In the opening credits of “Working Girl,” Carly Simon sings, “Let all the dreamers wake the nation” as Melanie Griffith’s character, Staten Islander Tess McGill, rides the Staten Island Ferry to work in lower Manhattan. McGill may have spent the film faking it until she makes it. But in real life, Staten Islanders don’t need to fake it – they’re making it just fine on their own, as the dreamers that are waking the nation.
New York City’s other, bigger boroughs may hog the limelight, but Staten Islanders have plenty of pluck and perseverance as they make sure they’re not overlooked or forgotten. The city’s smallest borough is a destination in its own right, with major economic investments and thriving cultural centers. And Staten Island’s leaders – never a quiet bunch – have no problem saying “enough is enough” when they don’t like how they’re treated.
Meet the Staten Islanders who are putting their borough on the map.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis has gained clout in Washington, D.C., while continuing to be outspoken in New York. This year, she joined the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where she is championing tax cuts. Back home, the former New York City mayoral candidate has called for Staten Island to secede from the city. She has also been critical of Mayor Eric Adams’ approach to the migrant crisis and does not want asylum-seekers housed on Staten Island. She also partnered with Democratic Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres to introduce legislation to block Adams’ proposed overhaul of city retiree health benefits.
Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon wants City Hall and Albany to know that he’s angry about crime. Coasting unopposed to a third term this fall, the Democratic prosecutor is critical of state lawmakers for their approach to bail reform and criminal justice, and he’s calling out city leaders for decreasing the police presence in the borough as the population has increased. A former member of Congress, McMahon has joined fellow borough leaders to oppose housing asylum-seekers at Fort Wadsworth.
The South Shore member of the New York City Council, Joseph Borelli uses his perch as leader of the small-but-growing minority caucus to be the conservative voice in a legislative chamber dominated by progressives. The outspoken politician traveled to Washington, D.C., in September to tell a congressional committee about the impact of asylum-seekers in New York. Borelli told Fox News that President Joe Biden’s administration has failed on border issues, and he has introduced legislation to allow Staten Island to secede from the city.
Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella has found himself in the middle of a number of federal issues impacting the borough. The former member of Congress called on President Joe Biden to address the migrant crisis and is pushing New York City leaders to address the right to shelter consent decree. Fossella has said that asylum-seekers should be housed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., instead of Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth. Fossella announced he would fund a study about Staten Island secession, a plan that received bipartisan backing.
New York City Council Member Kamillah Hanks, who represents the North Shore, has been hard at work pushing new development on Staten Island’s northern waterfront. In September, the Democrat joined Mayor Eric Adams to announce a $400 million project to build a two-acre park to spur development, part of the city’s new North Shore Action Plan. Hanks opposes Staten Island secession, but endorsed Borough President Vito Fossella’s study, saying it can provide data about Staten Island’s overall economic impact on New York City.
It’s been a banner year for Dr. Brahim Ardolic’s Staten Island University Hospital, which has had a small part in one of the biggest news stories in the world. In September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy toured the hospital to visit wounded Ukrainian soldiers during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. In February, Staten Island resident Joe DiMartino and his family’s well-known interactive Christmas light display raised over a record $75,000 for the hospital’s pediatric cancer center.
Daniel Messina has had a busy year leading the Richmond University Medical Center, which is in the middle of $250 million in development. In July alone, the hospital chief oversaw the appointment of a new health inequities manager to address issues on Staten Island, the bestowing of a national award for stroke treatment and the appointment of a new medical staff president. Messina also oversaw the opening of a new $40 million surgical center.
Assembly Member Charles Fall’s focus has extended beyond the North Shore of Staten Island, as redistricting added lower Manhattan and a small sliver of Brooklyn to his Assembly district. The Assembly’s assistant majority leader has tackled a number of transportation affordability issues, including legislation to exempt Staten Island residents from paying the toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and legislation to exempt Staten Island and Battery Park City residents from congestion pricing charges, since the borough is the only one where residents have to pay a toll to drive to another borough.
The Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1895, advocates for more than 14,000 businesses across the borough, including 700 member companies. Many of them are opposed to congestion pricing, and so Chamber President and CEO Linda Baran and Chair Frank Scarangello invited Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair and CEO Janno Lieber to the borough to hear directly from business leaders about the adverse impact of congestion pricing on Staten Island and the borough’s high tolls.
State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton succeeded her former boss, Diane Savino, in the state Senate earlier this year. Scarcella-Spanton was outspoken in her opposition to LGBTQ+ groups being barred from the borough’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Scarcella-Spanton was also supportive of the new contract for Staten Island Ferry workers and opposed a proposal to house migrants at Fort Wadsworth. She chairs the state Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee.
Staten Island is the largest Republican bastion in New York City, and Assembly Member Michael Tannousis is now the borough’s Republican in chief. The representative for the island’s East Shore as well as Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, took the helm of the Staten Island Republican Party last fall. The son of Greek Cypriot immigrants who left the Mediterranean island nation after the Turkish invasion, Tannousis said he wants to focus on Republican outreach efforts to first- and second-generation Americans. Legislatively, Tannousis has pushed efforts to keep transit fares low and reduce retail store theft.
