Mr. Wiener was born in the Bronx, where his father owned a candy store and, later, a liquor store. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and got his law degree from Georgetown.
While at HUD in 1977, he helped to organize President Jimmy Carter’s iconic tour of the South Bronx, which drew attention not only to the blight there but also to the issue of urban decay throughout the country. Three years later, in 1980, he received an award from President Carter, in recognition of his public service and work at the agency.
From HUD, he went to financial services firm Integrated Resources, where he worked as a vice president, directing the acquisition and financing of multifamily real estate, including affordable apartment units.
“I did real estate tax syndications—doing both debt and equity on apartments, including affordable,” he said of his time at Integrated Resources. He told The Mortgage Observer that he thinks helping to provide affordable housing is important and that it’s something that he believes in.
Integrated Resources went belly up in 1989 and Mr. Wiener stayed on until 1991 before leaving to found American Property Financing.
At Wells Fargo, it’s clear that he’s managed to carve a core, close-knit group of employees in the midst of a bank whose overall size, as he concedes, makes it “pretty depersonalized.” A name yelled from his corner office, where might be found typing with one finger, yields that person’s presence in rapid fashion. He calls people “kiddo.” “Capiche” is used to check the comprehension of a topic he’s explaining.
He’s affable, yet clearly demanding. “I encourage smart people to work for me—I appreciate it,” he said one afternoon in his office. “My attitude is as follows: The more I get involved in your business, that’s not a good thing for you. I don’t like surprises.”
That no-nonsense attitude coupled with his knowledge of the industry has made him an invaluable resource outside of the bank. He’s on the board of the Phipps Houses Group, a nonprofit affordable housing advocacy group, and has been on the executive board of the Real Estate Board of New York for many years.
REBNY president Steven Spinola, who has known Mr. Wiener for 25-plus years, said he regularly draws on that knowledge. “Alan is the kind of person who, once he meets you, makes every effort to get to know you well and stay in touch and so he just started to get more and more involved in REBNY’s activities and became somebody that I would go to regularly, and continue to go to, for advice and input on issues,” Mr. Spinola said when reached by phone. Asked the nature of that advice—what topics Mr. Wiener was most valuable at doling out advice on—Mr. Spinola cited the nexus of his finance and policy experience.
“Obviously in terms of financial issues—of loans and what it takes for a project to get financing,” Mr. Spinola said. “Throw in his knowledge from his days at HUD—so the information that he’s got stored in that head of his about housing and financing housing—and then you throw in his city days as well as his federal HUD days. He also brings a good political sense to those discussions and to the advice that he gives.”
Those HUD days seem to be particularly useful for advancing affordable housing projects like Co-op City. Mr. Wiener said that he called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—a former HUD secretary—and got him to agree for the state to take the first loss position.
“Andrew understood completely, because he used to be HUD secretary and he saw the dynamics of this deal,” Mr. Wiener said. “He agreed that the state would take a first loss—that doesn’t mean they’re putting up cash. But in the event of a loss to HUD, the state and city take the first $70 million. That makes all the difference in the world.”
For the immediate future Mr. Wiener said that he’d stay at the bank. He said that he thinks their business is really well run, that they know what they’re doing and that they’re extremely well respected.
“What I tell the people at Wells is,” he said, “if I’m having fun, if I like what I do, happy to stay.”
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