Staten Island has long been considered the “forgotten borough,” but it’s forgotten no more. Earlier this year, comedian Pete Davidson made headlines for escorting Kim Kardashian back to his home borough for dinner. Princess Anne took a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, while her brother adjusted to life as the new king of England. And to be fair, a long list of historical luminaries – including former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush – have made their own visits to the island in years past.
Of course, Staten Island has political royalty and VIPs of its own. Atop the borough’s political power structure, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis is in the middle of a tough rematch against former Rep. Max Rose. Vito Fossella, who held the same congressional seat years earlier, was elected borough president last year in a remarkable comeback. There’s also a changing of the guard in the state Legislature, where state Sen. Diane Savino and Assembly Member Michael Cusick are stepping down after representing Staten Island districts for years.
City & State’s Staten Island Power 100 – researched and written by City & State staff along with freelance journalist Aaron Short – recognizes these key politicians, as well as the most influential local leaders in business, labor, nonprofits, advocacy, education and other arenas intersecting with New York politics and government.
The first-term Republican representative’s path to reelection got easier when the courts rejected Democratic-drawn district maps and a special master redrew them, eliminating left-leaning Park Slope and Sunset Park from her district. But Rep. Nicole Malliotakis is facing a rematch from Max Rose, the reinvigorated Democrat she defeated two years ago. She was ahead 15 points in a poll this summer and can count on donors like Madison Square Garden’s James Dolan. Rose is trying to make abortion rights and her Jan. 6 vote not to certify the presidential election results into campaign issues, yet multiple prognosticators have the contest rated “likely Republican.”
When a ShopRite employee tapped Rudy Giuliani’s back and was arrested on assault charges in June, District Attorney Michael McMahon found himself in the middle of a national story. Giuliani claimed he felt like he’d been shot – while Mayor Eric Adams called on McMahon to investigate the former mayor and Trump attorney. (The DA’s office later dropped the charges, and the grocery store clerk sued the city for $2 million.) Meanwhile, McMahon has been working overtime to cast himself as tougher on crime than his fellow Democratic prosecutors like progressive Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Borough President Vito Fossella didn’t make many public appearances during his comeback campaign last year, but that didn’t stop the former member of Congress – who’d stepped down amid scandal over a decade ago – from trouncing his opponent by a 2-to-1 margin. The new borough president has made up for lost time, politicking with gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Lee Zeldin, hosting the Italian Festival at The Mount and the Postcards 9/11 Memorial ceremony, and commemorating two ballfields. Fossella has also made use of the office’s coffers, giving $94,000 to support borough businesses and $161,000 to 18 arts organizations.
Joseph Borelli’s caucus grew from three to five members after several unexpected Republican victories last year. That’s still a tiny portion of the New York City Council – but that didn’t stop him from wielding an outsized influence over redistricting. Borelli has been fighting hard to ensure that the borough’s three council seats do not include any blue Brooklyn neighborhoods. Borelli’s appointees helped vote down one recent set of maps, which would have done just that, but the maps approved by the redistricting commission did include a Staten Island district connected to southern Brooklyn.
After 18 years serving Staten Islanders in Albany, state Sen. Diane Savino announced her retirement from the state Senate in February. The last remaining member of the once-influential and controversial Independent Democratic Conference, which kept Republicans in control of the state Senate for years, Savino helped legalize medical and recreational marijuana after a yearslong campaign and secured a bill of rights for domestic workers during her tenure. But Savino won’t stay out of the public eye for long. She is expected to join the Adams administration sometime next year after her term ends.
Assembly Member Michael Cusick isn’t running for reelection either this year, but as the borough’s Democratic Party chair he will have plenty of work to do ensuring the next generation of Democratic leaders have a shot at elected office. In his last year in the Assembly, Cusick pushed the governor to award more large-scale renewable energy projects, helped open the College of Staten Island’s Willowbrook Mile, tackled noise complaints from parties from New Jersey and visited Belfast as president of the American-Irish Legislators Society.
Kamillah Hanks became the only Democrat to win an election in Staten Island in 2021 when she bested her Republican opponent. The North Shore community leader, who got into politics working with the Staten Island Economic Development Corp., has since explored converting an abandoned health department building into housing, provided meals for New York City Housing Authority residents whose gas was cut off and urged the Adams administration to restore $469 million in education funding. Hanks will play a significant role in the future of the New York Wheel site, where some leaders want to put a casino. She’s also chair of the key Committee on Public Safety in the City Council.
More than two years since the pandemic began pummeling the borough, Dr. Brahim Ardolic is leading a major fundraising campaign and expansion at Staten Island University Hospital. The Northwell Health-affiliated hospital received $53,564 from Lights for Life for pediatric cancer research and a $2 million federal grant for a new women and infant center. Ardolic also celebrated the topping of the final beam at the Florina Cancer Center in August and helped to announce the opening of a $17.5 million cardiovascular care unit at the hospital. Ardolic also secured five-year naming rights to the Staten Island FerryHawks’ baseball stadium.
As the Richmond University Medical Center swapped out six board members for five new ones over the summer while modernizing its campus, Daniel Messina has been a pillar of stability. He spearheaded the hospital’s $250 million overhaul, including a new emergency department, and cut the ribbon on its $15 million Medical Intensive Care Unit in August. Perhaps most significantly, Messina has led the hospital’s integration with Mount Sinai’s health system, giving patients greater access to medical care across the region.
Assembly Member Charles Fall raised eyebrows when he rescinded his previous endorsement of former Rep. Max Rose, backed his girlfriend and lobbyist Bianca Rajpersaud for state Senate and announced he would run for the Assembly again in the same tweet. Some politicos saw the episode as a sign of party infighting and questionable ethics, but Fall hasn’t suffered politically for his moves. After he won his primary, Fall criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s congestion pricing plan, pushed the New York City Housing Authority to fix gas lines at a North Shore building and facilitated a trash cleanup in Port Richmond.
