Merlino & Gonzalez February 2019

February 2019





My Work With Ken Gonzalez

Five years ago, I met Ken Gonzalez through a mutual client. That chance encounter ended up being very serendipitous because Ken has become a trusted colleague over the years. In addition to helping out many of my clients — when people need a real estate attorney, I never hesitate to recommend Ken — he’s also been my personal attorney for a number of home matters.

2. Their Responsiveness: Understanding the importance of client communication is essential. Information can change at a moment’s notice, and clients can’t afford to wait days for a response from a law firm. When you call Merlino & Gonzalez, you can bet they’ll take your call or get back to you at the earliest possible convenience. That should be the industry standard, but all too often it’s not. 3. Their Willingness to Answer Questions and Educate: Not only do John and Ken want to execute your wishes effectively, but they also want you to feel empowered and informed during every step of the process. I’ve certainly learned a great deal about the law solely by virtue of working with them. These virtues may come from the namesakes of the firm, but in my experience, they matter to everyone on staff at Merlino & Gonzalez. Because they are unfailingly friendly and knowledgeable, it is always rewarding to work alongside the team. I expect the best for my clients and would never let them settle for a less than awesome attorney. Luckily, with Ken in our neck of the woods, I never have to. Maria Gottlieb is a NYS licensed Associate Real Estate Broker at Coldwell Banker Advantage, serving Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. She’s an expert in her field and can help you whether you’re buying or selling a home. When she’s not working, you can find Maria spending time with her husband, four daughters, and dog. Find out more about Maria by visiting . –Maria Gottlieb

I have to admit that at first I found it a little odd that Merlino & Gonzalez combined real estate and estate planning law. However, when I needed to sell a family home that was in a trust, the pairing made perfect sense. Being able to use one firm to both sell the house and distribute the assets from the sale streamlined the process considerably. If you’ve ever executed or distributed an estate, you know what a logistical tangle it can be. Limiting the number of people you have to deal with takes away a lot of the headaches and puts all the relevant information under one roof. After numerous conversations with clients who are beyond satisfied with the work done by Merlino & Gonzalez, I’ve come up with a list of three major characteristics that set them apart from other firms. 1. Their Legal Expertise: John and Ken understand their practice areas at an exceptionally high level. As a Realtor, I know from experience how complicated property transactions can be from a legal perspective, but John and Ken instill nothing but the utmost confidence.



GAMING WITH YOUR KIDS Why You Should Pick Up That Controller FIND THE RIGHT GAME Finding the right game to play with your child can be a challenge. Regardless of what platform your child plays on, there’s a nearly inexhaustible list of games to choose from, and some are more child-friendly than others. At the very least, research the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) rating of a game to make sure its content is age-appropriate. When choosing a game, it’s a good idea to keep your child’s interests in mind. Do they enjoy creating things? Games like Minecraft, Super Mario Maker, and Scribblenauts Remix can act as a great sandbox for you and your child’s imaginations to run wild. Does your child love to solve puzzles? Snail Bob 2, Snipperclips, and Portal 2 will have you and your child thinking outside the box for hours. Want to engage in a little friendly competition? Mario Kart, FIFA, and Bam Fu are all excellent choices. GOING BEYOND SCREEN TIME Whether you pick up a controller yourself or just watch your children play games, the most supportive thing you can do as a parent is reinforce the skills they are learning. Understanding that the same creativity and determination that gets them to the end of a level can be applied in the real world is be a powerful thing for a child’s development.

Video games are present in an increasing number of American households. The Entertainment Software Association found that in 2018, 70 percent of parents reported that games were a positive activity in their children’s lives, and 67 percent even play alongside their child at least once a week. Some of you may already be regularly gaming with your kids, but for the rest of you, here are some things to keep in mind. WHY GAMING TOGETHER MATTERS Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and UC Berkeley have shown that video games can have many positive effects on a child, from encouraging critical thinking and social skills to imparting the value of perseverance. Beyond these life skills, video games can also be a way for you to better connect with your child. As game designer and New York Times bestselling author Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., writes, “Games make it easy to build stronger social bonds with our friends and family. Studies show that we like and trust someone better after we play a game with them — even if they beat us.” Every four years, February gains an extra day at the end of the month. But what does this contribute to the year as a whole? You might be surprised by what this one day does for us! The 365 days in each year represent the time it takes for the Earth to circle the sun. However, the orbit actually takes nearly a quarter of a day longer than that. The additional 0.2421 of a day might not seem like it would make a significant impact, but after a few decades, it adds up. To ensure the calendar and seasons stay on the right timeline, the leap day was created. THE START OF THE LEAP YEAR The Egyptians were the first to officially calculate how many days it takes to orbit the sun, revealing the need for a leap year. Europeans at the time used a calendar that followed a lunar model, which needed an entire month added to retain consistency. The leap year wasn’t introduced into Europe until the reign of Julius Caesar. With the help of astronomer Sosigenes, Caesar created the Julian Calendar, which included 12 months and 365 days, with a single day added every fourth year. However, the Julian Calendar wasn’t perfect, because 0.2421 of a day can’t be rounded to a multiple of five, so it caused the calendar to have an extra 11 minutes every four years. Pope Gregory XIII fixed the problem in 1582 by creating the Gregorian Calendar. Now, a leap year occurs every four years

WHY DO WE NEED A LEAP YEAR? The Calculations That Leave Us in Need of an Extra Day

except for the years that are evenly divisible by 100 and not 400. For instance, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years because they were divisible by 100.

