The Staten Island Democratic Party chairman has a significant challenge ahead of him in this year’s midterm elections with so many local seats open and a congressional race that could have national implications. John Gulino is already backing 31-year-old war veteran Max Rose, giving him a boost in a Democratic congressional primary that has six other candidates. And Gulino will also have to help the party hold the Surrogate's Court seat that Robert Gigante is vacating.
The 2018 Staten Island Power 100 continued, 51-100
The 2018 Staten Island Power 100 continued, 51-100
The Trump era has been one of the most fraught periods for immigrants in this nation in recent history. Groups like El Centro del Inmigrante, which Favio Ramirez-Caminatti runs, work to counteract anti-immigrant policies and provide a community for immigrants who now live in Staten Island. The Port Richmond-based nonprofit provides jobs, legal and financial services, health education, English as a second language programs and an opportunity to organize politically for thousands of Mexican and Latin American families.
Jimmy Oddo’s right-hand man is a main point of contact for the borough president’s office. Jason Razefsky knows Borough Hall inside and out, having worked in four jobs there since 2001. He got his start as a special assistant in charge of community boards and rose to executive assistant before being named chief of staff after Oddo's re-election. Now he manages the staff, sets policy and is a resource to public officials and residents of all political stripes.
Is Scott LoBaido Donald Trump’s favorite artist? He’s definitely among the top artists in the city who love the president. LoBaido’s gargantuan flag murals have adorned homes, walls and giant letter Ts throughout the borough. They’ve gotten a lot more attention since Trump’s upset victory in 2016, earning the artist a New Yorker profile. He has become a de facto leader of activists emboldened by the president while making stunning visual representations of the stars and stripes.
Cesar Vargas came to Staten Island after crossing the border at San Diego when he was 5. He knew he wanted to be a lawyer to help other immigrants and passed the bar exam on his first try in 2011, but the state wouldn’t allow it because of his undocumented status. He fought that legal battle and was sworn in two years ago. Now Vargas travels the country to push for immigration reform and protect others in similar situations.
To get around Staten Island without a car, chances are you’re relying on a bus. Those buses have been ferrying passengers across every corner of the borough thanks to Daniel Cassella and the dedicated drivers of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726. Cassella and his members – about 2,000 bus and light rail operators, mechanics and clerical workers – will be in the middle of the ongoing debate on congestion pricing and federal funding for tunnels and rails.
James O’Keefe is settling in at the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University several years after leaving his post as a deputy commissioner at the NYPD. The vice provost and chief academic officer works with deans in the school’s colleges, sits on the university’s Provost Council and inspires students in his class on criminal justice leadership. It’s a perfect fit for O’Keefe, who graduated from St. John’s himself and was previously a professor and associate dean at the institution.
For the past two decades, Rev. Tony Baker has led St. Philips Baptist Church, which has been a beacon to neighborhood residents and a must-stop visit for political candidates. The U.S. Army veteran leads services every Sunday for about 300 parishioners and hosts monthly Friendship Dinners for the community. He also sits on the boards of the American Baptist Churches USA and Richmond University Medical Center, and was recently inducted into the state Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
Want to see the next Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez without venturing up to the Bronx? Head down to Richmond County Bank Ballpark for a Staten Island Yankees game and catch the Lil’ Bombers in action. The Yankees’ minor league affiliate made a run through the New York-Penn League playoffs last year and team president Will Smith thinks they could be even better this summer. They remain one of the better under-the-radar attractions in the city.
Interfaith leader Dr. Tahir Kukiqi has made a career of building bridges between people of different religions and ethnicities. The Kosovo native came to the city in 2002 to run the Miraj Islamic School, where he is head of Islamic studies, and the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, where he is vice president. One of the imam’s most promising programs is the 15 Years Project, an annual day of dialogue between Catholics and Muslims that concludes with a dinner.
If it’s Passover, then Mendy Mirocznik is handing out boatloads of vegetables and boxes of matzo to Seder-holding families. The Brooklyn native and CUNY School of Law graduate began giving back to his community almost as soon as he and his wife settled in Staten Island to raise their family. As president of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island, Mirocznik has helped thousands of Jewish residents, and he cites Mahatma Gandhi and JFK as personal inspirations.
One of the most beloved religious figures in the borough, Monsignor Peter Finn has spent more than a decade leading Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church and a half century in the priesthood. The North Shore native and St. Peter’s Boys High School grad is known for supporting teachers at Blessed Sacrament School and guiding his West Brighton flock with warmth and grace. And Finn has made the church a wonderful place to reflect and worship.
The longtime Democratic Party stalwart and former borough president weighs in regularly on politics, endorses candidates on both sides of the aisle and is a fixture at social events throughout the borough. Over the past year, Ralph Lamberti spoke out against racism and intolerance at a forum, picked up a lifetime achievement award from The Wagner College DaVinci Society, roasted Justice Philip Minardo at his retirement and helped celebrate the borough’s Italian culture at Rome Through Richmond Town.