Brian Laline and Caroline Harrison have made the Staten Island Advance a vital resource for information and analysis about the borough at a time when news is increasingly splintered and polarized. The Advance’s coverage of horrifying conditions at the Willowbrook State School in the 1970s changed how people with developmental disabilities were treated in the U.S. and inspired the site’s recent conversion to the Willowbrook Mile memorial. Laline’s columns have touched on the passage of time and the loss of towering individuals and landmarks, while his and Harrison’s leadership behind the scenes kept the paper running through the pandemic.
The Staten Island chamber leader has been pleased with the steps that New York City Mayor Eric Adams has taken to boost the borough’s businesses amid the pandemic’s lingering devastation. Linda Baran praised the city’s $1.2 million investment in its Small Business Resource Network this summer, as well as moves to reduce regulations at the Department of Buildings. This fall, Baran, who has led the chamber for almost 20 years, spearheaded the Department of Sanitation’s “clean curbs” pilot in Stapleton Heights and partnered with National Grid for a day of service to beautify Bay Street. Frank Scarangello, current board chair, is also the president of Scaran Heating, Ventilating and Air conditioning & Plumbing.
The Mid-Island Republican outlasted Democrat Sal Albanese and Conservative George Wonica last November in a race that was not as close as expected. Since his victory, David Carr has tackled myriad thorny political issues, including COVID-19 vaccine requirements in schools and sheltering migrants seeking asylum, while demanding answers from the city over ferry worker negotiations. Carr has also fought for the borough’s fair share of funding to fight the opioid crisis, allocated $350,000 to renovate a New Springville middle school and provided $1 million for new storm sewers in Westerleigh.
When former Rep. Max Rose declared he would seek a rematch against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, his chances for reclaiming the seat he lost two years ago were high, thanks to a Democratic redistricting draft that made the district competitive. But the state’s highest court rejected the lawmaker-drawn map and a special master redrew it, which lowered Rose’s odds for an upset. Rose was undeterred. After he defeated a progressive challenger in August, Rose has made abortion rights a top issue on campaign trail.
The veteran Republican lawmaker didn’t get what he wanted in the budget when the Democratic-controlled state Legislature merely tweaked bail reform (he demanded a full repeal) and expanded the hours of school zone speed cameras (he argued it was a cash grab). But state Sen. Andrew Lanza has used his pulpit to promote candidates like gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Lee Zeldin and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, while also recognizing Vietnam veterans and holding a resource fair for people with special needs. He is still dreaming of Staten Island secession, but that won’t happen anytime soon.
The South Shore legislator joined other borough Republicans this fall to rally for additional bail reform changes, demand the city scrap COVID-19 vaccine requirements for public schools and urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to claw back the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's congestion pricing plan that would add more fees for driving into Manhattan. But Assembly Member Michael Reilly has also worked with Democrats to push for an underwater tunnel that would replace the Port Authority’s Outerbridge Crossing and shut down New Jersey’s “boom parties” keeping Staten Islanders up at night.
Despite being in the minority, the first-term Assembly member made waves by introducing a hostile amendment requiring a simple majority to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy, after Gov. Kathy Hochul’s second in command resigned. Michael Tannousis followed that with another bill that would amend the state constitution to allow voters to recall district attorneys. This fall, Tannousis has kept the pressure on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over its congestion pricing plan at public hearings and on the Hochul administration to roll back bail reform.
As Staten Island’s largest private real estate developers, this developer duo has been known for their stewardship of the Hilton Garden Inn and their 415-acre office park on Teleport Drive. In April, the Nicotras opened a 32,000-square-foot rooftop farm at Corporate Commons Three, which will grow food for local pantries and was made possible with a $670,000 city grant. They also installed a London-style phone booth in the Hilton Garden Inn’s memorial garden last year for placing “calls” to lost loved ones, creating a poignant monument for Staten Islanders.
Every mayoral administration has its favorite lobbyists, and Pitta Bishop is undoubtedly Mayor Eric Adams’s go-to firm. During the New York City mayoral race, Vito Pitta consulted with the Adams campaign on legal matters, while several of his lobbying firm’s clients endorsed Adams or gave donations. Pitta Bishop has lobbied on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the correction officers union, whose workers run the city’s beleaguered jail system, raising questions about how Adams will handle the ongoing crisis at Rikers Island.
When Albany’s Democratic lawmakers first proposed congressional maps that put them at an advantage in 22 of 26 House races, Anthony Reinhart equated the draft to “cancel culture” for lumping left-leaning Park Slope into the borough’s more conservative district. The state’s highest court agreed, and a special master redrew the maps. Reinhart applauded the revisions and soon went on the offensive, encouraging party loyalists to vote in the primary and targeting the North Shore state Senate seat that Diane Savino held for nearly two decades.
To celebrate the much-lauded legacy of its late founder Betsy Dubovsky, who died last year from complications of pancreatic cancer, Kathryn Krause Rooney established a scholarship for Staten Island social work graduate students. The Staten Island Foundation will award two yearlong paid fellowships to students at a nonprofit site this fall. Started in 1997, the philanthropic organization has given millions to the least advantaged Staten Islanders, focusing on the areas of health, education, arts and community services.
Laura Jean Watters succeeded Dubovsky in August, continuing a mission of service across the borough. Watters, the founding director of the Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island, joined the charity in 2007 and worked with Dubovsky to streamline the foundation’s process for distributing grants. This year, she directed investments into upgrading the Staten Island Children’s Museum and $150,000 toward constructing a new preschool in St. George.
