The Staten Island 50
Staten Island is distinctly different from New York City’s four other boroughs. It’s a more close-knit community. Elected officials and business and community leaders seem to work more collaboratively than in the other boroughs, focusing on their common goals instead of their differences.
We wanted to help our readers better understand this unique community by taking a look at the institutions and power structures that influence decisions on the borough level. So after many hours spent reviewing and debating hundreds of nominations, we compiled this list, ranking Staten Island’s 50 most influential people in the intersection of government, business, and nonprofits.
Note: Because there is so much overlap between New York City power brokers and the community leaders in specific boroughs, we set two rules in order to put together a more useful list:
- No elected officials. By removing them, we could expand our view and spotlight people whose influence and power come from their deep ties to the community and their legacy of work.
- Residents only. Many people have business interests in particular boroughs and wield power in those places, but we wanted to highlight the people who call the borough home.
* Special thanks to the Staten Island Advance for permission to use some photos, and to City & State contributor and radio host Frank Morano for his help compiling the list.
#1: Rich and Lois Nicotra
Owners, Nicotra Properties
For nearly three decades, Richard and Lois Nicotra have been building Staten Island – literally. They started investing in the borough’s barren Bloomfield neighborhood in the late ’80s and slowly built a legacy of commercial space and hotels that will stand for decades to come. They currently own more of the borough than anyone else and are always seeking ways to build and reinvest in Staten Island. Their hotels are used by countless politicians and nonprofits for fundraisers and galas, and by business leaders for conventions or other gatherings. And the couple has helped fund dozens of Staten Island nonprofits over the years, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity. The Nicotras’ influence is undeniable. In 2013 when James Oddo was elected borough president, he tapped Lois for his transition team. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio covets Richard’s quotes in press releases touting his achievements, like the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge. Insiders say the couple are consulted on all major development proposals put forth by borough politicians, and that to not do so would be a mistake for any elected.
#2: Brian Laline
Executive Editor, Staten Island Advance
Print media may be dying elsewhere, but on Staten Island the daily newspaper is still king. Important issues and local happenings are often ignored by the city dailies and local TV stations, which is why, with a circulation of 40,000 and a popular website, the Staten Island Advance is the borough’s paper of record. As its executive editor, Brian Laline wields tremendous influence over politics, government, business, nonprofits and culture on the island. He is a must-invite to any nonprofit gala or business opening, and is often asked to emcee charity events and speak on policy panels about issues impacting the borough. As the paper’s top editorial mind for more than two decades, he has established himself as one of Staten Island’s thought leaders. He shapes the newspaper’s coverage from the front page to the editorials and works closely with political editor Tom Wrobleski to drive the conversation on key policy issues and hot political topics. When you factor in his longevity in the job with the power the paper commands, he is arguably the most influential person on Staten Island. But we have him No. 2 on our list.
#3: Vincent Ignizio
CEO, Catholic Charities of Staten Island
The former City Council minority leader raised some eyebrows when he suddenly resigned from office to take this position, but those on Staten Island who know the impact the church has weren’t surprised at all. The Catholic Church remains an institutional pillar in Staten Island like no other borough in New York City. More than 55 percent of Staten Islanders identify as Catholic. In some other boroughs, less than 55 percent of residents say they practice any religion at all. So when it comes to providing services and building community in the borough, Vincent Ignizio wields tremendous influence. Elected officials are always eager to team up with Catholic Charities, and Ignizio, when it comes to feeding the hungry and providing shelter for the homeless. And when it comes to politics, Ignizio is someone those aspiring to office, or those who already hold an elected seat, want to partner with (and perhaps more importantly, a man they want to be be seen with in public). His opinions on issues and politicians carry the weight of the church’s influence, often giving an elected official’s idea or proposed plan a great boost or deflating it before it gets off the ground.
#4: John Alexander
Chairman and CEO, Northfield Bank
Northfield Bank was founded in Staten Island back in 1887. While it has expanded into other areas in recent years, it remains a Staten Island success story that has given back to the community a hundredfold over the years through investments, loans and philanthropy. Since 1998, John Alexander has been its chairman and CEO, overseeing the growth of the bank into New Jersey and Brooklyn, while maintaining its legacy as a conservative bank built to last through dips in the economy. In his time at the helm, Alexander also oversaw the creation of the Northfield Bank Foundation, which supports nonprofits, schools and other groups in providing services that help the community. The foundation has teamed up with Democrats and Republicans on the island through the years, usually to promote nonpartisan issues that improve the lives of all residents. Alexander is also a veteran of the Vietnam War and has been a big supporter of both active-duty servicemembers and veterans, directing Northfield to sponsor events that raise funds for veterans, or campaigns to raise awareness of issues impacting vets.