State Senate Deputy Minority Leader Andrew Lanza used his perch on the Judiciary Committee to make a politically driven stance praising Justice Hector LaSalle, even though the jurist’s nomination for state chief judge failed. He has also called on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to prosecute assaults against nurses. In September, Lanza teamed with state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt to voice opposition to any potential tax hikes related to asylum-seekers. Lanza, the top Republican on committees overseeing New York City issues and the city’s schools, passed legislation to create an Alzheimer’s disease awareness license plate.
South Shore Assembly Member Michael Reilly has made safety and security a key part of his legislative agenda in Albany, and he’s scoring wins. Reilly’s advocacy to get the New York City Department of Education to lock school front doors and install buzzers got some traction with the announcement of a pilot program at four schools, including one in Great Kills. Reilly joined other city Republicans in September in demanding that Gov. Kathy Hochul call lawmakers into a special session on the migrant crisis.
Assembly Member Sam Pirozzolo, who’s known around the borough for his past role as president of Community Education Council 31, took his education advocacy to Albany this year with his election to the Assembly. The Assembly Education Committee member has been critical of plans to house migrants on Staten Island, placing the blame with President Joe Biden. He teamed up with state Sen. Andrew Lanza to introduce legislation to ban battery energy storage facilities on Staten Island, saying the technology is untested and could cause explosions or fires near homes and schools.
While many communities across the country are bemoaning the loss of local news, Staten Islanders are reading the Advance to learn about everything going on from the North Shore to the South Shore and all across Mid-Island. Brian Laline, the paper’s executive editor, opines on a variety of issues in his column, including the Clean Slate Act, the migrant crisis and the Sandy Ground historic site. Caroline Diamond Harrison is CEO of the paper’s parent company, Advance Local, which includes newspapers in New Jersey, Alabama, Oregon, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Mid-Island Republican David Carr is the chair of the newly created bipartisan Italian Caucus on the New York City Council. Carr, who is of half-Italian ancestry, said Staten Island has the highest density of Italian American residents of any county in the country. He called on city leaders to stick with Columbus Day, saying the name – instead of Italian Heritage Day and Indigenous Peoples Day – is important as a way of recognizing Italian American achievements. Carr has been working on flood mitigation on Staten Island, open a new gifted and talented school and authored a new law to provide relief on high interest rate for New Yorkers who are past due on their property taxes.
The owners of Staten Island’s largest private real estate development firm, Richard and Lois Nicotra continue to work to shape the future of the borough. The couple’s Nicotra Foundation topped $1 million in grants awarded to groups in Staten Island this year. Lois Nicotra said that while the foundation exceeded the million-dollar mark, there will be no slowing the flow of the couple’s grantmaking. Last year, the couple opened a new rooftop farm. And in October, Staten Island University Hospital honored the couple for their dedication to the borough.
Some borough presidents fade quietly into retirement after a stint in Borough Hall, but not Jimmy Oddo. Following a post-borough presidency year in New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ City Hall as chief of staff to the deputy mayor for operations, Oddo became New York City’s buildings commissioner this year. Oddo’s new job puts him in the thick of a number of contentious issues, including the implementation of Local Law 97, the city’s ambitious climate law.
A top lobbying firm with a deep client list in labor, real estate and nonprofits, Pitta, Bishop & Del Giorno (and its affiliated law firm, Pitta LLP) is a power broker in New York City and state – and on Staten Island. The firm’s clients include Richmond University Medical Center, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Transport Workers Union Local 100. Co-founder Vincent Pitta has started a succession plan involving his son, Vito Pitta, who was a trusted campaign adviser to New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Nancy Hagans and Pat Kane have a clear message for New York’s leaders: Do not mess with nurses. The Staten Island-based leaders of the politically powerful New York State Nurses Association led a successful nurses strike this year in order to secure higher pay and improved patient staffing ratios for nurses, including historic agreements with some of the largest hospital systems in New York City. Hagans joined the Council of Presidents within National Nurses United earlier this year.
Michael Cusick has found there’s life after Albany. The former Assembly Energy Committee chair joined the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. in January after wrapping up his tenure in the state Legislature. Shortly after joining the organization, Cusick brought Gov. Kathy Hochul to Staten Island to keynote an annual business conference, where Hochul praised the borough as a place of “true patriots” and outlined her vision for Staten Island’s economy. Hochul named Cusick to the New York Power Authority board earlier this year.
The Staten Island Foundation, led by Executive Director Laura Jean Watters and Chair Kathryn Rooney, aims to improve the lives of borough residents with a focus on education, health care, the arts and community services. Recent grants include $50,000 to the Partnership with Children for a school social work director, $25,000 to Bridge Preparatory Charter School for dyslexia education teacher training, $10,000 to the Staten Island Hebrew Public School for a music and puppetry program, $25,000 to the Citizens Committee for New York City for Staten Island microgrants and $25,000 to the Snug Harbor Little League for field lighting.
Last year Anthony Reinhart moved from his post as chair of the Staten Island Republican Party to serve as the party’s vice chair and chief operating officer. A Republican leader in New York City’s largest GOP bastion, Reinhart spent 2022 pushing the need to replace Gov. Kathy Hochul. Last year, Reinhart supported a decision of the court-appointed special master to not include Staten Island in a congressional district with Democratic-heavy Park Slope, Brooklyn. He’s also a project coordinator for the New York City Board of Elections.