If there’s a mid-island problem, chances are Debra Derrico will hear about it. The Community Board 2 district manager plays a crucial role helping Dana Magee, Staten Island’s longest serving community board chairwoman, and other board members sort through development requests, quality-of-life complaints, liquor licenses and transportation improvements. She even helped a resident worried about rampant raccoons that invaded her property thanks to a neighbor’s dilapidated, trash-filled home. No problem is too small.
The former Republican South Shore assemblyman has found another calling outside of elected office: serving in the government affairs office of Staten Island University Hospital. Thanks to his efforts as associate executive director, the hospital added five new state-of-the-art ambulances to its fleet, which likely reduced emergency response times. And, of course, the hospital continues to support heart testing for children and provides heart transplants, cancer treatment and care for all manner of ailments.
When Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis needed someone to run her uphill bid for mayor, she called Leticia Remauro. The former Staten Island Republican Party leader and former Community Board 1 chairwoman joined the campaign and helped Malliotakis claim the GOP nomination. Remauro, who served in the Pataki and Giuliani administrations, is back at her full-service public relations firm, The Von Agency, while serving on a number of nonprofit boards and cracking wise on NY1’s Consultants Corner.
The lifelong Staten Islander and Brooklyn Law School graduate remains an elder statesman in GOP circles five years after resigning as head of the Staten Island Republican Party. The managing partner of venerable Scamardella, Gervasi, Thomson & Kasegrande law firm has plenty of other pursuits, including reviewing military service academy applicants, selecting inductees of the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame and emceeing the YMCA’s “Dine ’N Dance” annual benefit. He is also from one of the borough’s more influential families.
Weekend early risers are always in for a treat when they tune into AM 970 to catch Frank Morano’s Sunday morning broadcasts. The “people’s talk show host” keeps his hand in Staten Island politics as chairman of the borough’s Reform Party while engaging guests in lively conversation starting at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. before passing the mic to John Catsimatidis.
Correction: This profile originally stated that Morano led Community Board 3. That is a different Frank Morano.
Henry Thompson saw a health crisis developing in the borough and took action to mitigate it. Under his leadership as CEO, the Community Health Center of Richmond has opened multiple federally qualified health centers that provide primary care services to patients who had sometimes sought care in expensive emergency rooms. The newest center now offers dental and podiatry services in Port Richmond. In addition, the center encourages its staff to pursue advanced degrees through its workforce development policies.
Ken Mitchell isn’t afraid of his own shadow. Rodenticide controversy aside, the borough native has made the Staten Island Zoo a citywide destination since he became executive director seven years ago. The zoo has doubled its collection to 1,200 animals and boasts 190,000 visitors a year who gawk at its renowned reptile collection, jungle fowl, eagles and, yes, a groundhog named Chuck. He also served in the New York City Council, where he gained valuable firsthand experience with occasionally wild behavior.
Running the New York City Board of Elections can be a thankless job, especially when things go haywire as they did in the 2016 primary, when the board disqualified 78,000 ballots and didn’t inform voters in time. But Ryan apologized, took responsibility and set out to fix the problem. The mayoral election went forward more smoothly. Now Ryan, who ran for district attorney twice, is looking at making voting easier through online balloting. Good luck fending off the Russians!
The founder of the Emergency Children’s Help Organization, or ECHO, has made it his life's mission to help young people in times of crisis. Over the past decade, Sebastian Angelico and his nonprofit team have done just that, providing financial assistance to children suffering from grim diagnoses who need expensive medical care to get better. In addition, his nonprofit hosts grant dinners for recipients to meet board members. Its 10th anniversary gala in October had 600 attendees.
Last year, John Amodio took the reins of the Staten Island chapter of SCORE after serving as vice chairman for five years. The former TD Bank vice president and chairman of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce is more than happy to dispense his 50 years of financial services experience to the borough’s small business leaders. In addition, Amodio is the director of Vision for Staten Island Inc. and chairman of the Staten Island Rotary Foundation.
The North Shore is bustling again and Joseph Carroll is squarely in the middle of the action. As district manager of Community Board 1, Carroll has witnessed the St. George waterfront's transformation into a recreational hub, construction of a new courthouse, expansive affordable housing development and planning for Bay Street’s rezoning. And he balances community concerns about rising rents, traffic and the loss of small businesses. How does he cope with the stress of work? Bowling.
The former congressman and borough president remains a political icon who still has sway in local races nearly two decades after he last held elected office. Guy Molinari once pushed local pols to condemn Donald Trump but is now wading into the borough’s congressional race and endorsing Trump-loving former Rep. Michael Grimm. Molinari is so respected that he’s one of the few living New Yorkers who can take a public ferry that is named after himself.
