Merlino & Gonzalez - February 2022

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As real estate professionals, we are extremely proud of the community which we serve. Our parks, recreational facilities, buildings, neighborhoods, and businesses all come together to deliver the beauty, excitement, and positivity that makes Staten Island and the surrounding areas such an enticing place to live. The Staten Island Zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1988. I have enjoyed visiting the zoo for over 40 years now, first as a child and now with my own family. Watching it grow and develop through the years has been a very neat experience, and I’m excited to have my friend, Kenneth Mitchell, the director of the Staten Island Zoo, tell us a little bit about the zoo and it’s recent growth and development. Since 2010, I have been proud to devote my time and energy to the Staten Island Zoo. I grew up only 100 yards away from the zoo — and it has been a part of me for my entire life and has always felt like home. As a kid, I recall visiting the zoo with my parents, visiting the outdoor exhibits, and having fun at the children’s corral. It was always an inviting experience full of excitement and learning. Each visit, getting to connect with the animals was a very special time. Now, my favorite exhibit is the Amur leopard exhibit. I enjoy watching the leopards frolic around in their habitat. It’s majestic — I could watch for hours. In reflecting on my opportunity to become the director of the zoo and having the ability to advance its mission of conservation, education, and sustainability, it was something that I feel I was truly cut out for. Growing up, I always had an interest in politics, civics, and law. That, coupled with my background and knowledge of Staten Island and city government, proved to be extremely valuable in advocating for zoo support and funding.

A lot has changed at the zoo in recent years and more renovations are on the horizon! During my tenure at the zoo, I’m proud to have stewarded several renovations and exhibits including our Conservation Carousel, Amur leopard exhibit, and our new aquarium. We look forward to an upcoming renovation of the Clove Road front entrance which will create a wonderful and welcoming experience for our visitors. The zoo is very intimate and family- and community-driven. You come here, and it’s small enough that you can see it all in just one day. Plus, you can get up close and personal — and our docent program, even allows patrons to touch some of the animals. At a lot of other zoos, you don’t have that opportunity. For us here at the Staten Island Zoo, it’s all about the animals. We are not only exhibiting animals, but each day, we work hard to ensure that they continue to thrive and flourish for generations to come. I’ve grown to love it and appreciate the work of our professionals.





and back pain. When your mind is happy, your immune system is stronger, making you less prone to getting a cold or stomach bug. Some research has even shown that happily married couples live longer than those who are not happily married. The hormone vasopressin helps to control your blood pressure. Being in love releases vasopressin into your body, keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level. Both your heart and lungs are also impacted by the love you have for another.

It’s crazy to think that being head over heels, madly in love with someone can benefit your body in the same way that broccoli can, but it’s true! Science has proven that being in love comes with myriad health benefits. Fewer colds and natural pain control? Yes, please! Love triggers the “feel good” hormone, dopamine. When you first fall in love — and the butterflies are flying uncontrollably — dopamine is at very high levels, and mentally, you’re happy, healthy, and positive. As the relationship matures, oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone, blends with dopamine and reduces stress. We all know that stress can lead to a number of health complications, so the less stress, the better! New research has found that just being around someone you love can act as a natural pain reliever. Research has also determined that married people complain less about headaches

If you aren’t in love, you can still reap the benefits through a strong and healthy social support system.

When you have friends who bring you joy and happiness, even just a hug may help to release positive hormones and keep your health on track. Take time to invest in positive relationships to keep your heart and body healthy and happy, both literally and figuratively.

So, what are you waiting for? Let the love flow!


Pro Tip: For a more eco-friendly option, stop buying individually packaged items! Opt for bulk or larger products instead and measure out serving sizes into small glass or reusable containers. Arrange these like you would the other products!

We all have our favorite ways to organize, but there may be one thing you’re organizing completely incorrectly: your refrigerator. It’s not just about aesthetics! A properly organized fridge can prevent food from spoiling, help you find items faster, and allow you to store more. Try these tips for fridge success. Store produce properly. There are a lot of myths surrounding what you should or shouldn’t do to properly store your produce, but there are a few basics you can abide by. For starters, store your fruits and vegetables separately. Fruits emit a gas that can cause vegetables to spoil faster. Furthermore, store these products near the front of your fridge or in a place where you will regularly notice them. This will encourage you to use the products faster — and prevent you from forgetting about them. Remove products from packaging. Individually wrapped products make packing lunches easy, but they can be a hassle to store in the fridge when kept inside bulky boxes. Instead, line up your yogurts, string cheese, hummus, juice boxes, sodas, and other individually wrapped products along the shelves of your fridge or in refrigerator bins. This will eliminate the clutter of the packaging from your fridge and provide more space.

