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IN A MANOR OF SPEAKING
THE SMILING FACE OF MERLINO & GONZALEZ
Get to Know Alexandra Catuogno I knew that I wanted to work at Merlino & Gonzalez long before I was an official full- time member of the team. I joined the firm in 2013 as an intern with no legal experience. I was studying at John Jay College, working toward my degree in law and society and commuting from borough to borough every day. John made sure I never felt that my internship was taking away from my studies. “If they’re this nice to a lowly intern,” I thought, “this firm is definitely the place for me.”
planning and real estate matters. To that end, we want to get to know our clients as people and guide them through major life decisions. Another aspect of my job that I value is how exciting it is. It’s never boring to work here, because we always have something going on. I also appreciate the variety that this type of firm offers. We work with all types of people and handle a variety of legal matters. The ever-surprising nature of my job keeps me engaged and on my toes. Speaking of staying active, I’m a fitness nut. To me, a day without going to the gym feels incomplete. The team here likes to joke that if we ever had an office Olympics, I’d need a bigger desk for all the gold medals I’d win. Now, I don’t think that’s totally true — Ken is a pretty good athlete — but I appreciate the support I get from my coworkers. During the summers, I always make time to head to the Jersey Shore for a few weekends at the beach. It’s always held a special place in my heart. Even if I went to Hawaii or Ibiza, I’m sure that my preferred beach would still be this one here on the Eastern Seaboard. My other favorite hobby is shopping, so if you know of any good local boutiques or shops, don’t hesitate to let me know. In closing, I just want to say what a joy it is to work at Merlino & Gonzalez. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have a job they’re legitimately excited to go to, but I’m one of the lucky few. We really are a family here, albeit one with more than its fair share of crazy aunts and uncles. I wouldn’t have it any other way. –Alexandra Catuogno
After graduating in 2016, I was honored to accept a role as a full-time paralegal at the firm. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I love working alongside such an amazing team, and you couldn’t ask for better bosses than John and Ken. They lead by example, caring about clients and doing the best work possible. It’s amazing to be in an environment where everybody is working passionately toward the same goal. Oh, and John and Ken are both hilarious, although not always intentionally. It’s a good thing that I genuinely love my job so much, as it would be pretty tough to greet clients cheerfully if I didn’t. Developing relationships with our clients is one of my favorite parts of the job. Unlike many law firms, we don’t think of our clients as one-and- done cases. Our goal is to be your lifetime law firm for all estate
INVOLVED BUT NOT OVERBEARING Parent-Teacher Etiquette to Support Your Child’s Development 2. Show up and keep an open mind. Ask any teacher in the country, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you that one of the best predictors of a child’s success is whether or not their parents make an appearance at parent- teacher conferences. Your engagement should go beyond that. Use the teacher’s preferred method of communication to stay in semi-regular contact with them — always ensuring that you keep an open mind about any praise, suggestions, or concerns they have about your child. 3. Teach your child to take responsibility. Aside from leaving your kid completely to their own devices, one of the worst things you can do is swoop in to solve their problems for them at the slightest hint of adversity. Maybe that D your kid got on their algebra test really was their fault. It’s important to acknowledge your child’s missteps, but you should also try to equip them with the tools necessary to advocate for themselves. Learning to articulate what’s going wrong or what they need from their teacher will help them to develop positive and effective communication skills. The key is to work together with your child’s teacher without being overbearing. Don’t come in with guns blazing at the first sign of an educational slip. Think of your kid’s schooling as a collaborative effort — maybe one in which you’re a little less involved than the teacher — and you’ll be giving your child the best chance of success.
Helicopter parents are the bane of every teacher’s existence. With the return of back-to-school season, it’s vital to find a happy medium between the tiger mom who bares her teeth at the smallest setback in her child’s schooling and the laissez-faire parent who is totally disengaged from their kid’s education. Here are a few tips to keep you involved in your child’s educational development while fostering relationships with their teachers in a way that won’t drive all of you up the wall. 1. Be a little empathetic. Teachers are some of the hardest-working people in the world, wrangling the disparate needs of around 25 children day in and day out while attempting to get them to actually learn something. It’s a high-stress, low-paying job. In the midst of grading 300 research papers written by 12-year-olds, the last thing they need is the added pressure of concerned parents bearing down on them. If you can approach a teacher from a position of understanding and be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, you’ll be off to a good start. For the past few years, the Staten Island real estate market has been on fire on both the residential and commercial fronts. Nearly half of the commercial buyers in the area are new, with a large portion coming from Brooklyn and Queens. With interest rates creeping upward and the effects of the new tax bill still being analyzed, it’s possible that prices will cool a bit this year, but you can expect Staten Island to remain a seller’s market. Navigating such a market presents unique challenges for homebuyers. The bottom line is that there are more buyers in Staten Island than there are houses for sale. When demand outpaces supply, you need to act fast in order to secure the property you want. In a buyer’s market, you may be bidding against yourself, but that will almost never be the case in a seller’s market. You have to do everything you can to make yourself the right choice for a buyer. To achieve this goal, your first step should be to secure a preapproval for your home loan. Think about it this way: If a buyer has two sellers to choose from, and everything else is equal, they are overwhelmingly more likely to pick the one with preapproved financing. Having financing fall-through requires the buyer to start the process all over again, which they’d always rather avoid.