The former president of the state AFL-CIO and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is among the most influential labor experts in the state. Denis Hughes handles government and labor relations for Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners as its senior operating partner and is a senior advisor at Brown & Weinraub. He continues to help first responders battling cancer and other ailments and his advocacy for the passage of the Zadroga Act is a capstone on a legendary career.
Frank Siller will always remember his brother, firefighter Stephen Siller, who died saving others during the 9/11 attacks, and he has given back to his community many times over in the years that followed. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has raised over $3.2 million for families of deceased first responders, collected another million dollars for the families of two police officers killed on duty and gutted 1,800 homes and rebuilt 250 homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
Joseph Ferrara knows New Yorkers love a good deal. Empire Outlets could be a good deal for the principal at BFC Partners, too, if shoppers choose to peruse racks of discount designer jeans in person instead of online. He will soon find out when the outlet mall opens later this year. And if shopping isn’t your taste, BFC’s development includes a 190-room hotel, restaurants and a 3,000-square-foot outdoor dining space that should do the trick.
“For an evening or a week, there's no place like the mall. Food, fun and fashion, the mall has it all!” That’s what Staten Island Mall General Manager Jim Easley hopes for when Empire Outlets opens this fall. So far this year, Easley signed a new supermarket tenant, teased a pop-up location for retailer Century 21, and is overseeing the construction of a food court with a dozen dining options. The ferry is about to get a lot more crowded.
The Jewish Community Center of Staten Island made the right choice in picking Gail Castellano as its president in 2016. The regional manager of Richmond County Savings Bank has given back to her community for decades, serving as a board member on the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island chapter of the American Red Cross and the South Shore Business Improvement District. And in her down time, she rocks out with her husband, musician John Castellano.
Staten Island is undergoing a building boom, partially thanks to Frank Naso, who has been developing homes and commercial buildings in Staten Island for more than 25 years. The second-generation builder has become one of the industry’s leaders in the state, serving as board chairman of the Building Industry Association of New York City and on the board of the New York State Builders Association. He has Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ear too, hosting a fundraiser for his re-election.
James Prendamano has been hard at work to make Empire Outlets the most diverse retail shopping attraction in the city. The Casandra Properties managing director is working in conjunction with BFC Partners to lease and market retail spaces, as well as consult on the 350,000-square-foot project in general. Prendamano helped shepherd the project through the city’s complicated planning and zoning review process, and the venture is worth the risk if the estimated 10 million tourists show up each year.
The architect Glen Cutrona has been making Staten Island a beautiful place to live and work for more than 30 years. His firm, Glen V. Cutrona Associates, has renovated residential and office interiors to be pleasant, warm and productive spaces, and his corporate office is an appealing addition to Lincoln Avenue. Of course, most residents know Cutrona as chairman of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, although we hear he plays a mean electric guitar.
Alfred Curtis Jr. has always had a hand in philanthropy to make Staten Island a better place to live. The motivational speaker and former Department of Youth and Community Development commissioner led the advisory council of the Salvation Army’s Staten Island chapter, served as chairman of the board of the Staten Island Employment Education Consortium and helped the United Nations with its real estate needs. These days he runs his own consulting firm, A Boima Curtis & Associates.
Michael Assenza’s day job is as the vice president of home and commercial security provider Stat Land Security Systems, but he has also been an active promoter of autism awareness. As chairman of the board of the Grace Foundation of New York, Assenza actively supports the Manor Heights charity’s classes, youth recreational activities and social skills programs for children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. Assenza is also a board member of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.
Gina Addeo is a New York first. The co-owner and CEO of ADCO Electric Corp., her family’s business, was the first woman in the city to earn a master electrician’s license. Her father, Richard Addeo, got her into the family business in the 1970s when she was a teenager. She studied electrical engineering and then joined the IBEW Local Union 3. A few decades later, she is running the place and is on the negotiating committee for her union.
The certified public accountant had some big shoes to fill when he took over from John Alexander, who retired as CEO of Northfield Bancorp in November. But Steven M. Klein knows community banking, having managed Northfield Bancorp’s day-to-day activities since 2013. He is continuing its philanthropic efforts, distributing $7 million to those in need in Staten Island and New Jersey. He also serves on the board of the Richmond University Medical Center, a major employer on the island.
Mikey Suits is back! Don’t act too surprised. The former congressman and FBI agent is embracing the president’s populist message and running to the right of Rep. Dan Donovan in a Republican primary the whole nation is watching. He’s made up with NY1 after threatening to break a reporter “like a boy” in a hot mic snafu four years ago. And he’s making the rounds in restaurants, churches and civic events – so get a selfie while he’s still running.
