After two years at the helm of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, in January Glen Cutrona handed the reins to security industry executive Mike Assenza. Cutrona will now lead the chamber’s foundation and continues to hit the borough’s charity circuit, raising money for organizations like the Carl V. Bini Memorial Fund. Cutrona and his architecture firm have also been honored by the chamber for restoring a residence damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
The 2019 Staten Island Power 100; 66 - 100
The 2019 Staten Island Power 100; 66 - 100
Alfred Curtis Jr. is a sales associate at Casandra Properties, which has a hand in the new Empire Outlets that has everyone abuzz in the borough. But Curtis’ past experience and extracurricular activities truly stand out, including as a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. He also chaired the advisory council of the Staten Island Salvation Army and the fiscal affairs committee of the City University of New York board.
After more than a decade leading Victory State Bank, a financial institution providing loans and financial services to Staten Island’s professionals, small businesses and nonprofits since 1997, Raffaele Branca continues to lead the bank’s expansion in the community. Victory State Bank, which saw its equity rise to $35.9 million, plans to open a new branch in Meiers Corners this year. The bank recently welcomed retired Surrogate’s Court Judge Robert Gigante to its board of directors.
The best-kept secret on Staten Island won’t be a secret much longer. The Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is sure to get more visitors now that Empire Outlets is open – and President and CEO Aileen Chumard Fuchs is ready for them. So far this year, Snug Harbor has already hosted the Winter Lantern Festival and United Activities Unlimited’s second annual festival. The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art is a favorite destination at the cultural center.
Patricia Anne Taylor’s appointment to the New York City Board of Elections in March may have been the end result of a clash between the borough’s council members and outgoing Democratic Party Chairman John Gulino, but she is certainly qualified. The Democratic attorney, who is a past president of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association, is the borough’s first African American elections board commissioner. A librarian by training, Taylor once ran the City Hall Library for the city’s records department.
When Mike Reilly left Community Education Council 31 to run for the Assembly last year, Frank Squicciarini stepped up to replace him. The retired NYPD sergeant, who had been a member of CEC since 2007 and served as its vice president, has already asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to ease overcrowding in Staten Island schools and better serve special needs students.
The political wunderkind was unanimously selected last year to lead the Staten Island Republican Party at the tender age of 31, replacing former Chairman Ron Castorina. He’s since mourned the passing of another Republican political force – Guy Molinari – and put together the strategy for GOP candidates in a tough electoral year. This fall, he’ll guide fellow millennial Joseph Borelli in a battle against New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
While President Donald Trump is attempting to overhaul the immigration system by spending more on border security and reducing family-based immigration, Cesar Vargas wants to give undocumented immigrants a voice. Vargas, who made headlines in 2016 when he became the first openly undocumented lawyer in New York, just fulfilled another dream: joining the U.S military. He now serves in the Army Reserve, having recently finished boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
The New York City Marathon starts in Staten Island, but that’s not the only connection the race’s organizers have to the borough. New York Road Runners holds events in Staten Island, dispatched athletes to help after Superstorm Sandy – and a key staffer, Michael Schnall, hails from the borough. The former Staten Island chief of staff for the New York City Parks and Recreation Department and ex-New York City Council staffer brings valuable experience to his job.
As New York City Councilman Rory Lancman campaigns for district attorney in Queens, the very first endorsement he lists on his website is from Gwen Carr – the mother of Eric Garner – ahead of endorsements from a state senator, Assembly members and major unions. Five years after her son’s tragic death, Carr continues to push for criminal justice reform, calling for fewer arrests, more transparency and full accountability from the police, the courts and City Hall.
A longtime civic leader and former New York City Council candidate, Kamillah Hanks is known for promoting cultural and economic development on Staten Island through her work with schools and community groups. As head of Staten Island’s first YouthBuild program – which recently was one of only two citywide programs to receive a grant ($1.1 million) from the Department of Labor – she leads job training and life skills programs for young adults.
Vincent Calamia, who specializes in geriatric medicine, hospice and palliative care, has served on the board of New York City Health + Hospitals since 2011. Calamia has made a name for himself as a health care leader – he founded the Geriatric Department at Staten Island University Hospital, served as CEO of Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn and past president of the Richmond County Medical Society, and was a member of the advisory committee for the Berger Commission.