#5: David Sorkin
Executive Director, Staten Island JCC
For nearly 90 years the Jewish Community Center has been a leading institution on Staten Island, serving as a gathering place for people of all faiths. The organization has grown dramatically through the years, offering countless programs to improve the lives of all children, including those with special needs, either through the JCC or partner organizations. As the executive director since 2007, David Sorkin has overseen the construction of several new facilities, the expansion of programs and longer hours of operation. He has established the JCC as a community leader in sustainability, installing some of the city’s largest solar power systems and reducing its carbon footprint dramatically year over year. These efforts were only accelerated after Hurricane Sandy, when the JCC’s facilities also served as resource centers for many displaced Staten Islanders. The JCC’s good works and social conscience under Sorkin have made him a sought after partner for many politicians with similar goals. And the history of successfully providing services to the community has made lawmakers comfortable trusting city and state dollars to the organization.
#6: Donna Proske
Executive Director, Staten Island University Hospital
Donna Proske started working at Staten Island University Hospital 40 years ago, long before it had that name. She was a key player in establishing the hospital’s open heart unit and its burn unit before becoming the hospital’s first female executive director in 2013. The health care facility is the biggest employer in the borough, with more than 6,000 jobs on its two campuses. In her role, Proske oversees all the day-to-day administrative needs, while also serving as the face of the hospital when members of the media need comments, or the hospital needs to be represented at charity events. Her self proclaimed “soft” leadership style of cooperation over commanding has served her well in recent years. Since taking over, Proske has also overseen ongoing expansion of the facilities, including the building of a new kids’ emergency room and a comprehensive center to combat breast cancer. She negotiated a contract with nurses to avoid a strike in 2015, and has been heavily involved in implementing resiliency measures to make sure the hospitals are protected from future storms like Hurricane Sandy.
#7: James Molinaro
Chairman Emeritus, Richmond County Conservative Party
Senior Managing Director, Pitta, Bishop, Del Giorno & Giblin
James Molinaro is well into his 80s, so you might think that his influence and energy is on the decline. You’d be wrong. The energetic son of Italian immigrants has hardly missed a beat since leaving the borough president’s office at the end of 2013. He still wields tremendous influence over Staten Island’s Conservative Party and is a sought-after endorsement for Republicans, and some Democrats. His support helped Michael McMahon in his successful bid for district attorney in 2015, even though Conservative Party voters backed McMahon’s Republican opponent in the primary. Also, Molinaro’s name was floated as a potential candidate for Congress when Rep. Michael Grimm resigned, before he made it clear he had no intention of seeking the seat. When he is not playing politics, he’s using his knowledge and connections to help make Pitta, Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin the borough’s most prominent lobbying firm. He also sits on the board of the Richmond University Medical Center.
#8: Rev. Dr. Victor Brown
Senior Pastor, Mount Sinai United Christian Church
Staten Island has been an a hotspot in the national debate over police and race relations ever since the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a police officer performing a chokehold. But even before the Garner incident, the Rev. Victor Brown had been a powerful voice on these issues. In fact, he’s been talking about inequality on Staten Island for two decades. Brown has been a fierce advocate for justice for Garner and his family and a calming voice for peace and restraint to an angry sector of the population, especially in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who administered the chokehold. Since then, Brown hasn’t stopped his efforts to improve relations, saying it takes time to change the culture of distrust between the black community and the police. Whenever there is a forum about the issue, he is a must-invite speaker. Whenever there is a tragic death or tragic deaths in the country, he leads the people of Staten Island in mourning. His commitment to finding solutions instead of dwelling on problems makes him a respected voice and a sought-after ally for many elected officials and community leaders.