The South Shore megachurch has one of the largest followings in the borough thanks to the efforts of the Mercaldo family, which founded it with only 16 worshippers in 1965. Rev. Timothy Mercaldo became associate pastor in 1986 and he has been its lead pastor since 2015. Now Gateway Church has hundreds of loyal and devoted congregants from all Christian denominations, and the pastor has even led services at Yankee Stadium.
Correction: This post originally named the wrong year Mercaldo became lead pastor. He took over the pulpit from his father.
The longtime president of Iron Hills Civic Association and the Pakistani Civic Association has come a long way from Peshawar. Mohammad Khalid moved to Staten Island in 1975 and got a degree in dentistry from NYU. For a quarter century, he has helped his Todt Hill neighbors and Pakistani friends sort through a wide array of quality-of-life issues. He also hosts an annual Christmas dinner at the American Episcopal Methodist Church for families from the area.
The civil rights leader has taken on a greater role in a North Shore community that was fractured following the controversial police chokehold death of Eric Garner. As head of the Staten Island chapter of the National Action Network, Cynthia Davis has opened a borough-based office, organized rallies, led press conferences and called for criminal justice reforms in the years that followed Garner’s death, finally hailing the NYPD’s launch of implicit bias training as “better late than never.”
When the governor needed someone to get the word out about the state’s efforts to rebuild parts of Staten Island devastated by Superstorm Sandy, he turned to Barbara Brancaccio. The New York University and Rutgers grad managed the governor’s communications strategy for storm recovery for three years before joining Global Strategy Group as a vice president. These days she is helping state Sens. Jeff Klein and Jesse Hamilton and other ex-Independent Democratic Conference members keep their seats in competitive primaries.
Raffaele Branca, the president and CEO of Victory State Bank, celebrated a milestone last year, marking his bank’s 20th anniversary. Victory State Bank, which remains Staten Island’s only community-based commercial bank, has grown from an initial $7 million capitalization in 1997 to having five branches and almost $400 million in total assets. Branca founded the bank to provide dependable financial services to residents, small businesses and nonprofit groups, and he has never hesitated to help a local charity.
Vito Pitta joined his family’s lobbying firm Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin while in college, but he found his calling helping those affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In 2016, the New York University and Brooklyn Law graduate created a law firm that helps 9/11 first responders and families suffering from toxin exposure seek damages under the Zadroga Act. With an estimated 10,000 new cases of likely disorders diagnosed between 2016 and 2019, Pitta will sure be busy.
If you’re a native Staten Islander and you’re getting married somewhere other than The Staaten, don’t even bother inviting us. Jack LiGreci has been the proprietor of the West Brighton dining and catering hall institution since 1971. The Staaten has hosted scores of weddings, showers, bar mitzvahs and receptions. During that time, LiGreci has given back to numerous charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Cancer Society, the Staten Island Inter-Agency Council for the Aging and the YMCA.
Dr. Vincent Calamia has had a long and distinguished career helping New Yorkers live longer, healthier lives. The physician and New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. board member served as Staten Island Hospital’s chief of geriatrics for a decade, was president and CEO of the University Physicians Group for 28 years before it merged with Northwell Health, and is currently the medical director for the United HealthCare Community and associate medical director of endocrinology at Northwell Health Staten Island University Hospital.
Keep an eye on Rose Uscianowski. The cycling advocate has been pushing for safe, protected bike lanes in the notoriously vehicle-first borough, including a North Shore bikeway from the Bayonne Bridge to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In addition to being a senior ambassador with Transportation Alternatives, Uscianowski has volunteered with New York Cares since 2014, working on post-Sandy recovery and helping rebuild homes in Staten Island, and famously confronted Ben Carson about his views on human sexuality.
For a quarter century, Bill Smith has been coaching and organizing soccer games for Staten Island’s budding athletes. He’s arguably as responsible as any pediatrician over the years for keeping young people in the borough healthy and physically fit. In addition, Smith helped pay for Christmas presents, soccer equipment and necessities for children affected by Superstorm Sandy and lobbied local politicians to fix up flooded soccer fields. Tryout dates for the upcoming season begin on May 15!
The former congressman could have packed up and moved after a family drama scandal worthy of "Days of Our Lives" ended his political career a decade ago. But Vito Fossella has climbed back into the political conversation. Fossella, who recently left his position as a lobbyist with Park Strategies, has brushed back intermittent calls to run for office again, and instead has been hosting a pro-Trump television show on the Newsmax network. We’re sure the president is pleased.
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is one of New York City’s hidden gems. But Aileen Chumard Fuchs doesn’t want to keep it that way. Snug Harbor’s new CEO is sprucing up the 28-building campus with $30 million in city capital funds and hopes to add a new centralized visitors center when more money comes in. In the meantime, circle June 8 for this year’s Neptune Ball held at the Chinese Scholar’s Garden.