The latest episode of the Casandra Properties podcast features three amazing business women, including our own Rebecca Matulonis. CEO & Host James Prendamano, along with his co-host Rebecca interview Staten Island’s own Gail Castellano, the Regional Director of New York Community Bank, along with Kristine Garlisi, Chief of Staff for the Nicotra Group and Executive Director of the Lois and Richard Nicotra Foundation. Both guests are committed to doing good business here on the Island, as well as giving back to the Staten Island community. In addition, both organizations have done so in immeasurable ways.
Women Leading in Business & The Community
Gail Castellano is the Senior Vice President Regional Director of New York Community Bank, overseeing 20 branches here on Staten Island. She has been with them for over 27 years and started off as a bank teller. Gail says she is honored to be a part of the NYCB team, further stating that anything is possible with this company. “They care about the growth of their employees, and the equally care about the community.”
Rebecca Matulonis notes, “If you work with a bank that treats you like a person and not a number, you are going to stay with them.” Gail Castellano responds, “New York Community Bank became one of seven lenders to issue PPP loans during the Coronavirus,” adding that “everyone who came to us received a loan. We worked diligently day and night, as well as weekends to answer people’s calls and address their concerns.”
Banking is about Building Relationships
New York Community Bank (formerly known as Richmond County Savings Bank) is a New York State chartered savings bank that serves Metro New York City, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, and Arizona, with assets of over $56 Billion dollars. Richmond County Savings Bank started with one branch in 1859 and now has 257 branches. Reiterating a statement our own CEO James Prendamano has said time and time again, Gail says, “Banking is all about relationships.”
Kristine Garlisi is Chief of Staff for the Nicotra Group and the Executive Director for the Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation. She is a member of the SIEDC and started her career as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University teaching politics and government, which is where she obtained her Masters Degree.
The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation awarded nearly $60,000 last year to “Do Good” on Staten Island, and has awarded nearly a million dollars since 2011. All profits from Nicotra’s Commons Café go to hundreds of different schools, individuals, and other charities since 2011. The foundation also offers grants for non-for-profit organizations primarily in Staten Island, and helps support higher education of the children and grandchildren of The Nicotra Group employees.
Putting the Community First
The Nicotras have also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as given back to the Staten Island community regularly and tremendously. When Staten Island was devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, The Nicotras were famously known for refusing to kick out displaced locals from their hotels because NYC marathon runners needed lodging in November 2012. Kristine Garlisi explains that while no one wants to turn away paying customers, and of course, NYC Marathon runners frequently stay at our hotels as the race starts here, they simply could not turn their backs on their own community of Staten Island. That event speaks perfectly to the character of the Nicotras and how much they care for their community of Staten Island. James Prendamano, Rebecca Matulonis and both distinguished guests agree that it is during a crisis, that one’s character is truly revealed and when leaders emerge. Kristine Garlisi goes on to say, “In the end, what you are left with is your community.” That is a sentiment the folks at Casandra Properties have always agreed with.
The Nicotra Group’s Corporate Park along South Avenue comprises 1.5 million square feet and sits on a 415-acre lush preserve, which includes fully-furnished executive suites. Of course, the Nicotra Group is also known for their hospitality services, as well, namely The Hilton Garden Inn, Nicotra’s Ballroom, Above (Staten Island’s only rooftop ballroom), Lorenzo’s Restaurant & Bar, The Hampton Inn & Suites, and of course, The Commons Café, in which 100% of the profits go to charity.
Vision & Sustainability
The Nicotras’ newest office site is called Corporate Commons Three. It is a state-of-the art, 330,000 sq. ft. and 8 stories high. As the Nicotras were always known as visionaries, the site features a new garage with 415 parking spaces, a natural preserve with walking trails, outdoor work pods with wi-fi service, and an organic roof-top farm. In addition, the structure is Silver LEED Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), expected to generate 2,500 full and part-time jobs, and will be home to the Lois & Richard Nicotra Early College Charter School, as well as another eatery modeled after the Commons Café, in which all profits will go to charity, as well.
As we round out Women’s History Month this March, it should be noted the Nicotra’s latest property will feature artwork and sculptures, with one in particular will feature two young girls using a pulley to lift an elephant to safety. The sign reads: “Girls can pick up an elephant because they have the right tools: pulleys and levers, and everything else.”