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?

 

“I was trying to do good in measurable ways,” Green says now, “so that I could get that positive interaction from people.”

Just as he did as a little boy, through sports, through getting good grades. Winning praise, and a place in the world. But the psychic pain of his injury and isolation never went away, and it’s still palpable, as chronic physical pain, in his left arm.
But Greene didn’t just bury himself in work; the nuts and bolts of PHA became his emotional life. I confirmed with him that he has never married — I had heard the rumor within the agency that Greene is secretly wed to a senior employee.

“No, I never married,” he says. Then, in the next breath: “But I dedicated my life to achieving things and making things happen, and understanding systems and building systems, and understanding technology and building technology, and making infrastructure and systems work. Part of what you see at PHA today is an infrastructure. You see technology, you see buildings built with community centers and health centers, and supports, a whole infrastructure that — ”

I interrupt to ask a question: “Has there been anyone in your life you could go to, to talk about how you really felt?”

Carl Greene is uncharacteristically silent for a moment. Then, very softly, he answers: “No.”

OVER THE YEARS, Madeline Rodriguez has worked a variety of jobs at PHA, and sometimes quite closely with Carl Greene. A few days before Christmas, she tells me a story, with her lawyer listening in, about something she says happened back in 2001, when she was an assistant general manager.

One afternoon, Madeline got a call on the cell phone that Carl Greene had given her. Even though she was conducting a meeting with other managers, she excused herself, went out into the hall and took the call. Carl Greene had told her she had to answer that phone whenever it rang.

Greene told Madeline to come downstairs — she was at a Section 8 office near 30th and Market — to see him. Never mind the meeting. So Madeline excused herself, grabbed her jacket — leaving her purse behind — and left.

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