Steven Klein has been working since he was 5 years old – his parents had a lobster business – but he didn’t always plan on pursuing a career in banking. “I wanted to be a talk show host,” he told the Staten Island Advance. Originally from New Jersey, Klein is an integral part of the borough community and serves on the boards of the Richmond University Medical Center and the Staten Island Economic Development Corp.
Kevin Elkins knows Democrats haven’t always had it easy on Staten Island. After running the Staten Island Democratic Party, he helped elect Michael McMahon as district attorney in 2015, then notched an upset by managing Max Rose’s victory in a House race against Dan Donovan. Now Elkins is serving as Rose’s district director, keeping the first-term Democrat connected to the base that will be key to winning the next election in 2020.
Early this year, Michael Assenza took over as board chairman of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, pledging to continue delivering for local small businesses. Assenza, who also serves as vice president and general manager of the home and commercial security provider Stat Land Security Services, has also been deeply engaged in the community, promoting autism awareness with the Grace Foundation of New York and working with Meals on Wheels of Staten Island.
As head of a community service organization founded to honor the legacy of his physician father, Teddy Atlas leads a staff of volunteers and oversees charitable events and fundraisers, including an annual dinner the day before Thanksgiving, a bowl-a-thon and a comedy night. Atlas has made a name for himself on Staten Island and beyond as a boxer and boxing commentator. Last year, he was selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Since 2015, Lynda Ricciardone has made Staten Island’s green spaces and beaches more welcoming to the public. This year, she spearheaded an $11 million renovation of baseball fields and basketball courts at Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park, made South Beach ADA accessible by adding a ramp at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk and opened Clove Lakes Park to bicycles. Now what about that $100 million indoor pool we’ve heard so much about?
The 571-unit Staten Island Urby development in Stapleton is the brainchild of Ironstate Development Co. President David Barry. Known for innovative projects like The Standard East Village and W Hoboken, Barry developed the concept for Urby, which includes apartments, an urban farm and two high-end Mediterranean restaurants. With the development almost fully leased and $133 million in financing as of February, Barry is on his way to making the North Shore a residential and dining destination.
The president and CEO of the St. George Theatre has certainly earned the title “woman of distinction” – an honor she recently received from state Sen. Andrew Lanza. Along with her sisters and late mother, Doreen Cugno turned the historic theater into one of Staten Island’s premier destinations, featuring stand-up comedy, concerts and plays. The sisters run a summer drama and dance workshop for kids and recently hosted the theater’s 89th anniversary gala fundraiser.
The attorney, former Mario Cuomo aide and former Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member has become an outspoken advocate on planning and tax policy. Allen Cappelli supported the Bay Street rezoning plan bringing mixed-use development to the North Shore waterfront, which was approved by the City Planning Commission despite local opposition. Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio added Cappelli to his property tax advisory committee, where he will be a voice for Staten Island residents.
Patrick Lewis is one of the toughest guys in a borough of tough guys. He serves as a public representative for Mayor Bill de Blasio, perhaps the most disliked person on Staten Island. Despite de Blasio’s alleged disinterest in the borough, he’s still the mayor – and for Lewis, the gig is another step up the political ladder. The Staten Island native previously worked for former New York City Public Advocate Letitia James in a similar role.
If Staten Island is least like the four other boroughs, its South Shore may be the part that’s least like the rest of Staten Island. While the area has historically been more rural, its population has grown and locals worry that it’s losing its distinctive character. As the longtime leader of the local community board, Frank Morano (not to be confused with the other Frank Morano on this list) is advocating against overdevelopment.
For many Staten Islanders, community engagement leads to involvement in local government – and that’s exactly what Dana Magee has done. The military veteran and Staten Island native got his start in nonprofit work early on in his career. He became the CEO of a nonprofit, now called Community Resources, in 1997. He has spent decades on Community Board 2 and has served as chairman since 2004.
