I have just read an article in the current issue ofNew York Magazine (“The 1% Joke and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society”) that shocked me to the bone. Writer Kevin Reese describes how in January 2012he infiltrated the annual dinner of Kappa Beta Phi, a secret society of “highly successful financiers.”During one of the many acts of the new initiates, who are required to perform in drag, Reese blew his cover when he pulled out his phone to record one of their self-congratulatory parodies. The man sitting next to him shouted, “Who the hell are you?”“I’m a reporter,” Reese admitted, upon which the tycoon “grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go… eyes bloodshot, neck veins bulging.” Other Kappa members then rushed over and tried to convince him that “what I’d seen wasn’t really a group of wealthy and powerful financiers…making light of the financial crisis and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street’s expense.”
Here’s where my hair stood on end. The man who threatened to break the reporter’s phone was Michael Novogratz, chairman of the Board of the Hudson River Park. And that’s not all. He is one of four members of this secret society who are also HRP power brokers.Diana L. Taylor, chair of the Trust, isan “Exalted High Council” of Kappa Beta Phi, and Mitchell J. Rudin and Michael Bloomberg (represented on the Board by an employee of Bloomberg Philanthropies) are also members. “The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who are completely divorced from reality,” writes Kevin Reese. “Second, Kappa Beta Phi was a fear-based organization of executives who had strong ideas …but would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting.”
Guess who’s also a Kappa member? Chris Christie’s brother, Todd. Iknow precious little about the world of high finance, and I kind of stumbled on the story about the plutocrats who dominate the HRP Boardthat first broke in the February issue of this paper, but I’m willing to bet a few doughnuts that the story of masters of the universe salivating over potential waterfront real estate profits now has legson both sides of the Hudson River. How long before a financial reporter starts investigating what’s happening in our neighborhood?