Soap opera actor, New York City Council minority leader, mayoral Cabinet member, city planning commissioner, Midtown Manhattan business leader, nonprofit board member – Fred Cerullo has done it all, and continues to be a New Yorker who gets stuff done. The Grand Central Partnership chief was named earlier this year by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams to the “New” New York panel, which was charged with charting the city’s economic future. In his swath of Midtown, Cerullo saw 89 new businesses open as he and other city leaders chart the future of the neighborhood.
Diane Savino knows Albany, and she’s putting that knowledge to use for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. After being succeeded by state Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, her protégé, the former lawmaker joined Adams’ staff as a top adviser on state and federal affairs under mayoral Chief Adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin. The former organized labor official co-founded the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference in Albany and chaired committees focused on banking, labor, civil service, children and technology.
A year after pulling off a victory in forming the Amazon Labor Union, Staten Islander Chris Smalls is leading the union through its next phase, navigating Amazon’s refusal to bargain with the upstart organizers. Smalls has maintained a hectic national schedule in his role as one of the newest public faces of the American labor movement. In September, he was in Maine to discuss labor organizing in the Pine Tree State and in April spoke to Cornell University students in Ithaca about labor organizing. Another key part of ALU’s leadership is organizer Michelle Valentin Nieves, who serves as its vice president.
As the borough’s Surrogate’s Court judge, Matthew Titone handles some of the most sensitive issues on Staten Island. Titone oversees probate of wills and estates for Staten Island, along with adoptions and guardianship issues for infants and the developmentally disabled. Titone, Staten Island’s first out gay elected official and the state’s first out gay Surrogate’s Court judge, was an Assembly member prior to his 2018 election to the judgeship. This year, Titone launched new outreach efforts regarding guardianship of adults with developmental disabilities.
Since joining the Community Health Center of Richmond in 2009 as interim CEO – becoming CEO in 2010 – Henry Thompson has presided over the health care system’s impressive growth. The center now operates two facilities in Port Richmond and two in Stapleton. In February, Thompson announced that a New Dorp lot that used to house a catering hall and comedy club would be the location of a new health center, funded in part by a $2 million grant from the state Department of Health.
Described as a place where you can “be one with nature” in New York City, Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden has had an action-packed year. Snug Harbor’s 38th annual Neptune Ball celebrated the dedicated service of board Chair Mark Lauria and his wife, Laura, to the iconic Staten Island institution. At the end of September, the cultural center hosted its second annual dance festival and in the spring brought bluegrass/hip-hop fusion band Gangstagrass to Staten Island for a daylong festival.
For over two decades, Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala has held a low-profile office that carries out essential functions. Fiala serves as the clerk of the state Supreme Court on Staten Island, which means he oversees all land records for the borough and is the borough passport officer and the borough’s commissioner of jurors. The former New York City Council member is the only one of New York City’s five county clerks to serve as their borough’s register of deeds.
Terry Troia has been toiling to end hunger, homelessness and poverty – and to address mental health on Staten Island for almost four decades. The longtime leader of Project Hospitality has positioned the interfaith social services nonprofit to address many critical issues, including HIV/AIDS, mental health and the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. When New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on faith leaders to assist in housing asylum-seekers, Troia was quick to volunteer while joining other Staten Island faith leaders in asking borough residents to welcome the migrants.
Claire Atalla became the new leader of Catholic Charities of Staten Island last year, taking the helm of the social services nonprofit as it continues to serve the needs of people across the borough. This past spring, Catholic Charities hosted an immigrant resources fair in Port Richmond to better connect new immigrants to New York City with city and community programs. The organization also hosted 500 people for their annual Easter family event earlier this year.
Gwen Carr has become a leading activist on police brutality and civil rights issues since the death of her son, Eric Garner, at the hands of police. Carr this year voiced her opposition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to ban menthol cigarettes. Carr said the move unfairly targets Black smokers, citing studies that show flavored cigarettes are preferred by Black smokers. She also said the ban would cause policing issues. In January, she was honored with the Super Happy Healthy Kids award for her advocacy work.
Timothy Lynch became president of the College of Staten Island in July after serving 18 months as interim president. Lynch came to Staten Island from Queens, where he was provost of Queensborough Community College and also had a stint as interim president. He also was provost of SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. In the spring, Lynch announced a $900,000 investment in the college by Leading Light Wind to create an offshore wind energy education and workforce development program, part of a multipronged investment strategy by the energy company in the borough.
Diane Arneth has spent her career focused on improving the health of Staten Islanders, starting with her founding of the Staten Island Teen Pregnancy Network in 1981. Last fall, she teamed with the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. to stage a major health care event for the borough, saying that the event would allow Staten Islanders to take control of their health care future. Her organization, Community Health Action of Staten Island, is part of Sun River Health.
Luke Nasta has taken his personal experience battling drug addiction and used it to help others struggling with substance use. Nasta, the CEO of Camelot, has been hyperfocused on addressing the opioid crisis. Earlier this year, Nasta was critical of Gov. Kathy Hochul for not dedicating more funding to the opioid crisis in her budget proposal, saying that her actions did not match her public pledge to combat opioids. In May, the New York City Buildings Department approved plans for Camelot to build a new facility for women and children.