Invest in refrigerator bins. Storage bins for your fridge are all the rage right now, and there might be a reason for that. Refrigerator bins are clear and rigid in shape, which means items store and organize easier in your fridge. You can fill one with yogurt, another with eggs, and a third with fruit without worrying how the shapes of these products will fit into your fridge space. This allows you to have more control over your refrigerator.

If you want to get more out of your fridge, check out the manual! It will include proper ways to utilize your refrigerator storage and settings.


When family members and loved ones become older or disabled, having the ability to step in as a caregiver to make them comfortable at home is both rewarding and fulfilling. While it certainly is a selfless act and comes along with good feelings, it can incur some pretty steep costs and become very time consuming. Oftentimes, family caregivers pass up career advancement or opportunities, and those missed wages and earning potential certainly take a toll. So, can you be compensated for your role as a caregiver for a family member? In New York, the answer is yes. There are programs in place that qualify caregivers for compensation, but this all depends on whether or not the family caregiver meets certain criteria. It takes into account the level and nature of care the family member requires, the financial resources of the family member needing care, the insurance coverage the family member has, and whether or not they are a U.S. war time veteran. AS A FAMILY CAREGIVER, CAN YOU BE COMPENSATED?

this is a Medicaid program, the senior must meet specific qualifying criteria. Another option is the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP), which is a non-Medicaid program. Applicants are required to be living at home and need assistance with day-to-day activities as well as demonstrate limited income and ineligibility for Medicaid. Lastly, one more option is the Veteran’s Aid & Attendance Pension program for those U.S. war time veterans requiring care.

For more information or assistance in applying, contact us today! We are here to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

A great option for caregivers to seek compensation is through Medicaid’s Consumer-Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). But, because




This Valentine’s Day, forget the entree! Surprise your honey with a delicious chocolate treat!


• 1 tsp vanilla extract • Fresh fruit of your choice • Shortbread cookies • Large marshmallows

• 1/2 cup half-and-half cream • 2 tbsp honey • 9 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces • 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped


1. In a sturdy saucepan over low heat, combine cream and honey. Stir until mixed thoroughly and heat until warm. 2. Add in chocolate, stirring until melted. 3. Stir in pecans and vanilla. 4. Transfer to a fondue pot or a slow cooker to keep warm. 5. Serve with fruit, cookies, and marshmallows of your choice.

Inspired by



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



718-698-2200 |


Take a Walk on the Wild Side With Kenneth Mitchell Page 1

Health Benefits of Being in Love Properly Organize Your Fridge Page 2

As a Family Caregiver, Can You Be Compensated? Chocolate Pecan Fondue Page 3

Include Mother Nature in Your Next Date Page 4

YOU, ME, AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS 3 Outside Date Night Ideas

where you can easily see the stars, take advantage of the peaceful privacy with your loved one. Maybe you’ll spot a shooting star you can wish upon while you’re out there! Hit up a drive-in movie. If you’re looking for a way to be extra comfy while still sitting outside, a drive-in movie is the best destination! The best part about a drive-in is that you can view both new and old movies as well as bring your own snacks and drinks. If the weather permits and if you have a truck, you can load the bed with blankets and pillows and have a cozy night while watching a movie. These date night ideas are perfect for Valentine’s Day, but they don’t have to be limited to just the holiday! You can also consider these for any date that you have with your significant other. Nothing brings couples closer like being together with nature.

Did your significant other leave it up to you to come up with a romantic date idea this Valentine’s Day? Luckily for you, there are tons of date activities that are easy and affordable for you to enjoy with Mother Nature. While the possibilities are endless outside, here are three popular outdoor date ideas! Watch the sunset. Sunsets are intuitively romantic: The sun paints the sky in calming reds, pinks, and purples, creating a beautiful backdrop. While watching the sunset, you and your partner can have a romantic picnic with the sky in view. Or you can embrace the scenery with your other half and create memories you both will never forget. Go stargazing. If you live in the city, stargazing is a good chance to escape for the night and get away from the light pollution in the city. If you already live in a location 4

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