A LEAP DAY BIRTHDAY The odds of being born on Feb. 29 are about 1 in 1,500, which leaves approximately 187,000 people in the U.S. and 4 million people around the world celebrating their birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1. People born on a Leap Day are faced with dilemmas such as which date they should receive their driver’s license. Although it varies from state to state, most

consider March 1 the appropriate day for leap-year 16-year-olds — who are celebrating their fourth “official” birthday — to receive their license. With all the changes the calendar has undergone, it still isn’t quite perfect. Experts say that in about 10,000 years, it will need to be changed yet again.


Is Staten Island Now a Buyer’s Market? WHAT THE CHANGE MEANS FOR REAL ESTATE IN 2019

Since 2015, Staten Island has been one of the strongest seller’s markets in real estate. Through last year, the prices of homes soared while the supply remained consistent. Even as prices in other boroughs dipped during 2018, the market on Staten Island remained strong. As such, securing a home was a difficult process that required buyers to be flexible and compromise. However, no seller’s market stays that way forever. The market, by its very nature, corrects itself and works in cycles. Many Realtors believe that Staten Island is finally switching back to a buyer’s market. This change could mean that real estate transactions will work very differently than they have in previous years. From a buyer’s perspective, the increase in home inventory means greater choice and less urgency. Most buyers will not have to worry about a property being snapped up from under their nose, and

multiple-bid scenarios will be far less frequent. Offsetting this trend, however, is the rise of interest rates, which means those receiving mortgage loans may have to slightly adjust their budget downward. For sellers, the new market will lead to properties being listed for longer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the market isn’t expected to cool enough to cause a serious drop in prices. Provided that sellers are willing to wait for the right offer, they shouldn’t see prices decrease significantly from last year’s expectations. Understanding the nature of the market is crucial to navigating a real estate transaction effectively. At Merlino & Gonzalez, we have a real estate planning road map that will lead you to the right purchase no matter the state of the market. Call us today to find out how we can help you buy or sell your home this year.


take a break

• 7 ounces dark chocolate • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts • 1/4 cup dried cranberries • 1/4 cup dried cherries INGREDIENTS


• Candy thermometer DIRECTIONS

1. Chop chocolate and place into a mixing bowl. 2. In a double boiler, melt chocolate. Stir frequently and remove from heat as needed to prevent burning. Keep chocolate under 115 F. 3. Once melted, pour chocolate into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly. 4. Add hazelnuts and dried fruits. Let sit at room temperature until set. 5. Break into shards and serve.

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Meet One of Our Favorite Realtors Why Parents Should Play Video Games Why Do We Need A Leap Year? A Big Change in Staten Island Real Estate Hazelnut Berry Chocolate Bark All About Chocolate

with an alkalizing agent in order to produce a milder flavor, making it a fantastic option for use in baked goods, candy, and ice cream. German chocolate actually has nothing to do with the country of Germany, either. It used to be called “German’s chocolate,” named after its inventor, Sam German, an American who made sweet chocolate for baking. Adding sugar to the chocolate made it a go-to option for bakers around the world, and the base for German chocolate cake was born. For chocolate to be classified as Swiss, it has to be made in Switzerland, as chocolate-making is considered an art form in the country. Known for its “melt in your mouth” quality, Swiss chocolate uses condensed milk to add a velvety texture. Many chocolate makers outside of Switzerland will refer to their interpretations of Swiss chocolate as milk chocolate instead. WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT CHOCOLATE Fun Facts to Wow Your Loved Ones This Valentine’s Day

Chocolate is a treat savored by people all over the world. What we know as the sweet, creamy decadence that sustains Valentine’s Day actually has greater historical and cultural significance. Fermented chocolate drinks have been dated back to as early as 350 B.C. The Aztecs believed it was the beverage of wisdom, and the Mayans saw it as something to be worshipped. While the history of chocolate is as rich as its flavor, there are some common misconceptions about the treat. Dutch chocolate doesn’t necessarily refer to chocolate made in the Netherlands; the name refers to a specific chocolate-making process that uses the cocoa press. Before Dutch chemist and chocolate-maker C.J. van Houten invented the machine in 1828, chocolate was only used in beverages. Dutch chocolate is chocolate that has been modified 4

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