The New York Nurses Association, which has established itself as a political powerhouse in the state in recent years, is bolstering its position by joining up with National Nurses United, the largest labor union for nurses in the nation. The 42,000-member NYSNA is led by Nancy Hagans, a registered nurse from Ward Hill who was elected president last year, and Pat Kane, a fellow Staten Islander who has served as the union’s executive director since 2019.
Eight years after New York City police killed Eric Garner, Gwen Carr has continued demanding justice and answers for her son’s death. A public judicial inquiry into Garner’s death concluded late last year, but the social justice activist chastised a lack of transparency at the hearing and was not satisfied with the process. Now Carr has sued for unredacted access to police records regarding her son’s death.
Diane Savino’s announced retirement from the state Senate prompted a free-for-all among both parties to fill her open seat. But Savino quickly endorsed Jessica Scarcella-Spanton to replace her, and the former Savino staffer fended off several rivals to win the Democratic primary in August. Now she’ll face Republican Joseph Tirone in a North Shore district that includes parts of Brooklyn where Republicans have done well. But Scarcella-Spanton can count on Savino’s base – and she picked up an endorsement from Mayor Eric Adams.
It may look jarring to go from being top dog in Staten Island to a much less visible role at City Hall, but Jimmy Oddo insists he took his “dream job” in the Adams administration as chief of staff to Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. So far Oddo, who might be the only figure equally liked by Staten Island Republicans and Democrats, has settled into the role of supporting a Brooklyn to Staten Island ferry route and convening a task force on hunger and nutrition. Oddo has been touted as a candidate to succeed Adams’ departing chief of staff, Frank Carone.
Chris Smalls is responsible for one of the most historic wins in labor organizing. After he was fired for staging a walkout over poor working conditions in a Staten Island Amazon warehouse, he struck back by forming the online giant’s first union. Smalls is now a powerful voice as president of the Amazon Labor Union, and he travels the country fighting for workers’ rights through rallies and educating Amazon workers on the benefits of unionizing. He was even named on Time’s 100 most influential people of 2022.
The Midtown business improvement district leader hasn’t been afraid to take contrarian stances on the New York City Planning Commission. Alfred C. Cerullo III agonized over requiring new hotels to get special permits last year, citing his experience with poorly built hotels in Staten Island when he was a City Council member. And he voted against removing a special permit for gyms and spas, arguing it would prevent communities from vetting illegal businesses. His thoughtful positions earned him a slot on the mayor’s blue-ribbon panel to revitalize the city’s economy two years into the pandemic.
After two years of virtual cases and trial backlogs, Administrative Judge Desmond Green helped Richmond County’s courts reopen and get back on track. There’s been no shortage of drama since then, thanks to cases like the ShopRite worker charged with assault when he patted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s back (his case was dismissed) and an abortion rights rally held in front of the courthouse in May. In another sign of normalcy, Green hosted festivities at the courthouse for Hispanic Heritage Month.
When Matthew Titone won his race against another state lawmaker, Ron Castorina, four years ago, he become the first openly gay Surrogate’s Court judge in the state. The former Assembly member and Monsignor Farrell High School alum is perhaps one of the most well-liked Democrats in the borough, and he managed to stay above the political fray as the borough’s politics have become increasingly polarized. He has been a reliable presence at events with the Staten Island FerryHawks and the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association this year.
After launching a monthslong search to lead Staten Island’s cultural crown jewel, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden Chair Mark Lauria selected Jessica Baker Vodoor in December as its next president and CEO. The former New 42nd Street vice president has big plans for cultivating programming at the 83-acre arts hub, which has hosted film crews, Pig Island, Little Amal, and the Neptune Ball. Lauria hopes the $23 million renovation at the Music Hall will make it ready for off-Broadway productions, and that Vodoor will help double Snug Harbor’s budget from $5 million to $10 million.
Democrat Vincent Argenziano and Republican Sam Pirozzolo have been locked in a hotly contested battle over what could be New York City’s most competitive Assembly race this fall. Argenziano hopes to replace his former boss, Assembly Member Michael Cusick, who announced in February he would be retiring. Pirozzolo, an optician who unsuccessfully ran for New York City Council last year, won the GOP primary for Assembly District 63 in June. Argenziano has support from the New York State Court Officers Association and New York State United Teachers while Pirozzolo counts the Conservative Party and the National Federation of Independent Business in his corner.
The borough’s most venerated humanitarian leader took on the task of housing most of the 56 asylum-seekers sent to Staten Island at Project Hospitality’s Central Avenue shelter. As some politicians questioned the cost of helping the families bused to New York City from southern border states, the Rev. Terry Troia said the new arrivals were grateful to be in the borough, some had found jobs already, and children had enrolled in local schools. In addition, Troia’s nonprofit provided meals and produce to residents of Mariners Harbor Houses, whose gas was shut off this fall after leaks were found.
The community health leader sought to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates among Black mothers by holding an event to raise awareness about racial disparities and releasing an action plan to solve the problem. Henry Thompson and the Community Health Center of Richmond, which aims to provide affordable primary and dental care in high-need neighborhoods, recommended addressing mothers’ geographic barriers to care and lack of transportation options in communities of color as well as creating education and outreach campaigns.
When the Staten Island Economic Development Corp.’s longtime President Cesar Claro announced in April he would depart after three decades of service, he left the nonprofit in capable hands. The group secured a $10 million grant from the state to revitalize North Shore neighborhoods for projects like a new fast ferry terminal in St. George. The organization also received $70,000 from the borough president’s office to beautify its commercial corridors and $20,000 from the city to explore the formation of a business improvement district for Mariner’s Harbor.