#9: Linda Baran
President and CEO, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce
In her more than 30 years at the Chamber of Commerce, Linda Baran has been a prominent voice in the fight to help Staten Island businesses through improving infrastructure, working with local colleges to boost workforce preparedness and organizing and hosting forums that bring together existing and emerging industries to help plan for the future. She serves as a go-between for lawmakers seeking input from the business community and business owners who are looking for help navigating government. She is also not hesitant to speak out when she feels the borough is being ignored. Earlier this year she asked Mayor Bill de Blasio how “we get on your radar” at a town hall meeting, referencing the Brooklyn Queens Connector the mayor proposed in his State of the City address, which upset many Staten Islanders. Since being named the first female president of the chamber in 2004 she has grown membership at the chamber to 588. In that time she has also worked closely with government officials, helping launch a program to help veterans find work in partnership with Assemblyman Michael Cusick and sitting on the Community Rising Planning Committee set up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo after Hurricane Sandy.
#10: Alfred Cerullo
President and CEO, Grand Central Partnership
Fred Cerullo may have forgotten more about New York City government than most people know. Since leaving the City Council in the early ’90s he has continued to serve the city in multiple capacities, including his current positions as a member of the City Planning Commission and as CEO of the Grand Central Partnership. In these roles, he has a voice in all discussions about the future of the five boroughs, and is able to advocate for and explain the impact decisions have on his Staten Island home. Thanks to his experience and current roles, he has the ear of many city power brokers, making him a go-to for Staten Islanders who want to get their message across. Cerullo was a trusted advisor to Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg and continues to serve as a resource for many elected officials on Staten Island. Borough President James Oddo, who also leans on Cerullo for advice, once referred to him as a “City Councilman Emeritus” and praised him for his institutional knowledge of city government. If that wasn’t enough, the daytime drama and occasional film actor is often sought out to host events for charities and other organizations because of his celebrity appeal and government credentials.
#11: Vincent Pitta and Jon Del Giorno
Founding Partners, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin
The powerful lobbying firm Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin has grown rapidly over the past few years, with these two Staten Islanders playing key roles in the company’s rise. The hirings of former Borough President James Molinaro and former New York City Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, as well as the opening of a new office on Staten Island, have helped solidify the firm’s status. And Vincent Pitta and Jon Del Giorno have helped many in the borough by creating a trusted avenue for business and nonprofit interests to take their case before the city and the state.
#12: John Gulino
Richmond County Democratic Committee Chairman
Republicans may still outnumber Democrats on Staten Island, but the Democratic Party remains a force in the borough. It has three elected officials in the state legislature who are powerful advocates for the island. And since 2007, Gulino has led the Richmond County Democratic Committee, staving off recent challenges to his leadership and calls for him to resign. Gulino is a close ally of two powerful state lawmakers – Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Michael Cusick – and his work in getting Michael McMahon elected district attorney in 2015 helped secure his future as the head of the county committee.
#13: Ed Burke
Deputy Borough President
When James Oddo became borough president in 2014, he brought in many new people to city government. But one person he kept in place was Ed Burke. The veteran of Staten Island Republican politics has invaluable knowledge of the borough and its operations: he has served as deputy borough president since 2006 and has worked at the borough president’s office since the early ’90s. A lifelong Staten Islander, Burke is a trusted voice on all community issues and policies and has been an active promoter of the borough’s culture, from parks to theatre, serving on several prominent boards.
#14: Jim Easley
General Manager, General Growth Properties
For borough residents, the Staten Island Mall serves as more than just a shopping center. It’s a unifying gathering place. Residents from all corners of the island travel here for entertainment, dining and of course shopping. Whenever something new is happening, Easley is the person who delivers the message to media and residents. He’s been doing that for two decades, while also working with elected officials and business leaders to attract new shops to the more than 1 million square-foot facility and to improve transportation options.
#15: Allen Cappelli
Attorney, NYC Civil Service Commission
If light rail is ever built on the the north shore of Staten Island, Allen Cappelli will be prominent among those responsible for making it happen. For the past decade, no one has been more outspoken about the borough’s transportation needs than Cappelli. As Staten Island’s representative on the MTA board, he has been vocal, direct and unrelenting in advocating for more resources for his community. And while there have been mixed results in terms of funds and new projects, Cappelli has established himself as a trusted voice on arguably the borough’s most important issue.
#16: Terry Troia
Executive Director, Project Hospitality
No one has done more to combat homelessness on Staten Island over the past three decades than Terry Troia, which is why it was no surprise that Mayor Bill de Blasio tapped her to serve on his supportive housing task force. In addition to fighting homelessness, Troia’s Project Hospitality also has helped feed and provide vital medical services to thousands of the borough’s most vulnerable people. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands more were in need of help, and Project Hospitality was one of the leading groups to provide emergency services to those in need.