HOW TO NAVIGATE A SELLER’S MARKET Tips for Staten Island Buyers
The bidding process also proceeds differently in a seller’s market. Under normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong with submitting a bid under the listed price. In a hot market, however, that could lead to you never getting the chance to make a second bid. In addition to coming to the table with your best offer, you have to account for the possibility that a bidding war could ensue. Searching for houses below your max budget will help ensure you have the funds you need in the event of a competition for a property.
Navigating the minefield that is a seller’s market makes it all the more important that you work with an experienced real estate agent and law firm. The team at Merlino & Gonzalez knows the ins and outs of Staten Island real estate and can help you secure the home of your dreams. Call us today to get started with our Real Estate Roadmap.
The Biggest Mistake in
invaluable in the unfortunate but not uncommon event that the maker becomes incapacitated before death. A complete estate plan will include powers of attorney, living wills, and health care proxies. Designating a power of attorney will allow a trusted agent to act on your behalf with regard to financial decisions in the event that you are unable to yourself. Health care proxies work similarly, but for medical rather than financial matters. A living will allows the maker to specify what medical treatments they would or would not want to have, such as whether they want to be kept on life-support, receive hydration or be fed through a feeding tube, and whether they want to be an organ donor. All of these documents are crucial components of a comprehensive estate plan. Luckily, an estate plan isn’t set in stone and can always be altered. If your plan is lacking any of these essential measures, call our office today to find out how we can help you set up a plan that gives you peace of mind and protection no matter what the future holds. Estate Planning THINKING A WILL IS ENOUGH
There are many misconceptions surrounding estate planning. Some people think that estate planning is only for the mega- wealthy. Others assume that you don’t need to think about estate planning until you’re well into your golden years. While both of these assumptions are false, easily the biggest falsehood about estate planning is that all you need is a will. A will, more accurately called a “last will and testament,” is the foundational document of every estate plan. It allocates assets and is the legal vehicle through which parents can designate the legal guardians for their minor children. Without a valid will, the court will have the power to decide who raises your children. In some cases, that may even result in minors being placed in the foster care system.
But a will is not enough.
Your will goes into effect upon your death and provides for how you wish your probate assets to be distributed at that time. But there are other documents in a comprehensive estate plan that are
LATE-SUMMER PANZANELLA MICHELE’S RECIPE CORNER
take a break
• 1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil • 2 large tomatoes, cubed • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cubed • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced • 1 cucumber, sliced into rounds • 20 basil leaves, chopped
• Salt, to taste • Vinaigrette
1. Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add bread and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss often for 10 minutes or until toasted. 2. In a large bowl, mix vegetables and herbs. Toss in bread and your favorite vinaigrette and mix again. 3. Serve immediately or let sit 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Meet Alexandra Catuogno The 3 Keys to Parent-Teacher Etiquette
Staten Island Is a Seller’s Market The No. 1 Estate Planning Mistake Late-Summer Panzanella Why Labor Day Is Indebted to the Pullman Strike
How a Railroad Protest Laid the Foundation for a National Holiday THE PULLMAN STRIKE AND THE ORIGIN OF LABOR DAY
In response, the workers began a strike on May 11, 1894. As the event ramped up, it gained the support of the powerful American Railway Union (ARU). But Pullman, stubborn as he was, barely acknowledged the strike was happening, and he refused to meet with the organizers. The tension increased when Eugene Debs, the president of the American Railway Union, organized a boycott of all trains that included Pullman cars. The strike continued to escalate until workers and Pullman community members managed to stop the trains from running. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland sent in soldiers to break up the strike. Violence ensued, with soldiers making a great effort to quell the strike at its core. By the time the violence ended, 30 people had lost their lives and an estimated $80 million in damages had been caused throughout the town. A few months later, President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a federal holiday. Many experts believe that this act was an effort to build rapport among his pro-labor constituents after handling the incident so poorly. This month, as you fire up the barbecue and enjoy your day off, take a moment to remember the workers who fought for labor rights in our country.
Today, Labor Day mostly means a day off and the closure of public pools. But when it was first created, it was a president’s desperate attempt to curb the tension after one of the most violent strike breakups in American history. In the late 19th century, the workers of the Pullman Company, which manufactured luxury train cars, all lived in a company-owned town. George Pullman, the owner, lived in a mansion overlooking houses, apartments, and crammed-together barracks, all of which were rented by the thousands of workers needed for the operation. For some time, the town operated without a hitch, providing decent wages for the workers while netting the higher-ups millions of dollars. But after the economic depression of the 1890s brought the country to its knees, everything changed. George Pullman slashed his workers’ wages by nearly 30 percent, but he neglected to adjust the rent on the company-owned buildings in turn. As a result, life became untenable in the town, with workers struggling to maintain the barest standards of living for themselves and their families.
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