Claire Atalla knows what gets the borough’s denizens to open their wallets to nonprofit charities: food – and lots of it. The philanthropic leader, who officially became CEO in May, has consistently put on some of the borough’s most delicious events, including a three-day food truck festival at Mount Loretto, which drew 4,000 people, a family-friendly mud race and a four-day Italian feast in October. Atalla also got Rep. Nicole Malliotakis to donate 13,000 pounds of food to pantries and accepted $20,000 from the Knights of Columbus.
Diane Arneth’s tireless advocacy to improve health outcomes for Staten Island’s most vulnerable residents earned her the borough president’s Albert V. Maniscalco Community Service Award last year. Arneth oversaw the growth of Community Health Action of Staten Island from six employees to a staff of 120 and a budget of nearly $10 million to provide a variety of social services for Staten Islanders. She also led a partnership with New York City to establish a six-year program to provide opportunities in the health care industry for Port Richmond High School students.
Luke Nasta’s Camelot and its counselors have been helping Staten Islanders combat substance use since the 1970s. And with overdoses increasing during the pandemic, there’s never been a greater need for the organization. Nasta is still waiting for the construction to start on two facilities approved by the state in 2016 and 2018, and he has accused state officials of being more interested in promoting recreational marijuana use than fighting addiction.
Stephen Fiala hasn’t been the Richmond County clerk since the position was established in 1683; it just seems that way. Then-Gov. George Pataki appointed him in 2001. Since then, Richmond County has had three borough presidents, five governors and four U.S. presidents. And in that time, the former New York City Council member has been keeping legal documents and other records, collecting fees and fines, and performing some more joyful functions – like issuing marriage licenses.
Mark Russo runs Staten Island’s largest and oldest insurance agency, which can trace its origins all the way back to 1886. Russo, who previously led the New York City Economic Development Corp.’s real estate committee, serves as chair of the board of directors for both the Meals on Wheels of Staten Island and Kids Against Cancer. He also served as president of the South Shore Kiwanis Club.
After replacing Joel Martin as the interim president of Wagner College, Angelo Araimo’s title was made permanent earlier this year. Araimo first joined Wagner College in 1994 as director of admissions and has since been a lynchpin in the growth and development of the school. Wagner credits him for helping the institution weather historic storms. He kept the college’s admissions and revenue afloat during the 2008 recession, and as senior vice president, he helped the school adapt to the pandemic and safely return the student body to campus.
Staten Island immigrant rights advocate Murad Awawdeh has led a multifaceted approach by working with the New York City mayor to cut red tape for street vendors, with state lawmakers to offer health care for low-income undocumented residents and with the New York City Council to extend voting rights to 800,000 noncitizens. (That law was ruled unconstitutional by the state just on Staten Island this summer, but advocates plan to appeal.) Another state bill that would end the automatic transfers of low-level offenders to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody didn’t pass this year.
No one knows the borough of Staten Island better than Ed Burke. Over the past 33 years, he has advised four borough presidents and was instrumental in rejuvenating the Goodhue Community Center, which received a $53 million investment from the city last year. Burke planned to retire when Jimmy Oddo’s term as Staten Island borough president ended in December, but Oddo’s predecessor, Vito Fossella, asked him to stay. Oddo’s hoping to finish the North section of Freshkills Park, which is expected to open this fall, as well as the Charleston animal shelter and Goodhue Park.
Longtime Staten Island attorney Brendan Lantry has set a path of rapid ascent in New York City’s judiciary since last year, when the former Staten Island Republican Party chair was elected as a civil court judge in Richmond County. Having assumed the bench in January as the city’s youngest judge, Lantry is already setting his sights on the November election for the state Supreme Court’s 13th Judicial District. Aside from his prior work in commercial litigation, Lantry provided staff support to local Republican congressional and New York City Council members and helped banks disburse more than $100 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds.
The Rev. Tony Baker leads one of the oldest churches on Staten Island – St. Philips Baptist Church marked its 150th anniversary during the pandemic – but his congregation isn’t resting on its laurels. The church led a Kwanzaa celebration last winter while serving as a coronavirus vaccination site for the community. In June, Baker helped lead an abortion rights rally after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, telling the crowd that “women have a right to choose what to do with their bodies.”
Serving as one of 11 members of New York City’s Racial Justice Commission, Yesenia Mata brings the voices of Staten Island’s immigrant communities to City Hall’s effort to improve racial equity. Mata, leading the La Colmena advocacy and job training center in Port Richmond, is herself a daughter of undocumented immigrants. She drew praise for gathering resources and support for low-income day laborers and essential workers during the pandemic. An alum of Mayor Eric Adams’ immigrant transition team, Mata emphasizes empowerment through educational and cultural events at La Colmena.
Timothy Lynch took office at CUNY’s College of Staten Island on Jan. 1, after the retirement of President William Fritz amid discord over the how the college was governed. A two-time CUNY graduate himself, historian Lynch arrived with a track record as interim president at Queenborough Community College and experience as provost both at Queensborough and at SUNY Maritime College. In his first full academic year at the College of Staten Island, Lynch has focused on funding, affordability, and diversity and inclusion initiatives at Staten Island’s second-largest employer.
In one of her first major appointments, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell tapped Gin Yee to replace Staten Island Borough Commander Frank Vega, who retired in December. Less than a month later, Yee, a former traffic officer and beat cop, was promoted to assistant chief, making him the highest-ranked Asian American leader in the NYPD. Yee and Staten Island Community Affairs Unit Commanding Officer Rafet Awad have prioritized reducing thefts of cars and catalytic converters, making streets safer for pedestrians and warning about the dangers of online scams and fireworks.
