Five Queens business influencers you need to know
When a politician takes credit for a major airport overhaul, a new rail tunnel or an expansive housing project, there’s a team of developers and construction companies who actually built it. When elected officials praise the creation of good jobs, there are business leaders and entrepreneurs generating the new opportunities – and a strong union movement that helps keep wages competitive. When government bureaucrats tout the thriving tourism industry, there’s a complex transportation network that gets them here – and plenty of attractions to draw in tourists.
The individuals carrying out these behind-the-scenes tasks are not elected, but often they are just as powerful as the officials that voters put into office. In this list, we put the spotlight on these players in business – The Influentials.
Return to full list of the 25 Queens influencers.
Director of Retail Banking, Astoria Bank
It’s all come full circle for Mayra DiRico. She grew up in Astoria – and now she is the director of retail banking at Astoria Bank.
DiRico moved to the local institution from HSBC, one of the largest banks in the world, where she had been an executive vice president overseeing the tri-state area. She joined Astoria Bank in 2013, and the Queens-based institution was bought by Sterling Bancorp in March, creating a combined bank that will be a major regional player.
The child of Cuban immigrants, DiRico graduated from New York University and completed a graduate program in retail banking at the University of Virginia. DiRico is also the president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, putting her at the center of a network of local businesses.
Regional and Community Affairs Director, Con Edison
Con Edison is the largest provider of gas and electricity to New York City, and when the politically connected energy industry heavyweight has major news to announce – whether it’s recent rate hikes, investments in smart grid technology or responding to a gas explosion – one of the company’s key players crafting the message is Carol Conslato, a veteran executive at the utility.
Over the years, she has helped recruit other companies to Queens. And off hours, she previously served as president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and is still on its board. She also is on the board of directors of the Queensborough Community College Fund and the advisory board of Coalition For Queens, a nonprofit that runs 10-month computer coding schools for low-income people.
Owner, New York Mets
To many New Yorkers, Fred Wilpon is just the owner of the New York Mets. But he’s also a key player as a co-founder of Sterling Equities, the company hoping to launch the redevelopment of Willets Point, which sits adjacent to the Mets’ Citi Field.
Wilpon and Sterling Equities co-founder Saul Katz were beset by several years of difficulty, beginning with the unraveling of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme in 2008. Wilpon and Katz had around $500 million invested with Madoff, and are still dealing with the fallout. But the team and its finances have turned a corner in recent years. Sterling Equities is now hoping for a similar turn of luck with Willets Point, which has been tied up in court.
Chief Operating Officer, National Tennis Center
For about two weeks in late summer each year, Daniel Zausner shifts the center of gravity in Queens. He’s the chief operating officer of the National Tennis Center, which is a fancy way of saying he runs the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The U.S. Open draws hundreds of thousands of fans, and in 2013 brought in close to a quarter billion dollars in revenue.
He’s also overseeing the expansions and renovations at the stadiums where the tournament is played, a project expected to cost $600 million.
Zausner is on the board of Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance, a public-private partnership that maintains the park, and the USTA is one of its primary funders.
Fran Biderman-Gross has run the marketing agency Advantages since 1992, when she founded it with her late first husband. It grew from a two-person shop to a firm in Kew Gardens with a growing number of staffers across the country and overseas.
Advantages creates taglines, brochures and swag for clients that range from a one-man consulting business to a Fortune 100 company. Her firm’s designs have been used by CUNY’s York College, the city’s Health + Hospitals Corp. and a line of screen-cleaning cloths. And don’t forget the membership cards for Jay-Z’s sports bar.
Biderman-Gross has racked up awards for female CEOs and Queens entrepreneurs, and she maintains an active online presence, blogging about marketing and offering her services as a corporate motivational speaker.