The Manhattan prosecutor – and former candidate for Staten Island district attorney – has handled many of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s highest-profile cases, including the murder of Etan Patz and the investigation into allegations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the most-watched sex abuse cases in the country. Illuzzi has built a reputation as a tough prosecutor but the Weinstein matter has been enormously challenging thanks to miscommunication and a detective’s mistake.
Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield has led the Young Israel of Staten Island synagogue for more than two decades, helping the Orthodox community grow “into a wonderful harmonious family,” including many family-oriented activities and youth programs, he writes on the website. The shul offers activities for children from preschool through college, including bingo, movie nights, basketball, karate and youth baseball. Lehrfield, who grew up in Miami and studied in Israel, came to Staten Island in the 1980s.
Born in Kosovo, in the former Yugoslavia, Tahir Kukiqi came to Staten Island in 2002 via Cairo to join the Miraj School and Albanian Islamic Cultural Center as an imam. Since then, Kukiqi has built a reputation on Staten Island for building bridges between people of different ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. In March, he joined Assemblyman Charles Fall and other local officials standing in solidarity with Muslims worldwide following mosque attacks in New Zealand.
For some New York politicos, CoJo means Corey Johnson, the New York City Council speaker. For Mendy Mirocznik and many Staten Islanders, it’s COJO, or the Council of Jewish Organizations. Mirocznik’s organization serves the borough’s Jewish community, running a food pantry and working with some 40,000 constituents. A former candidate for New York City Council himself, Mirocznik is also an attorney and is a clerk for a state Supreme Court judge on Staten Island.
Janet Dugo has led the charge to revitalize Downtown Staten Island’s commercial district – helping to increase investment in areas like Bay Street and the North Shore – and she’s done it while juggling a handful of other roles. The president of media consultancy Warren Dugo Media and former publisher of Staten Island Business Trends has been recognized citywide as a leader in business. She was previously the vice president of a Wall Street brokerage firm.
Banks are a lifeline for small businesses, and Empire State Bank has served that role in Staten Island. Philip Guarnieri helped found the bank and has been running it for 15 years. With locations in Staten Island as well as Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, it has amassed over $150 million in assets. With more than three decades in banking, the Staten Island resident brings plenty of expertise and leadership to the position.
Scott LoBaido garnered national media coverage in 2016, but he wasn’t happy about the reason: Someone had burned down a giant “T” – for Donald Trump – he made for a friend. The Staten Island artist rebuilt it even larger, got a call from Trump himself, and has kept making public art praising the president. In addition to his massive flag murals, he recently created an art installation drawing attention to suicide among military veterans.
The Independence Party can play an influential role in certain elections, especially in evenly divided districts. The third party (not to be confused with those who simply register as independents) has enjoyed some success on Staten Island, where author Avi Gvili runs the show. Last year, the party helped elect Michael Reilly to the Assembly, although other candidates that Gvili’s party backed – including then-Rep. Dan Donovan – fell short.
Barbara Brancaccio has held some of the toughest communications jobs in New York City – working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Department of Homeless Services, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery, state Sen. Jeff Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference, and now at the embattled New York City Housing Authority. The veteran communications professional also is deeply knowledgeable about Staten Island, with ties to a number of key local officials in the borough.
Moria Cappio taught third grade in New York City early in her career – and although she left the job, she never left education behind. In fact, she has spent the past 13 years at Children’s Aid, a nonprofit targeting children and families in poverty, handling various education-oriented initiatives, most recently as vice president for early-childhood programs. As the city expands universal prekindergarten, this Staten Islander runs pre-K programs and weighs in on policy.
Carol Bullock has been navigating LGBT issues in Staten Island’s tricky political waters since 2017, and this year she won the support of Republican Borough President Jimmy Oddo – who broke the mold in calling for the Pride Center’s inclusion in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In April, Bullock called for a boycott of the Staten Island Yankees over their affiliation with Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain that has reportedly donated to anti-LGBT groups.
The former congressman couldn’t top incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan in the 2018 Republican primary, but since Donovan lost in the general election, Grimm is once again positioning himself as the GOP’s best hope to beat Rep. Max Rose in 2020. His likely primary competition, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, is getting institutional support, but Grimm’s charisma and strong résumé mean he can’t be counted out – despite serving time in prison for felony tax fraud.