The 2019 Staten Island Power 100; 6 - 35

An aerial view of Staten Island.
Jayne Lipkovich/Shutterstock

The 2019 Staten Island Power 100; 6 - 35

Recognizing the 100 most powerful on Staten Island.
June 9, 2019
6. Michael Cusick

A supporter of clean energy, Michael Cusick is making his voice heard when it comes to developing the “ambitious ideas” outlined in New York’s $175 billion budget. The Assembly Energy Committee chairman has pushed NYSERDA to release its 100% renewables study. He also helped expand the Office of Victim Services and kept the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge toll for Staten Island residents at $5.50 until 2021. A borough presidency campaign may be in his future.

7. Brahim Ardolic
Executive Director
Staten Island University Hospital

Staten Island University Hospital’s former emergency medicine chairman is now running the entire 666-bed medical center after Donna Proske’s retirement last April. The Tottenville High School graduate helped transform the hospital into a modern facility by upgrading its computer systems, expanding training programs and recruiting more surgeons and specialists. For Ardolic, it boils down to a simple goal: Ensure that Staten Island residents don't have to leave the borough to get the medical care they need.

8. Daniel Messina
President and CEO
Richmond University Medical Center

With more than 30 years of experience in health care leadership, Daniel Messina has played a key role in the growth of Richmond University Medical Center. Messina has secured $132 million in bonds for the hospital, developed wellness and primary care centers and helped lead the state’s Medicaid redesign program. In March, he was named medical professional of the year by Jamie’s LILAC Foundation for his work helping Staten Islanders fight cancer.

9. Diane Savino
State Senator

After the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference was decimated last September, the Democratic state senator who once caucused with the GOP was able to retain her seniority despite left-wing pressure. This session, Diane Savino sought tougher punishment for sex offenders who assault passengers on public transit, secured funding to keep Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge tolls at $5.50 for Staten Island residents and pressured the city to halt plans to build a homeless shelter on Victory Boulevard.

10. Deborah Rose
New York City Councilwoman

The veteran North Shore councilwoman and possible future Staten Island borough president candidate has a tough decision ahead of her when it comes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to rezone Bay Street. Borough President Jimmy Oddo called the plan a “boondoggle” and activists oppose it. Rose, who has reservations about the plan as reported by Curbed New York, is urging the city to consider alternate sites for the Victory Boulevard homeless shelter that triggered a lawsuit.

11. Linda Baran
President and CEO
Staten Island Chamber of Commerce

New York City’s ambition to remake the North Shore hit a snag after plans for the New York Wheel fell through. Linda Baran called the developer’s decision to cancel the project a “bump in the road” but noted that other economic development plans are moving forward. Empire Outlets opened in May, a new ferry route launching next year will connect St. George with Manhattan and the City Planning Commission passed the Bay Street rezoning proposal.

12. Nicole Malliotakis

The East Shore Republican assemblywoman is carving out a lane for herself to take on Democratic Rep. Max Rose next year. She already raised $300,000 in the first quarter of the year, criticized the state budget for including new fees for plastic bags and tolls on drivers, and called for a permanent seat for Staten Island on the MTA board. But first she’ll have to fend off former Rep. Michael Grimm in the congressional primary.

13. Joseph Borelli
New York City Councilman

The South Shore councilman is angling for a promotion now that New York City’s five Republican county leaders chose him to face off against Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in November. Joseph Borelli says he’s in – but that may not preclude him from running for Congress in 2020. Borelli recently proposed moving the city Department of Investigation under the public advocate’s office and criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Green New Deal” plan.

14. Charles Fall

The then-29-year-old North Shore Democrat outpaced two rivals in the September primary, claiming the seat Matthew Titone left when he entered the race for surrogate. Charles Fall – who could be “a towering figure in New York politics,” according to Mayor Bill de Blasio – has vowed to serve Staten Island’s immigrant community. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation seeking to prevent children from ending up living in the same home as a sex offender.

15. Andrew Lanza
State Senator

After serving in the Senate majority for eight years, Andrew Lanza saw his role change when Democrats took control of the chamber. The minority whip has recently panned congestion pricing as a new tax on travelers, decried new reporting requirements for police officers’ use of force and slammed the state budget as an “epic fail.” But with the recent changes in Albany, don’t be surprised to see Lanza run for borough president.