#17: William Fritz
President, College of Staten Island
The College of Staten Island has about 14,000 students and the largest physical campus in the CUNY system, but its physical presence and enrollment numbers don’t paint a complete picture of what the campus means to the borough. The school is an epicenter for new ideas and state-of-the-art research in emerging fields. Under the leadership of Dr. William Fritz, it has helped boost the borough’s economy by churning out talented graduates and shining a spotlight on the university’s successes. Fritz is also an active member of the community, forging partnerships with businesses and nonprofits throughout Staten Island.
#18: Yaakov Lehrfield
Rabbi, Young Israel of Staten Island
All Staten Island politicians know there are a handful of people they must visit numerous times during the year, answer their calls as quick as possible and take stock of their advice when offered. Rabbi Yaakov Lehrfield is one of these people. As the leader of Staten Island’s largest Orthodox Jewish congregation, Lehrfield is able to guide a large group of dedicated followers, which can at times sway elections. The clout Lehrfield holds has led to clear benefits for this Willowbrook-based community while making him a respected advisor on numerous borough-wide issues as well.
#19: Edward Delatorre
NYPD Borough Commander, Staten Island
Edward Delatorre has been Borough Commander of Staten Island since 2013 and has represented the force with distinction through many tough times. The death of Eric Garner put his officers under fire, forcing him to walk a fine line of defending the people under his command while also reaching out to the community to heal wounds. His actions at times opened him up to criticism, but his steadfast resolve to keep all Staten Islanders safe is unquestioned. His larger legacy includes efforts to combat the growing heroin epidemic on Staten Island through a “Too Good for Drugs” campaign.
#20: Anthony Pascale
While the Staten Island Advance is a clear No. 1 when it comes to the borough’s news sources, NY1’s dedicated coverage of Staten Island makes it the second most powerful platform. Veteran anchor/reporter Anthony Pascale is the face of the Staten Island coverage – though he gets help from a small but dedicated team that includes Executive Editor Melissa Rabinovich and fellow reporter/anchor Amanda Farinacci. Pascale’s hourly updates keep politicians, business leaders, nonprofit heads and many more up to date on the most important news on the island.
#21: Steve Fiala
Richmond County Clerk
The former city councilman has been Richmond County Clerk since 2001. And while most borough residents may only know him for his signature on all county documents, this GOP power player has a much wider influence. He was tapped by Borough President James Oddo to lead his transition into the position, wielding huge influence in setting up the infrastructure that currently exists – particularly when it comes to the staff Oddo has hired around him. He was also the only Staten Islander picked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sit on the charter review commission in 2010.
#22: Anthony Ferreri
Executive Vice President and Chief Affiliation Officer, Northwell Health
For 12 years Anthony Ferreri served as the president and CEO of the Staten Island University Hospital, helping grow the facility into a first-class medical center. In 2015, he stepped back from that role, which is the only reason he didn’t make our top 10. Through the years he has served on some of Staten Island’s most prominent boards. In 2009 he was tapped by Mayor Bloomberg to sit on the Industrial Development Agency and Build NYC boards. His work was recognized by Borough President James Oddo, who in 2014 proclaimed April 26 to be “Anthony C. Ferreri Day.”
#23: Pat Caltabiano
Founder and Executive Director, World of Women
In the mid 1990s Pat Caltabiano wanted to do more to help women and children, with a specific focus on victims of domestic violence. She started the nonprofit organization World of Women with just 20 other women who agreed that more needed to be done. Through years of hard work, fundraising and advocacy she has grown the organization into a pillar of the Staten Island community, with scholarships and assistance programs, as well as special projects like raising money for a mother who needs a handicap-accessible van for her sons with Down Syndrome.
#24: Frank Siller
Chairman and CEO, Tunnel to Towers Foundation
On September 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Siller ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60 pounds of gear on his back to reach the Twin Towers, where he joined his fellow firefighters as they rushed to save thousands of lives, ultimately losing his own when the towers fell. His story inspired the Tunnel to Towers foundation, which supports programs to help first responders, and more recently to help Staten Island residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Frank Siller, Stephen’s brother, leads the fast-growing organization, which unites first responders each year for a symbolic run along the same path that Stephen took on 9/11.