The leader of Staten Island’s judiciary since 2017, Desmond Green has been focused on leading the courts system through the COVID-19 pandemic, along with reopening a restored courthouse earlier this year. In December, Green oversaw the first Hispanic Heritage Celebration at the Richmond County Courthouse. The event’s keynote speaker was Second Department Presiding Judge Hector LaSalle, who was unsuccessfully nominated by Gov. Kathy Hochul for state chief judge. Prior to becoming the borough’s top jurist, Green presided over criminal and civil cases in Staten Island and Brooklyn.
The first Staten Islander to serve on the board of directors of the New York City Economic Development Corp., Mark Russo is focused on the insurance needs of borough residents when he’s not focusing on growing the city’s economy. Russo is a key civic leader on Staten Island in addition to his economic development work, including serving as chair of Meals on Wheels of Staten Island. His RPM Insurance Agency has been in business for over a century.
Murad Awawdeh is getting stuff done for New York’s immigrant community and pushing public officials to address the migrant crisis. The executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition helped spur the New York City Council to override Mayor Eric Adams’ veto of housing program legislation. He has been focused on the city’s shelter system for asylum-seekers with a goal of moving people to permanent housing quicker – and he called out Adams for considering the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan as housing for the migrants.
Edward Burke may be allowed to leave Staten Island Borough Hall one day, but then again, no one else may know how to open up in the morning. Burke entered Borough Hall as then-Borough President Guy Molinari’s spokesperson in 1990, then went on to a two-decade run as deputy borough president under Borough Presidents James Molinaro and Jimmy Oddo. He planned to retire last year – but Borough President Vito Fossella asked him to stay on as a senior adviser. The influential Burke is best known for his intense focus on developing and promoting the borough’s parks.
When Brendan Lantry took the oath of office last year and donned the black robe of a New York City Civil Court judge at age 35, he became New York City’s youngest judge. And the former Staten Island Republican Party chair has kept moving. After serving only one year of his 10-year Civil Court term, Lantry last year was elected to a 14-year term as a state Supreme Court justice, where he has been assigned to hear criminal cases in Manhattan.
Yesenia Mata, whose own parents were undocumented immigrants, is an advocate for undocumented immigrant workers in New York City. Mata has called for child care for her workers, noting that it allows immigrants to be able to work. She was a key part of a coalition that emerged in 2022 that got the city to fund child care for the children of undocumented workers when the state budget did not. The Staten Island Gigabit Center opened in La Colmena’s Community Job Center, part of the city’s Wi-Fi expansion efforts.
Ken Mitchell has a number of responsibilities: running a beloved Staten Island institution, fundraising and protecting a beloved weather predictor from the mayor. The former New York City Council member now leads the Staten Island Zoo – and he has big plans. Mitchell announced a redesign of the zoo’s entrance, which will be funded by a $15 million investment from the city. This year the zoo partnered with the Pride Center of Staten Island to open a new pollinator garden and held an event to discuss resilient habitats.
Mark Murphy may have come up short in his bid for borough president in 2021, but he has shown that he can have an impact without an office in Borough Hall. Murphy is the president of the Freshkills Park Alliance and administrator of Freshkills Park, leading the 2,200-acre urban park that sits atop the former Fresh Kills Landfill. Murphy’s influence is not just limited to parks and nature, as he is a founder of the Staten Island Industrial Alliance, an advocacy organization for the borough’s maritime industry.
A leader in Staten Island’s faith community, Tony Baker Sr. has been the pastor of St. Philips Baptist Church in Port Richmond for over two decades. Baker joined the church following a career in the U.S. Army. Baker has positioned the church as an integral part of the borough’s faith, advocacy and civil rights communities. Among the programs conducted by the church is a well attended Kwanzaa celebration. Baker led a “150th Plus” anniversary celebration for the church last year since the official anniversary occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
As the only borough without a subway connection to the rest of New York City, Staten Island relies heavily on buses. Labor leader Daniel Cassella is at the wheel, presiding over the union representing the island’s bus drivers. Cassella is upfront about walking a tightrope in the borough’s politics, dealing with both Republican and Democratic leaders as he remains focused solely on buses, and not on anything else. Cassella noted that working with District Attorney Michael McMahon has been helpful in cracking down on violence against bus drivers.
Leading Light Wind, an offshore wind energy project led by Invenergy and energyRe, is not just seeking to generate wind power – Project Director Wes Jacobs said the company wants to invest in Staten Island. The project includes a partnership with the College of Staten Island to create an offshore wind education and workforce development program, including a $900,000 Leading Light Wind investment. Other components include a plan to fund college students to attend wind energy conferences and the creation of new port-related jobs for the project.
New York-area seaports are once again the nation’s busiest, and, as of August, the French shipping company CMA CGM is a key player, having taken over the container terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, and the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island. In September, Peter Levesque, the president of CMA CGM America, announced a $300 million investment into Howland Hook, a project that will yield several hundred new jobs, plus commitments for a push to reduce emissions at the port and use Staten Island labor for the expansion.
When Angelo Araimo retires next year, it will be after slightly over two years as Wagner College’s 20th president, but he’s been a fixture in Grymes Hill for three decades. Araimo assumed the presidency after stints as the college’s admissions director, chief fundraiser and senior vice president. As he enters his final months at Wagner, Araimo shows no signs of slowing down, presiding over 25th anniversary celebrations of the college’s undergraduate curriculum and announcing his intentions to release a new strategic plan.