With over a decade at the helm of the Staten Island Zoo, Ken Mitchell has found ways to bridge the gap between wildlife and the community. The zoo has forged partnerships with local schools, allowing students to get hands-on experience caring for animals, and events like the Halloween Spooktacular remain an annual staple. As a former New York City Council member, Mitchell has plenty of political connections to call on, and he has consistently garnered funding for the zoo, the latest coming as a reward from Borough President Vito Fossella.
Daniel Cassella is at the wheel of the 2,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726, which represents New York City Transit employees who operate and repair buses traversing Staten Island, including connections to Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Cassella has been an advocate for adding more bus trips and improved benefits for his members, including teaming up with Transit Workers Union Local 100 to call for hazard pay during the coronavirus pandemic.
When Orthodox groups and the Diocese of Brooklyn sued then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo two years ago to block pandemic restrictions for religious institutions, it fell on church leaders like Bishop Edmund Whalen to keep church sanctuaries open and safe for parishioners. Whalen, a former principal at Monsignor Farrell High School, has since led a service for victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, led a procession celebrating the centennial of St. Roch Church in Port Richmond and delivered the homily for John Kostek, the former St. Ann’s Church pastor, who died in July.
Joseph G. Canepa celebrated the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association’s 58th anniversary in September, honoring state Supreme Court Justice Wayne Ozzi and Jerry Judin, former chief supervising court attorney in the Richmond County surrogate’s office. The association has been a crucial voice in vetting and promoting candidates for office over the years. Canepa has also managed his own practice for nearly 25 years, tackling wills, divorces, DWI cases, real estate transactions and immigration-related matters.
Adrienne Abbate has been at the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness for over a decade, driving its efforts to improve public health all across the borough, whether it’s mental health, substance abuse or COVID-19. Originally launched as a partnership between the borough’s two major hospitals, Richmond University Medical Center and Staten Island University Hospital, the organization is now assisting newly arrived asylum-seekers. Abbate also served on the executive board of Nonprofit Staten Island and currently serves on the community advisory board of NYC Health + Hospitals’ Test & Treat Corps.
Lou Tobacco proved you can go home again three years ago, when the former Assembly member and Monsignor Farrell alum became the school’s president. During the pandemic, Tobacco developed a hybrid learning model on the fly and set up virtual visits for Farrell students to connect with nursing home residents, continuing their service to others. Tobacco also helped The Joseph Maffeo Foundation raise $250,000 and hosted a popular summer camp for students that featured a bocce ball tournament.
The Conservative Party wasn’t successful last fall when it backed Bill Pepitone for New York City mayor instead of Republican Curtis Sliwa. But Staten Island Conservative Party Chair David Curcio did help defeat three Democratic ballot proposals after the party spent $3 million on a statewide ad campaign. This year, Curcio endorsed Rep. Nicole Malliotakis for Congress and Sam Pirozzolo in the race to replace retiring Assembly Member Mike Cusick. Curcio is also a part of a lawsuit challenging New York City’s vaccine mandate for gyms, restaurants and concert venues.
New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade allowed LGBTQ groups to join its march in Manhattan back in 2014, but Staten Island’s parade marking the Irish holiday is still holding out – although Carol Bullock is doing everything she can to change that. Bullock, who has led the Staten Island Pride Center since 2017, is also advocating for LGBTQ rights in her borough year-round. In September, her organization was awarded funding by Borough President Vito Fossella for its services and outreach.
With rising health care costs and diminishing life expectancy, Joseph Conte and the Staten Island Performing Provider System have been striving to make up for the shortcomings of a health care system riddled with disparities while ensuring proper medical and behavioral care to uninsured Staten Islanders and those on Medicaid. Through what Conte describes as “community engagement, trust, and collaboration,” the PPS has been linking patients to providers and has seen Staten Island through the coronavirus pandemic and the opioid epidemic.
New Yorkers would know a lot less about the key issues facing Staten Island if it weren’t for Victoria Manna’s reporting. The NY1 beat reporter has brought attention the borough’s biggest stories, including Pete Davidson and Colin Jost’s purchase of a decommissioned Staten Island ferry boat, a Ukrainian courier service sending supplies to a war zone in March, the official closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill (once the world’s largest dump) and the contract dispute between ferry workers and New York City that led to an upended schedule.
Steven M. Klein once worked at a ShopRite and at KPMG before becoming Northfield Bank’s CEO in 2017. Klein runs 38 community banks in Staten Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey while supporting events like Staten Island Economic Development Corp.’s annual awards gala, Fig Fest and a back-to-school festival at Empire Outlets where Northfield runs a financial literacy workshop for young people. Klein is also a board member of the Richmond University Medical Center.
For nearly 20 years, Raffaele DiMaggio has helped TD Bank maintain its physical presence in Staten Island and Manhattan even as personal finance becomes increasingly virtual. Staten Island has benefited from the bank’s sponsorships of high-profile events like the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, which rolled through Bay and Front streets in May, and the Achilles Hope & Possibility 4M road race. TD Bank also honored Staten Island TikTok star Lisa Marie Riley by putting her picture up in the borough’s bank branches.
Ralph Branca helped create Victory State Bank 25 years ago and led its growth from one branch to a $400 million regional institution before it was sold to Northfield Bank in 2020. Last September, a year after the merger occurred, Empire State Bank CEO Phil Guarnieri poached Branca to lead Empire State Bank’s lending department while advising small and midsized businesses throughout Staten Island. Both Branca and Guarnieri were honored at Staten Island Economic Development Corp.’s Business Conference in June and supported On Your Mark’s Spring Gala at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Gail Castellano brings nearly three decades of banking experience to her work at Richmond County Savings Bank, a division of New York Community Bank, which bills itself as “the largest thrift in the nation.” Castellano, who has worked her way up the ranks from an entry-level position, now oversees 20 of the bank’s retail branches. She’s also been an entrepreneur and an engaged member of the community, including as a board member of the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the St. George Theatre.
