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The Double Life of a Ludlow Street Landlord

When Mark Glass was charged with plotting the death of two of his tenants, his Orthodox family and friends from Manhattan Beach were as shocked as his hipster tenants on the Lower East Side. But the district attorney says that it’s all on tape. So who is the real Mark Glass: the mensch or the murderer?

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They came for Mark Glass at 9 a.m. on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. It was October 1, a warm, windy autumn day -- rent day -- and a stream of tenants was already buzzing at the door of Glass’s tiny storefront real-estate office at 159 Ludlow on the Lower East Side. Except for the early holiday closing -- Glass, a devout Orthodox Jew, had to get home before sundown -- it was no different from any other first-of-the-month.

Detectives Kennedy and Bush from the NYPD Robbery Squad seemed miffed that Glass wasn’t at work yet. His office manager, Jana Eitel, a plump, streetwise Byelorussian émigré who speaks six languages, each with the same accent, tried to joke with them as she dialed her boss on his cell phone -- “Are you both ex-presidents?” -- but the cops weren’t amused, and Glass did not pick up. Instead, they had a question for her: “Did you know a tenant named Brigitte Marx?”

“Of course,” she said. Ever since the paper store Eitel had worked for down the block closed five years ago, she’d managed all fifteen of Uses Realty’s properties, mostly clustered on Ludlow and Clinton Streets. She knew all the tenants -- which ones were troublemakers, which ones always paid their rent on time. Word had filtered through Ludlow Street that Marx had been killed, but there were no details. “Terrible thing,” she sighed, cracking open her first pack of Virginia Slims for the day. “Brigitte was a good girl. Do you know what happened?” The cops were fuzzy. All they seemed to know was that Marx had been beaten and murdered somewhere uptown. They needed to get into the apartment. Could she have Mr. Glass call them when he got in?

A little after eleven, Mark Glass, an athletic 44-year-old with wire-frame glasses and a trim, graying beard, pulled up to the office in his battered cobalt-blue ’72 Skylark, a $300 jalopy that was his pride and joy. His holiday davening at the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center had taken him a little longer than expected, and he was running late. Eitel told him the cops wanted him over at 42 Clinton. Glass slapped a Yankees cap over his yarmulke and ran out the door.

The cops were already outside when Glass arrived with his maintenance man. Glass led them up the crumbling stairs to the third floor, through a dimly lit corridor decorated with an old Jean-Luc Godard poster, to apartment 13. The cops had clearly already been there; yellow crime-scene tape zigzagged across the door. Glass fumbled for the keys and opened the apartment. Marx had meticulously renovated the tenement, skim-coating the walls and refinishing the floors. “Do you mind if I use the phone?” asked one of the cops. “It’s not mine,” said Glass, “but I don’t see why not.” The cop made his call and then walked over to the landlord. “Mr. Glass, I’m sorry, but I have some bad news,” he said. “You’re gonna have to come with us for some questioning in connection with the death of Brigitte Marx.” And then the cop unhitched his handcuffs.

In fact, Brigitte Marx was not dead. At that moment, she was in a luxury hotel uptown, courtesy of the NYPD. Just days before Glass’s arrest, the cops had recorded him on audiotape allegedly paying a hit man the final installment on a contract to kill her and her next-door neighbor. According to the Manhattan district attorney, Glass had first hired the hit man to burn Marx, a 37-year-old German freelance graphic designer, and her next-door neighbor, Bernell Crawford, an unemployed black waiter in his mid-thirties, out of their apartments; when that failed, he had taken out a contract to execute them with a lethal overdose of heroin. The hit man was part of an elaborate NYPD sting -- but Glass didn’t know that yet.

While the D.A.’s office slowly finalized its complaint against him, Glass sat in a holding pen at the Manhattan South Robbery Squad on 12th Street and University Place. He was in a state of shock, and all he could think about was getting home to Manhattan Beach by five o’clock, when his family would turn off the phones and leave for the synagogue. The cops let him call a lawyer, bought him a kosher sandwich, and allowed his son Mordechai to deliver a prayer book, but there was no way he would be released before sundown.

In Glass’s wallet, officers found $9,000 in cash, and credit cards in the name of Alvin Weiss, Avraham Weiss, Abraham Weiss, and Mordechai Weiss. “Who’s Weiss?” the cops wanted to know. “It’s me,” said Glass, his voice rising in an exasperated whine. He explained that his real name was Alvin Marcus Weiss -- an English version of his Hebrew name, Avraham Weiss -- but that in secular life and business, he went by the name Mark Glass. It was one of the many little compromises that protected him and his family from what he called the chozzerai -- the trash -- on the street: a “good covering name,” he called it. But the police weren’t buying it.


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