16. Alfred Cerullo
President and CEO
Grand Central Partnership

As one of just three New York City Planning Commission members to vote against the city’s Bay Street rezoning plan, Alfred Cerullo slammed city agencies for not investing in sewer systems or addressing potential traffic jams. “In a perfect world, we would start all over, not unlike my other favorite community, greater East Midtown,” Cerullo told the commission, according to the Staten Island Advance. The Grand Central Partnership completed that rezoning project in 2017.

17. Steven Matteo
New York City Council Minority Leader

The New York City Council’s minority leader is one of only three Republicans in the chamber, but he’s making his presence known. In April, Steven Matteo helped allocate $11.22 million for a citywide effort to clean litter and debris and opposed a ban on pre-hire marijuana tests for job applicants and a 5-cent fee on paper bags. He applauded the start of long-awaited baseball field and basketball court renovations at Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park.

18. Matthew Titone
Richmond County Surrogate’s Court

Matthew Titone gambled by leaving his safe Assembly seat to run in the boroughwide race for surrogate last year. Despite losing the Staten Island Democratic Party endorsement, he outlasted his primary opponent, Anthony Catalano, to take on South Shore Republican Ron Castorina. It was a nasty race, and Titone edged his rival by fewer than 2,000 votes. Perhaps that’s why more than 400 people came to his inauguration ceremony in January.

19. Vincent Ignizio
Catholic Charities of Staten Island

As head of Catholic Charities of Staten Island, the former South Shore councilman has led the organization’s efforts to combat homelessness and opioid addiction. Catholic Charities took over a recovery center last spring, fielding 700 calls in the first two months of operation, Vincent Ignizio told Catholic New York. But Ignizio took heat from his successor on the New York City Council for working with the city to bring a new homeless shelter to Staten Island.

20. Betsy Dubovsky
Executive Director
The Staten Island Foundation

Betsy Dubovsky has headed The Staten Island Foundation for more than 20 years, managing the nonprofit’s $74.6 million endowment and $5.8 million in grants focusing on education, the arts and health care for Staten Island’s children. One grant enabled Sundog Theatre to help 700 students at 10 schools improve their reading ability, and another funded a study spotlighting high rates of infant mortality, domestic violence and child abuse on the North Shore.

21. Edward Burke
Staten Island Deputy Borough President

Edward Burke (not to be confused with the Chicago alderman facing corruption charges) has been a fixture in Staten Island’s St. George neighborhood since 1990. Burke, who has served in his current role since 2006, told the Staten Island Advance that his favorite part of the job has been working on parks, schools and cultural projects. “If anything, I would run from public office,” he told the Advance when asked about his political aspirations.

22. Vincent Pitta & Jon Del Giorno
Founding Partners
Pitta, Bishop & Del Giorno

If you have business before New York City, there’s no one better to call than Vincent Pitta and Jon Del Giorno. Pitta has repped the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as well as countless clients in the sports and entertainment, real estate, transportation and manufacturing industries. Del Giorno focuses on campaign finance and election compliance, and is the New York City chapter chairman of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

23. Terry Troia
President and CEO
Project Hospitality

Terry Troia, an ordained minister, leads Project Hospitality’s programs serving the borough’s hungry and homeless residents as well as those with HIV and AIDS. She recently held a gala to benefit the charity’s shelter and partnered with more than 100 restaurants on the “Dine Out Against Hunger” fundraising event. Along with other borough leaders, Troia is working to reframe the conversation around opioid addiction, arguing that it should be treated as a chronic illness.

24. Cesar Claro
President and CEO
Staten Island Economic Development Corp.

Cesar Claro has been thinking about Staten Island’s transportation woes for a long time. Last year, he announced plans to create a nonprofit transit think tank to study the issue – a plan inspired by recent trips to Seattle and Portland. Last month, he unveiled plans for a gondola lift that would connect commuters to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in Bayonne for $4 to $6 a ride, at a cost of $168 million.

25. James Molinaro
Former Staten Island Borough President

The former borough president and Conservative Party leader is one of the few politicians who isn’t trying to get back into elected office. Nevertheless, Molinaro’s endorsement in a competitive congressional primary will carry weight with voters, even if he couldn’t secure a primary win for Anthony Catalano. In the meantime, the Pitta & Baione senior adviser is supporting the Museum of Maritime Navigation and Communication, the St. George Theatre and the Community Agency for Senior Citizens.

