At first, the photos seem to show a Trump Tower meeting no different from any other. There’s President-elect Donald Trump accompanied by, in this case, Martin Luther King III — son of the civil rights legend. They shake hands as they emerge from an elevator, and, in what has become a ritual, MLK III speaks to the cameras assembled in the lobby.
But it’s the man in the red tie, just behind them, to whom New Yorkers should be paying attention. That’s Long Island developer Scott Rechler — the head of RXR Realty, which manages more than 20 million square feet of commercial real estate across the Metro area.
The same Scott Rechler who is busy trying to redevelop housing, retail and more in key Long Island areas — including Glen Cove, Hempstead and Huntington Station — the former vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and chairman of the Regional Plan Association.
So, why was this insider New York player, known for his ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at Trump Tower with Martin Luther King III on Martin Luther King Day?
Rechler, who knows Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, through real estate industry ties, helped to arrange the meeting to discuss voting rights and the idea of creating a new Social Security card that would include a photo.
Rechler serves as a board member of the Drum Major Institute, a progressive think tank where MLK III serves as president, and told The Point he has supported the initiative for 10 years. Advocates say a free government-issued photo identification could help low-income and other Americans in terms of voting, but also in terms of basic needs like being able to open a bank account.
So, what came out of the Trump Tower gathering? Rechler and MLK III gave Trump a written proposal on the photo ID card, and made plans to meet with Trump again in Washington next month.
Rechler said it was “45 minutes of constructive conversation . . . just what MLK would have wanted.”
But this isn’t the only issue Rechler has advocated for with Trump and his transition team. Rechler also has advised Trump on infrastructure issues, and said he would be willing to continue to provide guidance and assistance on Trump’s infrastructure plans.
Rechler pointed to the $24 billion Gateway Tunnel effort under the Hudson River as a potential beneficiary of those efforts. A presidential focus on infrastructure and the federal funds that could go with it could be a big boost to the island and the region, Rechler said.
“If that’s successful, our projects, particularly the ones that are underway, will get some meaningful support,” he added.
That’s even more likely if the man in the red tie continues to use his voice, and if Trump continues to listen.
Randi F. Marshall is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.
This post originally appeared in The Point, the editorial board’s daily newsletter about New York politics. Click here to subscribe.