Robert Scamardella has become an elder statesman not just in Republican political circles but in Staten Island’s vibrant philanthropic scene. The former Staten Island Republican Party chair left politics about a decade ago but still helps candidates like Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, whom he endorsed in 2020 in the 11th Congressional District race. Most Staten Islanders know Scamardella as the chair of the Wagner College DaVinci Society’s scholarship dinner, which drew 400 attendees in September. Scamardella also honored the late Norma D’Arrigo, who helped support numerous improvement projects in the borough.
When developers wanted the state Legislature to pass an extension of a lucrative tax break for affordable housing this year, they had most of the building trades on board. But former Staten Island Democratic official Kevin Elkins thought the proposed incentive was too similar to the current version, which did not generate enough affordable units and did not provide higher wages and sufficient worker protections, so his carpenters union opposed it. The subsidy expired, forcing developers to rethink their strategies – and proving who has real power in New York politics.
Dr. Vincent Calamia has worked at Staten Island University Hospital for nearly 40 years and has been a member of the New York City Health + Hospitals board of directors since 2012. Since then, he has been committed to making sure Staten Island, the only borough without a stand-alone Health + Hospitals facility, receives the city health funding it deserves. Health + Hospitals worked with local community organizations to get at-home COVID-19 tests out to residents across Staten Island during the pandemic.
Social justice activist and former Staten Island borough president candidate Cesar Vargas, who became nationally known as the state’s first immigrant without legal status to be allowed entry into the bar, won the $200,000 David Prize for his vision to help immigrants in the military with legal challenges. Vargas continued his immigration advocacy by joining the Adams administration as a senior adviser. His greatest challenge may be ensuring thousands of asylum-seekers legally get access to shelter, food and other necessities since New York City declared a state of emergency in October.
Kerri Bringslid accepted the gavel to lead the county’s bar association for a one-year term starting in September, succeeding Michael Gervasi. She also recently joined the staff of the Surrogate’s Court of Richmond County. In her role as president of the bar association, Bringslid has pledged to work with the judiciary as the courts continue their transition from remote hearings to in-person or hybrid appearances. The association is also suing the state to increase compensation for serving at-risk children and low-income adults, after having seen no raises since 2004.
Peter Giunta wasn’t that impressed with Vito Fossella when he ran in the Republican primary for Staten Island borough president, saying voters would pick Steve Matteo for the position instead because of his record. Giunta miscalculated on that race by a few hundred votes with Fossella winning the primary – and eventually the general election – but backed New York City Council candidate David Carr, who edged out a far-right opponent. Last summer, Giunta became the second Staten Islander to lead the New York State Young Republicans after a unanimous vote.
As the host of 77 WABC’s “The Other Side of Midnight,” Frank Morano has become a staple in late-night Staten Island radio. If you’re awake from 1-5 a.m., you can hear his dry sense of humor in his commentary on right-leaning politics. Morano has worked as a co-host on “Cats Roundtable,” alongside the other biggest name in conservative New York City talk radio, John Catsimatidis. Morano has previously served as chair of the Staten Island Reform Party and as a leader in the state’s Independence Party.
Live programming has returned to the Joan & Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center of Staten Island – and Orit Lender couldn’t be happier. The organization’s CEO, who started her career with the JCC as a youth worker, helped it navigate the pandemic by providing social services and Passover meals to Staten Islanders in need. This summer, families enjoyed the return of a special-needs camp followed by a harvest festival in October. The JCC also launched a tech career-training partnership with Per Scholas and is collaborating with the New York City Civic Engagement Commission on participatory budgeting for the city.
Roxanne Mustafa co-founded Staten Island Women Who March on Jan. 20, 2017 – Inauguration Day for then-President Donald Trump – to celebrate what she believed would be the beginning of a new era for women’s rights. That road since then has been bumpy, but the organization continues its work as a progressive, nonprofit group that aims to empower women. Recently, the organization has hosted chats with progressive primary candidates like Brittany Ramos DeBarros and protested for abortion rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling.
Jasmine Robinson vowed to redefine the district leader position of Assembly District 61 on Staten Island by being more of a community advocate if she won. Voters gave the Democratic activist a chance and sent her to the unpaid office with 75% of the vote in the 2021 primary. Robert Perkins, who was running as her male counterpart, also squeaked into office with 237 votes to become the borough’s first Black male district leader in history. Both leaders have deep ties to First Central Baptist Church and Staten Island’s NAACP chapter.
The Rev. Demetrius Carolina is one of New York City’s most respected spiritual leaders, so it was no surprise to see him condemn the racist mass shooting in Buffalo or meet with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to share concerns about food and job insecurity. For 34 years, Carolina’s nonprofit has spurred community leaders to improve the borough’s quality of life. Last year, its YouthBuild program, which helps young adults earn diplomas and learn job skills, received a $1.2 million federal government grant.
Staten Island buyers rely on Realtors like Sandy Krueger and Frank J. Rizzo at a time when the housing market has become increasingly volatile. Rizzo said the Staten Island home market has the most limited inventory of available homes for buyers he has seen in 20 years and recommended people get their finances in order if they want to be able to afford a starter home. Krueger said affordability has been the “principal victim” as borough home prices jumped 13% compared with 2021. Prices declined in the summer, with Krueger warning that rising interest rates and economic uncertainty are behind the current slowdown.