Carol Bullock is not just Staten Island’s leading advocate for the LGBTQ+ community – she’s one of New York’s top LGBTQ+ rights advocates. Bullock organized a countermarch in the spring when Staten Island St. Patrick’s parade leaders denied the Pride Center’s application to be in the parade. Bullock had many political leaders at her side, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Bullock has also opened a new headquarters for the Pride Center and expanded the organization’s mental health program in recent years, and she serves on the New York City Gender Equity Commission.
A former Staten Island Ferry worker, Roland Rexha has secured himself a place in not only the borough’s power structure but in organized labor history by helping to end one of New York City’s longest wage disputes. Rexha played a key role in negotiating a deal with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to bring a 13-year contract dispute to an end – and the new contract Rexha finalized delivers raises for ferry workers along with upfront payments for back pay. Rexha has also raised concerns over safety for businesses at Staten Island Ferry terminals.
While Bishop Edmund Whalen may now serve on Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s leadership team as the Archdiocese of New York’s vicar for clergy, he is a Staten Islander through and through. A graduate of Monsignor Farrell High School, Whalen taught at the high school and was its principal prior to becoming a bishop. Dolan has said that widespread respect for Whalen among Catholics from his work at Monsignor Farrell and as a pastor on Staten Island was a key factor in his being selected to be the cardinal’s top human resources deputy.
Former Assembly Member Lou Tobacco has led Monsignor Farrell High School since 2019. He also hosted Borough President Vito Fossella’s first annual bocce cup tournament on the Oakwood campus this year, as Tobacco also serves as the director of the school’s summer bocce camp. Monsignor Farrell’s influential alumni include Tobacco, Fossella, state Sen. Andrew Lanza, District Attorney Michael McMahon, New York City Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo, City Council Member David Carr, Assembly Member Michael Tannousis, Bishop Edmund Whalen and Staten Island Economic Development Corp. CEO Michael Cusick.
The Conservative Party may not play a huge role in four boroughs, but in Staten Island it is a key part of the political landscape. David Curcio, the borough’s Conservative Party chair, led the party in early endorsements of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Assembly Member Michael Tannousis in their reelection bids last year. Over the summer, Curcio led mourning in the borough for the late former U.S. Sen. James Buckley, who won his seat as the Conservative Party nominee in 1970.
Victoria Manna knows what’s going on in Staten Island. As the NY1 beat reporter focused on the borough, Manna traverses the island daily, keeping New Yorkers informed of all the happenings across the area. In January, Manna showed the impact of local journalism when a federal immigration judge stayed the deportation of Staten Island resident Julio Patricio hours after Manna’s exclusive report on the man’s case and his family aired.
Staten Island-based Verra Mobility has become one of the most talked about transportation technology companies, and Charles Callari leads business development for the company in New York and across the Northeast. Callari has been a link between Verra and state and city transportation officials on a number of technology projects for over a decade. Among Verra’s projects in New York City include the city’s red light and speed safety cameras.
A longtime community health leader on Staten Island, Adrienne Abbate leads an organization focused on bolstering the health of borough residents. Among Abbate’s top priorities has been to more effectively address the opioid crisis on Staten Island, including pushing for New York City police officers to carry naloxone to address opioid overdoses. Other Partnership projects include addressing behavioral health, child wellness and health equity.
A lot of Brooklynites have ended up on Staten Island over the years, and New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo is no different. The former New York City Council majority leader from Brooklyn now lives with fiancé Bobby Digi, a Staten Islander. Cumbo has seen her department receive its second-largest budget in history and has seen the pandemic-era Open Culture program become law. Cumbo and Digi famously got engaged on the red carpet at the Met Gala.
A onetime district director for then-Rep. Max Rose, Kevin Elkins has traded handling constituent matters in Staten Island and Brooklyn for being a leading political hand in organized labor as political director for the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters. Elkins was a key part of the team that steered the Wage Theft Accountability Act through the state Legislature this year with final approval by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The carpenters union also helped torpedo Hector LaSalle’s nomination as chief judge of the state Court of Appeals.
Overseeing a bank with 38 branches, 400 employees and $5.5 billion in assets spread over two states, Steven M. Klein is busy and influential, both on Staten Island and off of it. Klein manages to dedicate time to a number of community and business groups. He is a trustee of Richmond University Medical Center and, in New Jersey, he serves on the board of Middlesex Water Company, a hop, skip and jump across the Outerbridge Crossing.
Philip Guarnieri and Ralph Branca are Staten Island business leaders both in and out of the offices of Empire State Bank. Guarnieri sits on the boards of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. Branca, a former president and CEO of Victory State Bank, chairs the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. He is a former chair of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the Seamen’s Society for Children and Families and the Staten Island Museum and a former president of the Staten Island Boy Scout Council.
Gail Castellano knows Staten Island, and everyone who wants to know how the borough works should have this Staten Islander on speed dial. Castellano’s day job involves overseeing a bank with 20 branches and $2.5 billion in deposits – but that’s just part of her influence. Castellano is a key community leader, serving on the boards of notable organizations, including the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the St. George Theatre. She is a former president of the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island.