#25: Deirdre DeAngelis
Principal, New Dorp High School
Over the 17 years Deirdre DeAngelis has been principal of New Dorp High School, she has established herself as the dean of public education on Staten Island. Early in her tenure, she had great success in improving student results as well as attendance and graduation rates. Her experimental and creative approaches to teaching were quickly noticed and at times copied across the city. And the sense of community that DeAngelis has built at the school drew national attention, with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan praising her work during a visit to the school in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
#26: Sandy Krueger
CEO, Staten Island Board of Realtors
Staten Island is unique from the other four boroughs in a lot of ways. An obvious one is that it has a higher percentage of homeowners than any other borough. That’s partly why SIBOR CEO Sandy Krueger is on this list. He leads the largest nonprofit professional and trade association in the borough, with roughly 1,800 members. Because of the organization’s sheer size, Krueger cannot be ignored by politicians if his members are upset about proposed regulations. On the flipside, the board’s ability to reach out to members helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, connecting displaced people with new homes.
#27: Stu Brenker
For decades Stuart Brenker has been an independent voice advocating for a host of issues, including many focused on making sure Staten Island is not ignored by city and state officials. The head of the Mid-Island Political Action Committee, Brenker is a frequent presence at press conferences, standing with both Republicans and Democrats at times. He has been a fundraiser for several candidates, including District Attorney Michael McMahon. In 2015, Brenker’s grandson, a struggling heroin addict, stood with Mayor Bill de Blasio to call attention to the rising crisis of opioid addiction.
#28: James Prendamano
Managing Director, Casandra Properties
When it comes to real estate, both commercial and residential, there may be no one on Staten Island more in the know than James Prendamano. His firm is in the middle of some of the biggest developments around the city, including the soon-to-open Empire Outlets and Riverside Galleria. But he is not a silent actor in the background. He is quick to speak up about timely issues impacting the island, occasionally penning op-eds in the Advance or appearing on NY1. He is also a good follow on Twitter (@prendamano), often trying to spur debate on the news of the day.
#29: Farid Kader
CEO, Yellow Boots
Arguably no one has done more to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy than Farid Kader. The storm wiped away his grandmother’s home in Staten Island, and spurred a fire in him that led to the creation of Yellow Boots. He convinced friends and likeminded volunteers to provide humanitarian relief to victims of natural disasters, while also helping rebuild homes for those who cannot afford professional contractors. Kader’s success has made him a trusted and respected voice on how best to help rebuild more sustainably on Staten Island.
#30: Dennis Quirk
President, New York State Court Officers Association
The Daily News called him the King of Courts, and that was 12 years ago. This powerful union boss and Staten Islander is a fierce advocate for adequate officer staffing levels in courtrooms. He’s been head of the organization for more than 40 years and engaged in several high-stakes labor negotiations along the way. In that time, he’s also made many political allies, including former Gov. Mario Cuomo and longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. But on Staten Island he is also a power broker, He and his family have many successful business dealings, most prominently City Ice Sports Inc.
#31: Ray Masucci
President and Founder, Masucci Developers LLC
Raymond Masucci is truly a builder, and not just of commercial and residential properties – over the years he’s built a company that employs hundreds of people on Staten Island. He also views himself as a builder of the borough community. Recently he worked with elected officials on a plan to rebuild the abandoned Farm Colony in the middle of the island, restoring five aged buildings and preserving another as a stabilized ruin. His work in the community also includes sitting on several prominent boards and co-founding the Staten Island Victims Relief Fund, which aids the families of Staten Islanders killed on 9/11.
#32: Kathryn Krause Rooney
Chairwoman, Richmond University Medical Center
A prominent lawyer who spent decades working for former state Sen. John Marchi, Kathryn Krause Rooney now leads the board of one of Staten Island’s biggest medical facilities, a role she has had since 2007, when the hospital broke away from Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers. In that time she has overseen the expansion of the health care facility, including plans for a new state-of-the-art emergency room. Rooney’s commitment to the community doesn’t stop there. She is a trustee of the Staten Island Foundation and sits on several other prominent boards in the community.
