I’m sorry, but Carl Greene gets no sympathy here! As a former Executive at PHA, I witness his abusive behavior towards too many employees up front and personally–The reprisals, dismissals, the tirades (particularly after his night out drinking),the unwanted solicitations, and vindictive behavior that he exhibited was very real for both male and female employees; Carl Greene fostered a culture of fear at PHA, period! The whisking off, or abduction (yes, I said abduction) of that Assist General Manager was indicative of how Carl Green ran a psycho-ops and his intent to induced compliance to even his personal pleasures; There are countless other women who experienced Carl’s psychotic behavior. I was particularly perturbed by his menacing treatment of anyone he perceived as standing in the way of his desires, his exploits! And, exploit he did…whether married or single, Carl would let no man, nothing, stand in his way! So, what do you know…the Real Carl, a tyrant, sexual predator, manipulator and Ego maniac, finally got in his own way! This man has a very dark and troubling side; I only wish that he had been stopped sooner and sought treatment–like before he came to Philadelphia! Rendell, Street, the…

  • Donna

    There is a very simple explanation for the riddle of Carl Green. He is a sociopath. Hollywood tells us that a sociopath is a serial killer. The truth is, most sociopaths never kill anyone. And one expert says that 1% of the general population are sociopaths, but 3% of corporate executives are sociopaths.

    A sociopath is a person with no heart, no conscience and no remorse. Green exhibits classic signs of this personality disorder: Egocentricity and grandiosity. Rage when challenged. Manipulation. Sexual aggression. Belief that the rules do not apply to him. Financial problems. Blaming others for anything that goes wrong. Sociopaths in business frequently bring organizations down. That’s what Green has done.

    I have written extensively about this case in the Lovefraud Blog. People need to be aware of this personality disorder – especially when they’re considering a candidate for a position of power and responsibility.

  • Betty

    Come drive around Southwest Center City and you’ll have no problem picking out the PHA houses. They’re the ones in disrepair housing drug dealers and dealers. No sympathy for Greene at all. He sat in his gated community at Naval Square while inflicting pestilence on the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Betty

    Come drive around Southwest Center City and you’ll have no problem picking out the PHA houses. They’re the ones in disrepair housing drug dealers and dealers. No sympathy for Greene at all. He sat in his gated community at Naval Square while inflicting pestilence on the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Norm

    Unfortunately Carl Green suffers from the same problem that many great leaders suffer from. Absolute power. Carl Green proved himself to be an effective leader in turning around the housing authority. This was such a monumental task that he became a trusted leader who was beyond question. It was at this point when the traits of many great leaders emerged. These traits are sociopathy and narcissism. The same internal drivers that are responsible for his great abilities are also at the root of his downfall. The old saying still rings true, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!” All public leaders need to learn from this and make certain that there are checks, balances and transparancy in all business practices.