A longtime legal, community and political leader in the borough, Robert Scamardella is as Staten Island as they come. A former Republican Party chair in Staten Island, Scamardella now dedicates much of his time to supporting the borough’s civic affairs and community groups. The longtime chair of the DaVinci Society at Wagner College, Scamardella presided over the group’s annual dinner in September, which had a record-setting attendance of 500 people.
Dr. Vincent Calamia is prepared to do battle for Staten Island every day. The physician and veteran hospital executive has served over a decade on the board of New York City Health + Hospitals. When he was confirmed by the New York City Council in 2011, Calamia pledged to use his perch to fight for Staten Island residents to get their share of city-funded health care. He is a former chief executive officer of Victory Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn and a former president of the Richmond County Medical Society.
One of the most influential voices on Staten Island, Frank Morano is a staple of New York City’s late night talk radio landscape. Morano, a former leader of the borough’s Reform Party, joined a protest against a migrant shelter at Midland Beach this summer. Among the topics he has addressed recently on X, formerly known as Twitter, include CEO salaries at the Big Three American automakers, Rep. Lauren Boebert’s behavior and antibiotic resistance.
Peter Giunta, whose day job is as chief of staff to Assembly Member Michael Reilly, was reelected to a second two-year term as chair of the New York State Young Republicans this summer. Giunta has been outspoken on a number of national issues in his Young Republicans role, including supporting the impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden, whom Giunta called “the most corrupt president of our generation.” Giunta also spoke out against the prosecutions against former President Donald Trump.
The Rev. Demetrius Carolina Sr. is a key figure not just in Staten Island’s faith community but in the civic life of the borough and New York City as a whole. The senior pastor of First Central Baptist Church this year transitioned away from the executive directorship of the Central Family Life Center after mentoring the nonprofit’s new leader. Carolina has served on the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city Water Board and as a city human rights commissioner. In June, he was honored by the Joan and Alan Bernikow JCC at its annual golf and tennis classic.
The leader of an iconic Staten Island institution, Doreen Cugno co-founded the St. George Theatre with Luanne Sorrentino, saving the venerable venue from demolition. The 2,800-seat theater first opened in 1929 and had a storied history until the 1970s, when it was vacated and then largely sat for the next 30 years. Cugno and Sorrentino stepped up with a plan to preserve the venue and grow it into a destination institution for New Yorkers engaged in theater and the arts.
Jasmine Robinson, Abou Sy Diakhate and Robert Perkins, are Democratic Party leaders for the North Shore, are working to grow their party in the strongest Republican bastion of New York City. Robinson and Perkins were elected in 2021 as district leaders, working to encourage more Democrats to get involved in the party, including helping with voter registration. Robinson has been supportive of Staten Island groups that have been working to support asylum-seekers. Perkins stepped down as a district leader this year with Diakhate being elected to succeed him in the party post. Diakhate, a leader in Staten Island's Senegalese community, is a co-chair of the Staten Island Immigrants Council, a board member of Community Health Action of Staten Island and the Staten Island Long Term Recovery Organization.
Nick Lembo is transforming the North Shore waterfront. The head of Monadnock Development is developing a 360-unit mixed-use affordable housing development in Stapleton, partnering on the project with Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corp. The project is also part of the New York City Economic Development Corp. New Stapleton Waterfront initiative, which is aiming to redevelop the former Staten Island Homeport after it was shut by the U.S. Navy at the end of the Cold War.
Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corp. focuses on developing housing for those in need with projects in Staten Island, Manhattan and Rockland County. This year, Executive Director and CEO Matthew Janeczko marked the completion of a $42 million development of 93 homes in Nanuet in Rockland County, which was praised by Gov. Kathy Hochul. Closer to home on Staten Island, the corporation in the summer was selected by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to develop 300 affordable housing units in Stapleton.
A leader in Staten Island’s real estate and business communities, James Prendamano cannot be contained to just one island. This year, Prendamano launched a real estate investment arm of his real estate company, with a focus on New Mexico. Prendamano’s New Mexico base is strategically located near Richard Branson’s Spaceport operations and key tourism spots. Back home in New York, Prendamano has established himself as a key thought leader on real estate issues and the Staten Island economy.
Bianca Rajpersaud works with clients at the top-tier government relations and law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron on a number of legislative and regulatory issues, including the city and state budgets, cannabis policy and zoning issues. Now president of the North Shore Democratic Club, Rajpersaud was formerly communications director for then-Assembly Member Michael Cusick and a communications staffer at the Association for a Better New York. Rajpersaud unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat last year.
Michelle Molina wants to make sure immigrants are safe and financially secure. As the executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante, Molina oversees an immigrant economic empowerment organization that is focused on operating a community job center and working to connect day laborers with jobs. Molina has been focused on creating a safe location to connect day laborers with employers, along with offering language classes, a food pantry and legal assistance. Molina has also served on an immigrant hate crimes task force for the district attorney’s office.
Jim Easley is a top leader in Staten Island’s business community, as he runs the iconic Staten Island Mall. Easley presided over a major renovation and expansion of the mall, which was completed before the coronavirus pandemic and continues to press ahead with promoting the mall and the borough’s retail climate. Easley joined New York City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli and borough economic development officials to launch a campaign to shop local. Easley also welcomed a new Peking duck shop to the mall this year.
