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Keeping it clean

Reputation makes Coscia a top choice for high-profile posts

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Anthony R. Coscia has a history of not washing the dishes, but he keeps his hands clean, making him a go-to person for both Democrats and Republicans in the partisan world of New Jersey politics.

"When somebody is looking for a pair of really clean hands, they're going to call Tony, because he can be counted on to be free of any scandal or any troubles. You get a person whose morals and behavior are super-upright, and you combine that with a tremendous work ethic and intelligence. What's not to like?" said Bill Mumma, president and CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Securities USA and a former roommate at Georgetown University where, he said, Coscia let dishes pile up in the sink.

Coscia's ethics and expertise have resulted in a string of high-profile positions: eight years as chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11 years as chair of the Economic Development Authority, board member of Amtrak and Sun Bancorp, and a partner and member of the executive committee at Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf.

"He can take a complicated situation, and he can draw from all of his different experiences — his legal experience, his business experience, and his common sense — and devise a solution," said Thomas X. Geisel, Sun president and CEO.

It was the excitement of finance that drew Coscia to study law at Rutgers in the early 1980s. In the early 1990s, Coscia was instrumental in establishing his nearly two-century-old law firm's New Jersey practice in New Brunswick. The firm now serves much of the state's financial services industry.

"I'm a bit of a deal junkie, I have to admit," Coscia said. "I definitely get energized over the idea of trying to find a way to get something accomplished and get transactions completed."

Coscia has turned down various CEO jobs and said he doesn't foresee leaving his thriving law firm, especially with his role at Amtrak likely to grow.

"I have to say that the firm is — not that my family isn't big enough, because it is, I have five kids — but my firm, it's sort of like a part of my family at this point. I don't view it as working for someone, I view it as something I've been part of," Coscia said.

Coscia's colleagues and friends say the North Caldwell resident balances his career with his dedication and commitment to his family.

"He does figure out how to actually spend time on those parts of his life that he believes to be incredibly important — the personal family time — but it's not to the detriment of all the other things he works on," said Sanjay Mody, an attorney at New York law firm WilmerHale, who worked with Coscia at Windels Marx, the EDA and the Port Authority.

Coscia learned time management decades ago — he was known to have one beer at a Georgetown party, then leave to study, according to Mumma.

In all his various roles, Coscia has grown adept at working with agencies and politicians in Washington and Trenton, along with bankers on Wall Street and establishing rapport with people and moving seamlessly among his different posts — skills he has been honing since his days as a laborer in his youth and as a student at Georgetown, said Christopher J. Paladino, president of New Brunswick Development Corp.

"Tony Coscia would have a small group seminar at Georgetown with Henry Kissinger being the professor, and three weeks later he was carrying cement on a foundation project somewhere in Passaic County," said Paladino, who worked with Coscia at the EDA.

"He's as at ease when he and I'll go to inspect a construction site, talking to the trades folks on the job, as he is being in the Oval Office."

Known for his eloquence and intellect, Coscia grew up in Paterson in the 1960s and '70s, attending the ethnically and racially diverse public school system. His parents, both immigrants from Italy, were union members, as was Coscia, who worked as a meat cutter's assistant.

"As a consequence of that, I think, I had sensitivity as a young person to the fact that people came from very different places in life, and in some cases that gave them an advantage, and in other cases that gave them a pretty serious disadvantage," Coscia said.

E-mail to: ktarbous@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @KenTarbous

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