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March 29, 2007

Roman Holiday

New York's ambassador lives high, large, and loose

The Village Voice

An article by Tom Robbins compiles a litany of travel and dining expenses racked up by the former head of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), Charles Gargano, the pal of former-Governor Pataki who led the quasi-governmental corporation while it sought approval of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.

With just two months to go in his job as the state's economic development czar, Charles Gargano hopped on an Alitalia Airlines flight last October 20 and flew to Rome. His ticket included an open return, from Rome's Da Vinci airport to JFK. The cost, $3,579, was billed to Gargano's state-supplied corporate American Express card.
The only explanation offered was a one-line entry from his secretary to the accounting department: "This charge is for airfare to Italy for last minute request for Chairman to speak at an event."

What event? Whose request? Officials say they don't have a clue.
In September 2005, while Gargano was traveling with Pataki on a trade mission to China, he took a side jaunt to Helsinki to visit real estate tycoon Earle Mack, a major Pataki campaign contributor who had recently been named ambassador to Finland by President Bush. The $1,496 cost was justified, his secretary wrote, since Gargano was "addressing potential investors in New York State."

Back in New York, Gargano liberally used his corporate AmEx card to pay for meals at many of the city's poshest dining establishments—rarely explaining why.


NoLandGrab: Those who are following "The Ambassador's" post-ESDC woes will recall his other ethical lapses: a visit to a port contractor in Red Hook and how the ESDC paid the rent on nephew Frank Gargano's headquarters.

Gargano is also the guy who promised that financial information concerning Atlantic Yards would eventually be forthcoming, in an interview with New York Voices (transcript, Atlantic Yards Report):

Q: Some individuals--lawyers, some journalists--want to know exactly how you came up with the figures, of the gains and losses, and they've even filed under the Freedom of Information act, but the [ESDC} has refused...

A: Well first of all, what they are looking for is internal documents, working documents... Completed documents, once the project is approved, once we have completed the negotiations with the developers, they will all be public record.

Yesterday, The NY Sun reported that Forest City Ratner never provided such documents to the State, which contradicts the assurances given by Gargano. Hence, our enduring interest in the fate of "The Ambassador" Charles Gargano.

Posted by lumi at March 29, 2007 7:18 AM