In the movie “Working Girl,” Melanie Griffith’s character, Staten Islander Tess McGill, was told not to simply pay her Con Ed bill but to have a good time when her former secretarial colleagues take up a collection for her. In real life, it’s Con Edison that is investing in Staten Island. The utility company has opened up a 7.5-megawatt battery storage system on Staten Island, New York City’s largest, as part of the company’s clean energy strategy. Katia Gordon and Josh Rivera are Con Edison’s point people on Staten Island, working with community groups, community leaders and officials across the borough on the utility’s work.
Carol Decina is National Grid’s point person on Staten Island, driving community outreach and engagement with the borough’s customers and local organizations. Decina has been active in leading National Grid’s efforts to have the energy company’s staff dedicate time to community service projects, including a community beautification project at Eden II and a Bay Street cleanup project with Downtown Staten Island. This spring, National Grid awarded a $25,000 grant to Wagner College for a professional development program for first-generation and underrepresented business students.
The leader of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island, Mendy Mirocznik is influential in New York City faith circles. In June, Mirocznik was appointed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to the city’s first Jewish Advisory Council, where he said he expected antisemitic hate crimes to top the agenda. Mirocznik said he wants to elevate the work Staten Island’s faith community has done on these issues to the citywide level. Mirocznik has worked closely with police leaders on Staten Island on security.
A key leader in Staten Island’s faith community, Zurkani Vardar has been forging relationships with leaders across the borough and across New York City. In April, Mayor Eric Adams concluded his five-borough tour of New York City’s Islamic communities with a stop at the AICC in Tompkinsville, which included a conversation with Vardar. In 2022, the AICC’s Ramadan events included a cross section of Staten Island’s faith leaders, along with Adams, then-Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Assembly Member Charles Fall.
Michael Ryan and Vincent Ignizio may have some of the toughest jobs in government: managing New York City’s elections at a time when administrators nationwide contend with conspiracy theories about election security and the technology of voting machines. Ignizio, a former New York City Council minority leader, joined fellow Staten Islander Ryan – a former district attorney candidate – at the elections agency in late 2021 following criticism of the previous deputy executive director’s mismanagement of the implementation of ranked choice voting while Ryan was on medical leave.
Laura LoBianco Sword has plenty on her plate electing Democrats in New York City’s most conservative borough, but she’s also had to navigate a conflict within her own party over the next Democratic elections commissioner for the borough. New York City Council Member Kamillah Hanks blocked Sword’s first pick for the post, former Council Member Debi Rose, though Sword and Hanks reached a deal to place attorney Michele Sileo, the former star of Oprah Winfrey Network show “Staten Island Law” in the commissionership.
Edwina Frances Martin holds a little known but important public office as Staten Island’s public administrator, where she administers the estates of those who died without wills or someone to administer their estate. Martin has focused on increasing public outreach of estate planning, in part through an active Facebook page, and is continuing a tradition of not having Staten Islanders buried on Hart Island. While Martin’s office may not be well known, some of her counterparts have parlayed it to higher office; former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato started his public career as Nassau County public administrator.
Linda Dianto is leading the National Lighthouse Museum through a major fundraising effort and basking in the afterglow of a royal visit. Last October, Britain’s Princess Anne, a lighthouse enthusiast, toured the museum, rode the Staten Island Ferry, headlined a museum fundraiser and agreed to be honorary chair of the museum’s fundraising drive. The visit came almost 65 years after Princess Anne’s parents, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, toured Staten Island. The $20 million fundraising campaign’s goals include museum expansion and to solidify the museum’s budget for city officials.
It’s been a busy year for Janice Monger and the Staten Island Museum, with several new exhibits unveiled at the cultural attraction. For Earth Day this year, the museum debuted the “Vulnerable Landscapes” exhibition, with art highlighting the impact of climate change on Staten Island and elsewhere. The museum will host a major exhibition starting in January, “Taking Care: The ‘Black Angels’ of Seaview,” which will highlight the Black nursing staff at Staten Island’s Seaview Hospital who broke racial barriers to care for tuberculosis patients. Monger has been at the institution’s helm since 2017.
A business leader in the field of maritime electronic navigation, Samir Farag is committed to advancing the history of his profession and Staten Island’s role in the maritime industry. Farag is the founder and chair of the Museum of Maritime Navigation and Communication, a Bay Street museum chartered less than a decade ago. Farag has said that the museum is key to recognizing the history of a key industry on Staten Island.
Roxanne Mustafa co-founded Staten Island Women Who March in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016. Since then, Mustafa and her colleagues have positioned the organization into a key progressive political advocacy in the borough. The organization has hosted events centered on a number of progressive causes including gay rights, gun control and combating police brutality, along with continuing to advance its initial work regarding Trump’s priorities while president.
Janet Dugo wants people to get off the Staten Island Ferry at the St. George Terminal and spend time exploring Staten Island’s downtown, including the neighborhoods of St. George, Tompkinsville and Stapleton. Dugo runs Downtown Staten Island, a marketing arm of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce focused on promoting the downtown area on the borough’s North Shore. Last year, Dugo and Downtown Staten Island partnered with National Grid on a day of service focused on cleaning up the Bay Street corridor, a central part of the island’s downtown.