26. William Fritz
College of Staten Island

The College of Staten Island is preparing to join Division II of the NCAA as early as the 2019-20 school year if its application is approved. William Fritz has worked to upgrade the Willowbrook campus while promoting its well-known nursing program, raising money for the four-year senior college through its annual ball, and recognizing student athletes from the past 40 years. A renowned geologist, Fritz has served as president of the CUNY school since 2014.

27. Michael Reilly

When opportunity knocked, Michael Reilly answered. After Ron Castorina left his South Shore Assembly seat to run for Surrogate Court judge last year, the borough’s Community Education Council president jumped into the race, promising to focus on education, transportation, the opioid crisis and containing the borough’s deer population. Reilly picked up the Staten Island Advance’s endorsement and won with 64% of the vote. Now he’s holding the Department of Education accountable from Albany.

28. Tom Wrobleski
Senior Opinion Writer
Staten Island Advance

Tom Wrobleski pens columns for the borough’s flagship paper on a variety of timely topics, including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s contradictory rhetoric on pedestrian safety, the need for a commuter tax and more public transportation in Port Richmond, and the stubbornness of a marijuana black market in states that legalized recreational use. And that’s just one week of columns. This summer he’ll be wandering Staten Island on foot. Honk if you like local news!

29. Stephen Fiala
Richmond County Clerk

When Jimmy Oddo needed to fill a spot on New York City’s Charter Revision Commission, he looked to the Richmond County Clerk’s office. Stephen Fiala knows the charter inside and out, after serving as City Council minority whip and sitting on the commission in 2004 and 2010. This year, he’s weighed in on a debate over police accountability and a proposal to require a chief diversity officer in the mayor’s Cabinet and each city agency.

30. John O’Hara
Staten Island Bishop

The Archdiocese of New York, like other Catholic districts, has been confronting rampant child sex abuse in past decades. Cardinal Timothy Dolan asked for forgiveness with the recent release of a list of 120 clergy members accused of abuse, including prominent Staten Island religious leaders. This is one of the largest disclosures made by the church. It’s now up to Dolan and Bishop John O’Hara to take action and restore parishioners’ trust in the institution.

31. Michael Ryan
Executive Director
New York City Board of Elections

The New York City Board of Elections is an easy target for a mayor looking to boost his credentials ahead of a presidential bid. When scanners broke down on Election Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted the board and proposed opening 100 early voting sites – allocating $75 million to carry out the plan. But Ryan pushed back and initially chose only 38 sites. In return, de Blasio more than doubled the initial proposal, offering 222 polling stations.

32. David Sorkin
Executive Director
Jewish Community Center of Staten Island

David Sorkin has spent 42 years working for the Jewish Community Center organization, including 14 as head of the Staten Island center. He opened the Mid-Island Y JCC, launched a free day camp for kids with cancer and expanded services for Staten Island seniors, including a new office for Seaview Senior Housing. He’s a prodigious fundraiser, recently raising money for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia programming at the JCC. Sorkin announced earlier this year that he will retire in June 2020.

33. Richard Guarasci
Wagner College

During his 17-year tenure as president of Wagner College, Richard Guarasci boosted the school’s endowment from $4 million to $98.7 million, led a renovation of its Main Hall and other buildings, and established a four-year liberal arts curriculum for all undergraduates. Guarasci, who is stepping down this month, said goodbye to the school as this year’s commencement speaker, telling graduates: “I have great faith in your generation.” He is the school’s longest-serving president.

34. Tom Feeney Jr.
Assistant Secretary for Executive Operations
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s assistant secretary for executive operations, Tom Feeney Jr. is in charge of the governor’s downstate events, working with local officials to make sure the events run smoothly. He also retains many of the responsibilities he had when he was the governor’s Staten Island representative for more than two years, including attending community events throughout the borough and forwarding constituent concerns to the governor whenever necessary.

35. Richard Howe
Assistant Chief

The FDNY’s Staten Island borough commander was promoted to assistant chief last year, and he has had a busy season ever since. In February, Howe and his battalions handled an accidental fire that killed one resident and injured five firefighters, and a Graniteville fire that killed one person and injured 10 others. In April, firefighters stamped out a car fire in Grasmere. And they responded to 1,446 false alarms in 2018.

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