In a sign that life was returning to normal last fall, shoppers streamed into the Staten Island Mall on Black Friday looking for deals. Jim Easley increased mall capacity while maintaining social distancing measures and added vaccination checks at the food court to keep patrons safe. The mall has since welcomed new restaurants and hosted a carnival in early September. Getting to the mall could be even faster now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority installed traffic cameras on a bus route that starts at New Springville.
Nick Lembo is betting big on the New Stapleton Waterfront, where Monadnock Development is building a 360-unit affordable housing complex on the New York City-owned site. The developer, who has built more than 13,000 units of housing in the New York City region, has also started construction on a six-story, 100,000-square-foot commercial complex in Gowanus after receiving a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure last year and is closely monitoring air quality levels after community members complained about construction there.
Matthew Janeczko is making a big splash on the North Shore after New York City chose a proposal Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corp. was a part of to build 360 units on a former naval station site on Front Street. The Yonkers-based nonprofit developer is offering an intriguing mix of amenities, including a YMCA counseling center, a social and health program for seniors and a medical office, while reserving units for 54 formerly unhoused individuals. Janeczko has experience working with homeless people, having run more than a dozen affordable housing projects and shelters for seniors.
James Prendamano, Staten Island’s most well-known Realtor, joined the firm his mother founded 25 years ago but eventually found that property transactions were migrating to digital spaces. So Prendamano started his own agency in April and split his team into digital and marketing divisions with an office in Bulls Head, and produced a podcast. He has been marketing retail in South Shore Commons and offering advice to homeowners looking to sell their homes. By August, Prendamano had moved his headquarters to Tottenville and celebrated its grand opening.
Since 1965, the residential and commercial builder Frank Naso and his eponymous firm have been responsible for a multitude of developments across Staten Island, including Harbor Park, Bradley Park and Highview Park estates, fulfilling the dreams of Staten Islanders hoping to own their own homes at a time when the market for starter homes is tighter than ever. Naso has also led the Building Industry Association of New York City for a decade.
Hailed as the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Richmond County’s public administrator, Edwina Frances Martin stepped up to the plate to protect the property of Staten Islanders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw large numbers of people dying and leaving behind homes and belongings. In addition to looking after property and locating inheritors, Martin makes sure that everyone who dies without any surviving relatives to make arrangements is given a proper burial on Staten Island.
Bianca Rajpersaud sent the borough’s Democratic political class chattering when she announced she would run to fill retiring state Sen. Diane Savino’s open North Shore seat, with her boyfriend Assembly Member Charles Fall’s backing. The New York Post compared the Staten Island power couple to Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian, and Rajpersaud racked up four Assembly endorsements as well as Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s nod, but the government relations specialist faced ethics questions over her lobbying of Fall. Rajpersaud ultimately lost to her Democratic rival Jessica Scarcella-Spanton in the primary.
For more than 25 years, Candace Gonzalez has been crafting the New York Center for Interpersonal Development’s budgets and developing its strategic vision to better carry out its mission of helping young people resolve conflicts through constructive problem-solving and offering peer and family meditation programs. After the group’s longtime director, Dominick Brancato, died from COVID-19 complications at the start of the pandemic, Gonzalez helped stabilize the organization through her steady leadership and is continuing Brancato’s legacy.
Katia Gordon has the unenviable task of explaining to people why their utility bills have been rising steadily over the past year. Many Staten Islanders already socked by inflation are struggling to pay their electric bills. The energy company said it needs to upgrade its gas and electric facilities, and the state’s transition to clean renewable energy isn’t going to be cheap. And the utility warns that prices are going to rise even more over the winter, due to higher natural gas prices.
Carol Decina has helped her utility build goodwill thanks to her dedication to philanthropy and community service. This summer, Decina and her colleagues planted a vegetable garden at a Eden II residential group home. Then, in September, National Grid workers helped clean and weed tree beds along the Bay Street Corridor for the company’s second annual Day of Service. She’ll have the challenge of dealing with borough customers this winter as National Grid bills are expected to soar 28% thanks to price increases on the wholesale market.
Michelle Molina is executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante, which primarily serves the Port Richmond neighborhood. The center, which opened in 1997 amid a rise in hate crimes against immigrants, offers a safe site for day laborers to be connected with prospective employers. The community center provides various other services, such as a food pantry, English classes, tax help and legal assistance with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The center also attracted many Latinos from other boroughs as a trusted site to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and offered help during the pandemic with rent, burial costs and hospital bills.
Samir Farag spent his career as a maritime engineer, but his side hustle of collecting maritime antiques and navigational instruments eventually resulted in the creation of the Museum of Maritime Navigation & Communication. The museum suffered a fire that destroyed its Bay Street headquarters in February 2021, but Farag has continued to facilitate educational programs for primary schools and introduced a STEM learning program after the damage. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of Staten Island.
The effort to open Staten Island’s National Lighthouse Museum was commandeered by Linda Dianto in 2010. Now, this hub of American maritime history offers tours by land and sea, and hosts a variety of educational programs for children like the after-school Young Mariner’s Adventure Program. A self-proclaimed champion of underdog projects, Dianto is also an advocate for social justice, whether it’s building a playground for the disabled or spreading awareness about domestic abuse among young women– and now works overtime to ensure the borough’s centuries-old lighthouse history keeps shining.
Five years ago, Janice Monger left the Alice Austen House to run Staten Island’s eponymous museum to help it grow and reach a diverse audience. Under Monger’s leadership, the Staten Island Museum put out an open call for its “Yes, And” exhibit featuring borough-based artists that opened in June, partnered with community organizations to celebrate Black History Month and launched a paid museum fellowship position in partnership with The Staten Island Foundation. This spring, the museum’s treasures were featured on a WNET series.
