Who Got Rich Under Menino?
A few favored developers and contractors were granted a steady stream of lucrative projects and tax deals. —By Rachel Slade
Because development has been a keystone of the Menino administration, it should come as no surprise that the Boston Redevelopment Authority did very well over the past 20 years. The quasi-independent city agency seized valuable properties from the city, resold them at near-market value to favored developers and builders, and pocketed the proceeds. That’s why, as of 2010, the BRA had an operating budget of at least $50 million and has been able to pay its employees an average salary of $93,000.
Anthony Pangaro is one of the BRA alums who cashed in when Menino took over. After years as a civil servant, he joined New York–based Millennium Partners and shepherded the company through the process of building the $500 million Ritz-Carlton towers, then built the $160 million One Charles Street condo building on Beacon Hill. Grateful that the developer risked building luxury condominiums in the former Combat Zone, Menino—through the BRA—awarded Millennium the rights to build $220 million in luxury condos on Hayward Place, a deal that raised questions about the bidding process. Then, in 2012, Pangaro and Millennium took over the $700 million Filene’s project—which suddenly got 100 feet taller (and thus more profitable), and is now being considered for major property-tax breaks by the BRA.
John Fish, of Suffolk Construction, is a long-time Menino friend. Of the city’s 53 current major projects, costing $5.7 billion in all, Suffolk Construction is building 13 of them, totaling nearly $3 billion. Suffolk’s high-profile projects include the Millennium Tower at the former Filene’s site, the $230 million Lovejoy Wharf complex for Converse on the Boston Harbor, the $120 million Waterside Place in the Seaport District, and a $450 million Brigham and Women’s Hospital expansion.
Joe Fallon started his own construction company in 1993, and over the past two decades the close friend of Menino has dominated South Boston’s Fan Pier. In total, he has developed more than $3 billion in commercial real estate throughout Boston, including the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, the new Vertex headquarters, Eleven Fan Pier Boulevard, the 18-story One Marina Park Drive, and the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, with many of the projects subsidized by property-tax breaks, courtesy of the city and state.
Menino always relied on his inner circle to do his dirty work. Here’s who you didn’t want to cross. —By David S. Bernstein
Officially he’s the chief of policy and planning. In practice, he’s the mayor’s consigliere, the guy who makes the phone call to let people know where they stand with City Hall, and what they need to do to stay on the mayor’s good side.
The latest in a line of directors of the Office of Neighborhood Services, Walsh oversees 23 neighborhood coordinators who serve as his—and by extension, Menino’s—eyes and ears on the ground. It’s an important position given that the mayor built his political machine through the carrot and stick of neighborhood services—or so it is alleged by those who maintain that ice-free parks, swept streets, and fixed streetlights are directly related to the political fealty of the person making the request.
Menino’s former chief of staff was sometimes described as the good cop to Kineavy’s bad cop. Before joining the private sector, he was said to have kept tabs on developers through the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Signori, known as Dr. No, joined Menino’s budget office early in his first term and left in 2010 as director of administration and finance. Thoughtful and pleasant when discussing the complexities of the budget, Signori could turn defiant and opaque when dealing with inquisitors and critics.
Did Menino really chase Sam Yoon out of town? —By David S. Bernstein
Dorchester resident who had lived in Boston for nearly 20 years, City Councilor Sam Yoon was exactly the sort of person the city tries to attract and retain: smart, ambitious, and committed to improving the community. Instead, he said, he was effectively run out of town. His sin? Running against Menino in the 2009 mayoral primary, and then, when he didn’t make it to the final round, teaming up with the man who did.
Yoon told me that after the election he became “radioactive” for potential employers in and around Boston. Nonprofits and businesses, he said, made clear that hiring him would diminish their chances of getting contracts with the city. So Yoon gave up on his adopted city and took a job as executive director of the Washington, DC–based National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations.
Menino insiders contend that this is balderdash. No calls were made, they say, and no warnings were sent when it came to Yoon. Anyone who expressed fear of reprisal, they say, was simply paranoid—or taking advantage of a convenient excuse for showing Yoon the door. Interestingly, many of Menino’s highest-profile challengers have not fled the city. Even Peggy Davis-Mullen, who moved to Dedham to open a real estate business after losing to Menino in 2001, eventually endorsed him in later reelection campaigns. And, while Menino’s machine helped keep Michael Flaherty from winning back his city council seat in 2011, Flaherty never left town—and he’s back for another try this year.
These lucky souls did battle with Menino and somehow managed to work their way back into his good graces. —By Brittany Jasnoff
As Boston was preparing to host the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Kerry, who was running for president, and Menino were engaged in a series of spats that threatened to undermine a prime-time show of Democratic unity. Two weeks before the convention, the two reconciled during a meeting in Kerry’s campaign SUV. “That’s yesterday,” Menino told the Globe. “I can’t hold grudges.”
The nightlife mogul’s glitzy M-80 nightclub—a favorite of the Euro crowd in the ’90s—was continually cited for violations like underage drinking and overcrowding, drawing the ire of the mayor. Greenberg was all but forced out of town after the club was shut down in 2000. By 2005, though, he was receiving invitations to Menino’s annual holiday party. Nowadays he owns a stake in the Ames Hotel—a project that had support from the BRA—and in January will open a restaurant in Fort Point.
Menino and the controversial Boston city councilor famously battled over development in South Boston, a fight that culminated in a lawsuit won by the mayor. But Menino had only nice things to say about Kelly after his death in 2007. “He was a true gentleman,” Menino wrote in a statement.
The Waiting Game
Plenty of people wanted to be the next mayor. Here are five whose hopes faded a little more with each Menino reelection. —By David S. Bernstein
Meade developed strong political connections during his days in Kevin White’s administration, and name recognition as a radio-talk-show host. He also piled up business credentials and public service bona fides. And then waited…and waited…and finally surrendered. Today he works for Menino at the BRA.
What happens when someone who works for Menino is too good at what he does? Menino feared that O’Brien, who’d headed the BRA for seven years, would run against him in 2001. At least that’s the story often told to explain the 1999 story in the Globe—complete with a backstabbing quote from Menino—that alleged mismanagement at the BRA. After a period of exile, O’Brien eventually returned to prominence, but would never be a potential candidate again.
Grogan was a government-innovation hotshot in the White and Flynn administrations who pioneered public/private partnerships and led community-development efforts. Despite Menino’s attempts to ice him out, Grogan went on to lead the Boston Foundation, a perfect platform from which to run for mayor. That was three election cycles ago.
Martin had just started as Suffolk County’s, and the state’s, first black district attorney when Menino became mayor, and for a while the two seemed destined to go head to head. Martin continued to build his credentials, chairing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce for two years, and joining Bingham McCutchen as the Boston office’s managing partner, while waiting for his shot. It never came, and in 2009, he gave up and moved on to become general counsel at Northeastern University.
Six years on the Boston School Committee. Four years as an at-large city councilor. Eleven as criminal clerk of the Suffolk County Superior Court. Eight years as VP of Government Relations and External Affairs at Suffolk University. You don’t get better-connected politically than John Nucci, and he certainly had his eye on the mayoral prize. But now that the opportunity is at last here, he’s been reduced to offering analysis about it in the Herald.
For more of our look back at Mayor Menino’s time in office, check out “A Mayor in Full.”