Timothy O’Donovan, a medical malpractice and personal injury attorney and former assistant district attorney on Staten Island, is the current president of the Richmond County Bar Association. O’Donovan opened his Staten Island-based firm in 2010 and has been active in bar activities both on Staten Island and across New York City. He is a former member of the New York City Bar Judiciary Committee, where he vetted city, state and federal judicial candidates.
A personal injury attorney in Brooklyn and Staten Island, Patrick Bisogno is the president of the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association. The association, which advocates for the borough’s trial attorneys, last year feted state Supreme Court Justice Wayne Ozzi and Jerry Judin, the former chief supervising court attorney in the Richmond County Surrogate’s Court, as part of its 58th annual gala. Professionally, Bisogno has a record of success in the courtroom as senior partner at the law firm Bisogno & Meyerson.
Moria Cappio has been moving on up at Children’s Aid. Cappio was promoted from her role as the children’s services organization’s early childhood vice president to the position of chief of staff earlier this year. President and CEO Phoebe Boyer praised Cappio’s work in heading up early childhood programs, including implementing new curriculum, and said she would now be focused on the entire education pipeline. Cappio first joined Children’s Aid in 2006 working on early childhood programs in East Harlem.
Since taking over as the executive director of Nonprofit Staten Island last year, Tatiana Arguello has led the group through a rebranding while fine-tuning the organization’s strategy. The organization hosts an annual conference and awards event, along with a series of programs to assist the borough’s nonprofits. Staten Island nonprofits – 150 of which Nonprofit Staten Island represents across the borough – assist 2 million people annually and have 10,000 volunteers.
A leader in organized labor and the South Asian American community, Mohammed Karim Chowdhury has established himself as a leader for Staten Island as well. Within the labor movement, Chowdhury works on the Alliance of South Asian American Labor’s projects to advocate for South Asian American workers, including growing the political clout of his community. On Staten Island, Chowdhury serves as labor chair of the Staten Island Democratic Party.
Former New York City public advocate candidate and Staten Islander Alex Zablocki now runs the nonprofit that supports New York City Housing Authority residents. Public Housing Community Fund programs include training for NYCHA residents in clean energy careers, food leadership and innovation and a youth technology academy. This summer, the Fund launched a celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Earlier this year, Zablocki praised Rise Light & Power for a renewable energy project in Queens and said the Fund wanted to work with the company on community investment.
The Staten Island Industrial Alliance was founded by a group of Staten Island business and civic leaders to better advocate for the borough’s maritime and marine industrial businesses. Sajira Premabandu of May Ship Repair Contracting Corp. became the association’s new executive director in January. Premabandu has been focused on a number of issues, including growth of marine welding training programs. The alliance’s goals include educating state leaders of the value Staten Island brings to business and obtaining more grants for Staten Island.
A fifth-generation member of a storied tugboat family, Buckley McAllister is a leader in the nation’s tugboat sector. The president of McAllister Towing, McAllister is a major player not only in the Port of New York but in ports up and down the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Earlier this year, McAllister teamed up with Rep. Nicole Malliotakis to promote the maritime industry on Staten Island and the future of the tugboat economy. In May, McAllister was elected to the International Maritime Hall of Fame.
The New York Public Library’s point person for Staten Island, Yolanda Gleason has presided over an investment in branch libraries across the borough. This has included $100 million in capital projects by the NYPL in libraries across Staten Island. Gleason is currently overseeing the renovation of the Port Richmond branch library, and last year, she presided over the opening of the new Charleston branch library. Gleason serves on the board of the College of Staten Island Foundation.
The Staten Island-based New York City Digital Media Center hosts a series of programs to introduce middle school and high school students to radio, television, journalism and media skills and production. Jaclyn Tacoronte, a veteran media professional who is the CEO and president of JMT Media, runs the center. Participants in the center’s programs have the opportunity to work with media professionals and gain a better understanding of the profession. Tacoronte is also executive producer of JMT the Beat, an online series focused on Staten Island businesses, arts and entertainment groups.
The Rev. Alfred Correa, the pastor of Brighton Heights Reformed Church, is a key part of Staten Island’s faith community. Correa is active in the National Association of Youth Chaplains and was a youth prison chaplain prior to joining Brighton Heights Reformed Church. The church was founded in the 1800s by former Vice President Daniel Tompkins. Tompkins, the nation’s sixth vice president under former President James Monroe, was New York’s fifth governor prior to his election to the vice presidency.
It hasn’t been a dull year for John Garvey in his role running the Staten Island Ferry. New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Marine Engineers’ Benevolent Association negotiated a new contract, finally ending a 13-year dispute. Garvey is in the process of overseeing the creation of a new apprenticeship program for marine oilers to reduce staffing shortages on the ferry. Garvey’s ferry also gave a ride to Britain’s Princess Anne last year.
Home to the largest remaining forest preserve in New York City, Staten Island’s Greenbelt includes forests, wetlands, meadows and over 35 miles of marked hiking trails, along with several city parks, a cemetery and a country club spread across 2,800 acres. The Greenbelt Conservancy was founded in 1989 to raise funds and awareness of the central Staten Island environmental treasure. Amy Rice, a third-generation Staten Islander, is the organization’s board president and has been active with it for over a decade.
Correction - This article has been updated to state that Robert Perkins is no longer a Democratic Party district leader and that Abou Sy Diakhate is the new district leader for the North Shore.
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