For about six years, Janet Dugo has been working to make Stapleton a dining and recreation destination by helping restaurants thrive and by beautifying downtown Staten Island. Her Staten Island Chamber of Commerce colleagues joined National Grid workers for a day of service in September to clean up the Bay Street Corridor, where she is a project manager for the Neighborhood 360 Program. She also presented restaurateur Ettore Mazzei with an award for his work revitalizing the North Shore.
After sustaining injuries as an emergency medical services responder on 9/11, Aaron Bogad pivoted to the education sector in Staten Island as an engaged parent and an advocate for school safety and other initiatives. Having worn an assortment of hats, including that of president of the District 31 High School President’s Council and the PTA, Bogad is now bringing his familiarity with his school district as Borough President Vito Fossella’s appointee to the New York City Panel for Educational Policy, tackling challenges facing Staten Island’s education, such as expansion of sports programs.
Mentorship guru and former TD Bank executive John Amodio has been helping Staten Islanders connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and obtain resources to improve their businesses for the past nine years. In February, Amodio was honored with an award for establishing the Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards, named after his former mentor, and for his service. Amodio has also been a member of the Rotary Club of Staten Island for 42 years and lectured frequently at the borough’s three colleges.
When the New York City Board of Elections flubbed a preliminary vote count in the mayoral primary last summer, Michael Ryan had been on medical leave, forcing the agency to rely on a deputy. Ryan vowed to clean up the mess and brought in former City Council Member Vincent Ignizio in December. Ignizio, who left Catholic Charities of Staten Island, pledged to make the board’s operations more transparent. So far, elections have gone smoothly this year despite a drawn-out redistricting process that led to two different primaries.
This spring, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik helped lead a Ukraine war prayer vigil and relief efforts with Wagner College to collect medical supplies, diapers, batteries and clothing to be shipped overseas. But Mirocznik is just as focused on helping Staten Island’s most vulnerable residents. The Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island leader and former New York City Council candidate hosted interfaith meetings with City Hall officials and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to ensure government agencies work with local community organizations.
Moria Cappio has led the Children’s Aid’s early childhood division since 2014 and has been instrumental in helping the nonprofit become more reliant on data to determine the effectiveness of its educational curricula while also mapping student progress. This year, the organization’s Goodhue Community Center in New Brighton received $494,000 in federal funding to spruce up its gymnasium floor among other improvements, following a $53 million grant to build a new community center, enclose its outdoor pool and preserve 11 acres that will become a park.
Boosting the supply of affordable housing and making homes more resilient from the effects of climate change are two of Mayor Eric Adams’ top housing priorities. Laura LoBianco Sword, who joined the New York City Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery in 2014, has been helping the new administration work with homeowners affected by hurricanes primarily through its Build it Back Better program. She also serves on the board of the Central Family Life Center, a group committed to reducing retaliatory violence.
For six years, Kelly Vilar has harnessed the energy of Staten Island’s youth to build livable neighborhoods. This year, Vilar and her Staten Island Urban Center members trekked to Albany to demand $15 billion in climate investments in the state budget, pushed the New York City Economic Development Corp. to reopen the waterfront and incorporate the community in its planning and demanded the city form a committee to address the needs of a new homeless shelter on Bay Street.
Staten Island architect and former AIA New York President Timothy Boyland has taken a leadership role in resiliency planning in the decade since Superstorm Sandy. Boyland applauded the Adams administration on revamping the New York City Department of Buildings by adding late hours and eliminating regulatory hurdles. Known for designing a $91 million senior housing complex at the old Farm Colony, Boyland had been a partner of the firm V+B Architecture/Urban Planning in St. George before launching his own firm in January 2021.
Two years ago, Mohammed Karim Chowdhury was working with the Staten Island Liberian Community Association to form an immigrant caucus within the Staten Island Democratic Party. A diverse array of candidates declared for office in 2022, although few immigrants have made it past the primary. But Chowdhury isn’t deterred: Last December, he hosted the Alliance of South Asian American Labor’s 14th annual convention in Flushing, bringing together Asian American labor leaders and elected officials to discuss their goals and shared challenges.
During Allen Cappelli’s short stint as a city planning commissioner in the de Blasio era, he voted to close Rikers Island and “hesitantly” approved the Two Bridges development plan. But his most significant accomplishment may be proposing how to overhaul the property tax system that would alleviate the burden on Staten Island homeowners – if it ever gets taken up. In the meantime, Cappelli has represented a heroin dealer in criminal court, praised Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first budget and pondered about former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s next move in the New York Post.
Brittany Ramos DeBarros may have lost the Democratic primary to former Rep. Max Rose while pulling only 21% of the vote, but the future is bright for the borough’s most well-known democratic socialist. She served in Afghanistan and became a favorite of the borough’s advocacy community. She raised nearly $600,000 by April – not even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised that kind of money so fast in her first run – but Rose outraised her by triple that amount and refused to debate before the primary election.
A perfect storm that featured an uptick in COVID-19 infections among staff and long-standing crew shortages led New York City to reduce Staten Island Ferry schedules in July. Roland Rexha blamed labor challenges on low wages and a competitive job market while noting that workers have not received a raise in 12 years. He even mentioned that Staten Island Ferry management asked workers to sleep in their cars to keep the boats running on time. By August, Rexha and the city met with a mediator to reach a new ferry workers’ contract, although Rexha warned rolling reductions could recur.
Former Rep. Max Rose’s congressional comeback bid has faced significant headwinds – a wobbly economy, an unpopular Democrat in the White House, a judge’s decision to discard redistricting maps that would have benefited Rose – but campaign manager Carl Sanford is still doing all he can to propel his boss back to the U.S. House of Representatives. Sanford already guided Rose to victory in a competitive Democratic primary and has helped him pose a credible threat to Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.
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