#33: Tom Cocola
Staten Island Borough Commissioner, NYC DOT
Ask pretty much any Staten Islander and they’ll tell you transportation is issue No. 1, 2 and 3 in the borough. Which is why Tom Cocola is on speed dial for many prominent business leaders, elected officials and community leaders. In his role as commissioner, he is responsible for making sure roads, bridges and the Staten Island Ferry are operating as well as possible. And if they aren’t, he is the man who deals with concerns. Luckily, the media-savvy former newspaper reporter is well equipped to get people answers quickly.
#34: Dennis Mckeon
Executive Director, Where to Turn
Following the attacks of September 11th, Dennis McKeon and several others noticed a problem: Families of victims struggled to figure out how to get the aid they needed - they didn’t know where to turn. In response, he founded Where to Turn and began cataloguing and creating an online resource, helping hundreds of people. Since then, the nonprofit has continued to grow, expanding into other areas where it could help residents and gaining respect and attention from elected officials on the island. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it was particularly useful as a trusted nonprofit with a history of helping people.
#35: Murray Berman
Real estate developer, community activist
Murray Berman has been one of the top real estate developers on Staten Island for decades. He’s built hundreds of commercial and real estate projects in the borough over the years, leaving a lasting legacy on the island. In addition to his real estate portfolio, Berman is a community leader. One visible sign of his work is an art gallery that bears his name in the JCC in Sea View. He also is a board member of the JCC and has served as a leading voice on several other prominent boards and organizations, including the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens.
#36: Harold Wagner
Chairman, Richmond County Conservative Party
Staten Island is one of the few places in New York state where the Conservative party plays a key role in the local political landscape. Its endorsements carry enough weight to make sure Republican politicians don’t stray too far to the left, and Harold Wagner and his party members know this. In addition to his political influence, he is executive director of Staten Island Community Television. Considering the dearth of news and media outlets focused on covering the borough, the station is one of a few outlets to get information out to residents on the island.
#37: Anthony Lodico
Superintendent, Staten Island Public Schools
Superintendent of Staten Island schools is a relatively new position. New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña created it in 2015 and tapped Anthony Lodico, a lifelong Staten Islander, for the job. Before, the role was split between a superintendent of elementary and intermediate schools, a position Lodico held, and a superintendent of high schools. Now he is charged with addressing the needs of all the boroughs’ schools, allowing him to have greater influence and make the system more seamless between grades. Plus, he seems to have great support from Fariña, who has called him an “innovative and passionate” educator.
#38: Lynn Kelly
President and CEO, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
If you ask pretty much anyone on Staten Island about arts and culture, it won’t take long for them to mention Snug Harbor. It’s by far the borough’s biggest cultural institution, providing countless education programs, experiences, concerts and much more. It also keeps up art galleries and beautiful gardens for residents to visit. Lynn Kelly’s success as president and CEO of Snug Harbor has propelled her into a new role, leading NYC & Company’s efforts to promote arts and culture tourism throughout the five boroughs – which will likely translate into more tourists on Staten Island.
#39: John Fusco
Staten Island Borough Hall Counsel
The former City Councilman and state Supreme Court justice may have had more of an impact on Borough President James Oddo’s career than anyone else. John Fusco has been a mentor and friend to Oddo for decades, and now he serves as his top lawyer, representing the borough on all legal matters. Fusco is also arguably Oddo’s most trusted advisor on all important issues. In addition to his close ties to the borough president, he remains a prominent figure in the Republican Party and a widely respected legal mind on the island.
#40: Leticia Remauro
President & CEO, The Von Agency
Most New Yorkers probably know Leticia Remauro for her frequent appearances as a member of the Consultants Corner on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.” The former chair of the Richmond County Republican Committee is an outspoken defender of the party and an advocate for Staten Island. Remauro has decades of experience working in politics and government, and was a longtime community board member and chairwoman until she stepped down in 2015. She also worked to turn out the vote on Staten Island for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She now runs The Von Agency, a public relations firm.
#41: Daniel Cassella
President, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 726
On Staten Island, the only real mass transportation option for tens of thousands of residents is the bus. And there are a lot of busses, which often have to maneuver through winding roads and stop frequently to make sure everyone has service. Bus drivers here have a difficult job. Luckily, they also have a strong advocate in Daniel Cassella. The politically connected union leader has helped secure better contracts for his drivers over the years. At its 100th anniversary gala this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the union as “big, bold and strong as ever.”
