—George W. Bush
—The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From humble beginnings in a small southern Italian village, Gargano came of age in Depression-era Brooklyn, becoming a construction laborer in his teens, as had his father and grandfather before him. He studied business and engineering at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering, after which he earned both an MBA and a Master’s in Transportation Engineering at Manhattan College. He paid his dues in the trenches of field operations at scores of large and highly complex civil engineering and construction projects at J.D. Posillico Engineering and Construction Company, a New York-based general contractor. He quickly ascended to Executive Vice President and General Supervisor of its 800+ employees, and for 20 years there oversaw the successful development of public works and critical infrastructure on Long Island and the Tri-State region beyond.
In 1980, Gargano gathered a diverse coalition of politicians, celebrities, and industry giants, from whom he raised disaster relief aid. Then he traveled to Italy with a small contingent after the Irpinia earthquake nearly leveled his home town. Together, the group brought hundreds of thousands of private donation dollars to support the families of the 10,000+ casualties. They were so successful, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, asked to personally thank them, which he did in his private living room at the Vatican, along with the wife of the prime minister.
After that significant public service and informal diplomatic mission, political leaders who’d observed him on that journey – most notably John Volpe, former two-term governor of Massachusetts, US Secretary of Transportation, and Ambassador to Italy – suggested Gargano run for office. But he preferred to stay in the background, supporting principles and principals he believed in.
Later, leaders of the New York State Republican Committee – under their “boss,” newly-elected US Senator Alphonse D’Amato – asked Gargano to run for Governor of New York, but again he chose instead to work behind the scenes with D’Amato and others in order to get a Republican elected—which they eventually did with Pataki, for whose campaign Gargano served as chief fundraiser. He served as Director of President Ronald Reagan’s electoral campaign in New York, where Reagan won a second landslide victories in 1984.
In 1981, Reagan appointed Gargano Deputy Administrator of the Federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), now known as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), where he fought to improve US mass transportation, which includes buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, monorail, passenger ferry boats, trolleys, inclined railways, and people movers. This was not an easy feat in the wake of the Air Traffic Controllers debacle. In addition to his political acumen, his prodigious skills as a Republican fundraiser were crucial to the re-elections of Reagan in 1984 and of D’Amato in ’84 and ’86, as well as to the elections of both Presidents Bush and of Governor George Pataki, for whom he raised a record-breaking $14.5 million in 1994.
Gargano became US Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, first appointed by Reagan and then again by George H.W. Bush, representing our interests on those wealthy industrial islands for three years ending in political upheaval.
During his 12-year tenure as Chairman and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation, he brought major business deals to Manhattan, and famously cut inefficiency and waste from government. He also made a name for himself by bringing billions of dollars of private capital into projects that would serve the public.
Gargano was also key to the launch of the Tribeca Film Festival, now one of the largest and most influential film festivals in the nation, if not the world, and counts its co-founder Robert De Niro as a good friend. Gargano has also appeared in five feature-length films, starting with The Devil’s Advocate in 1997, and finishing with World Trade Center in 2006, in both cases playing himself. He’s also played an FBI agent in Witness to the Mob(1998), a golf announcer in Serendipity (2001), and a maître d’ in De Niro’s Analyze That (2002).
He’s received four honorary doctorates (from Pace University, New York City College of Technology, Stony Brook University, and Manhattan College), received awards and honors from countless orders, organizations, and charities, and continues generously donating to causes, from cancer and advanced cardiovascular research to centers for infants, children, and the elderly. As a fundraiser, organizer, and board member for dozens of businesses, foundations, and political associates, as well as in his current post as Executive Director of the US Immigration Fund, Gargano remains a determined and powerful force for the structural and ideological evolution of the nation along Conservative lines.Now at the start of his ninth decade, Charles A. Gargano remains an indefatigable conservative force, cementing a formidable legacy in politics, business, and urban development.
—President Donald J. Trump
—George E. Pataki, 53Rd Gov. of New York State