#42: Guy Molinari
Former Borough President
The fact that Guy Molinari still makes our list at the age of 87 is a testament to the respect this Republican power broker has gained over his long career. Heck, he’s got a Staten Island Ferry named after him. While he is no longer as involved in a lot of the political dealing that takes place in the back rooms, he is still a loud and public voice that resonates with voters, and he is not afraid to make his opinion known, whether it’s attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio or supporting a preferred candidate.
#43: Al Curtis
Chairman, Staten Island Salvation Army
Al Curtis has had a distinguished career in government and the private sector, serving as the head of the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development and running the United Nations Development Corporation, but he makes our list more for his work as the head of the Salvation Army on Staten Island. After Hurricane Sandy, Curtis and the Salvation Army were on the front lines giving out resources to those in need. He has also advocated for a new community center on the site of the Bayley Seton Hospital, even though the project has now apparently stalled for good.
#44: Grandmaster Jhong Uhk Kim
More than 40 years after immigrating to the United States from Korea, Jhong Uhk Kim has developed a small real estate and business empire on Staten Island, including his signature martial arts studios. His success story has served as an aspirational model for Asian Americans in the borough. Kim has also been active in politics, and was a big donor to ex-Congressman Michael Grimm, his former son-in-law. And over the years he has also served on the boards of several prominent organizations, including the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Staten Island University Hospital, and received awards for his charitable contributions to borough nonprofits.
#45: Teddy Atlas
Founder and Chairman, Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation
The famous boxing trainer and TV announcer is the pride of Staten Island, but Teddy Atlas makes his list for the efforts of the nonprofit he started in 1997 to honor his late father. The foundation focuses on helping families in need, from distributing turkeys during Thanksgiving and toys on Christmas to purchasing air conditioners or medical equipment for vulnerable people, making them more comfortable in their homes. Atlas’s celebrity status has helped with fundraising for the foundation, but his hard work and commitment to its success has made it thrive for nearly 20 years, and counting.
#46: Vito Fossella Jr.
Managing Director, Park Strategies
The Fossella name has a long legacy on Staten Island. Vito’s father worked for Ed Koch and Abe Beame. His uncle Frank Fossella was a City Councilman and top Democrat. His grandfather, James O’Leary, represented the borough in Congress in the ’30s and ’40s. That legacy is carried on by Vito Jr. The former Congressman is now a top lobbyist at Park Strategies, occasional Wise Guy on NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” and still has deep ties to Republican politics on the island. He is often floated as a candidate for open office seats, which only serves to help his influence in the borough.
#47: Bill Smith
President, Staten Island Youth Soccer League (SIYSL)
You might be thinking, “Why is the head of a soccer league on this list?” Well, the SIYSL is much more than just a sports organization – it is a community on Staten Island. The SIYSL, under the leadership of Bill Smith, has lobbied lawmakers and reached out to school officials to help build more pitches, providing more opportunities to kids across the island. And, during the Hurricane Sandy crisis, the sense of community shone through when Smith and the league provided hundreds of kids some normalcy by spending the organization’s reserve funds on Christmas presents.
#48: Joseph Delaney
Founder, Bread of Life Food Drive
For one week each year the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island organizes a massive food drive, collecting nonperishable items for thousands of people in need. Joe Delaney is the man behind the drive, which is always timed for early spring to bridge the gap between more common holiday food drives. Since 1992 Delaney has led a growing effort and collected over 1 million items. Described as a strong and silent leader in one nomination, he is embodies the definition of a volunteer, giving his time and effort to help others.
#49: Ralph Porzio
Come November there will be a vacancy at the head of the Richmond County Republican Party, with John Antoniello stepping down. Ralph Porzio, by most accounts, seems likely to take his place. State Sen. Andrew Lanza has already publicly backed Porzio for the spot. With the GOP holding a majority of the elected offices on the borough, Porzio would be in a position to wield significant power over election strategy and use of party resources. Even though he hasn’t landed the job yet, all of these signs show Porzio is a political player on the island.
#50: John Hudson Dilgen
John Hudson Dilgen has been fighting since birth. Born with the rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes his skin to blister and shear off easily, he had to fight stay alive throughout childhood. Now as a teenager, he has been fighting to improve his quality of life by pushing for schools on Staten Island to be more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act – making some progress at I.S. 34 this summer (albeit after he graduated). His courage makes him a powerful advocate for people with disabilities, and we expect he will continue to be a fighter for years to come.