Merlino & Gonzalez - October 2023

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join their board. Not long after that, Anthony was diagnosed, too, and I felt even more committed.

In middle school, Anthony was an avid wrestler. He loved getting out there on the mat, using his strength, and competing with other kids. He was good at it, too — but his classmates picked on him because he had autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All through grade school, he either had his parents with him in the classroom or used services like individualized educational plans (IEPs) to help him with his schoolwork. The other kids didn’t get it — even the boys on the wrestling team. Once, one of them got right up in his face and said that Anthony wasn’t smart enough for private school and was only there because I paid his way in. Anthony dismissed the kid’s words and kept wrestling, but you can probably imagine how he felt. Then, on senior night in high school, guess who stepped up to wrestle against him? That old middle school bully! Anthony beat him from one end of the mat to the other. After it was over, he told him, “I guess private school worked out pretty well for me.” The thing is, kids with ASD, like Anthony, are neurologically disabled, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid or sick. I think they’re actually smarter than the rest of us! They can learn — they just learn differently, and we need to help them however we can. That’s how I got involved with The GRACE Foundation more than 20 years ago. My nephew was diagnosed with ASD, and my sister- in-law invited me to a foundation event. I wanted to help, so The GRACE Foundation recruited me to

If you have a child with autism or know someone who does, you’ve probably heard of The GRACE Foundation. They’re doing important work for kids and adults on the spectrum here on Staten Island! They have some fun holiday events coming up, so we invited Chairman of the Board Michael Lanza to tell you a bit more about the cause and his own family history with autism. Michael is a great guy, and his son’s story is truly inspiring. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how I found The GRACE Foundation and all of the good we do for the community, I want to tell you a story about my son, Anthony. –John R. Merlino Jr., Esq.

At The GRACE Foundation, we believe in empowering people with autism by giving them the voice and the dignity they deserve. We bring them together for events to practice their social skills, meet friends, and experience the community. You can think of The GRACE Foundation as an extension of an after-school program. Parents can drop their kids off with us when they need extra help, and adults can work with us for job readiness training. We work in tandem with educational programs to teach them life skills ranging from how to ride a bus to how to ace an interview. Best of all, everything The GRACE Foundation offers to kids and families is free, thanks to Medicaid dollars and community donations. If you give a kid with ASD the support and resources they need, they’ll go on to live a life they’re proud of. Take Anthony: He’s 23, a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology, and a licensed funeral director. He works with me, his mom, and his brother, Michael, in our family business: Colonial Funeral Home. It’s been amazing to see him grow up. There are a lot of different ways to get involved with The GRACE Foundation and help kids like mine. If you want to learn about our events, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities, visit I hope I’ll see you this Fall!

-Michael Lanza



Behind the Plate: Unveiling Food's Mysteries

Pineapples are not a single fruit but many berries grown together. Have you ever noticed the pentagon-shaped pattern on the outside of a pineapple? Each of those pentagons is its own berry, called "syncarp," and they all grow together onto the pineapple's main "core," which is that hard column in the middle most people cut around. German chocolate cake isn't German. It was simply named after baker Samuel German who created a sweet baking chocolate used in the original recipe.

You probably think you know the foods you eat pretty well. Otherwise, you wouldn't put them in your body, right? But you might be surprised to learn that common dietary staples like eggs, pineapples, and even chocolate cake are hiding some shocking secrets! The stickers on fruit are edible. According to the Food and Drug Administration, they have to be! Since these stickers come in contact with something we do eat, manufacturers must make them from safe materials in case any substance from the sticker transfers over. So yes, the stickers are indeed edible but have no flavor or nutritional value.

Eggs sold in the U.S. would be illegal in the U.K. It's all thanks to the fact that eggs in the U.S. must go through a washing and sanitizing process before they hit the shelves. While in the U.K., it's illegal to wash or clean eggs in any way before selling them.

Surprising Habits Hurting Your Brain Health

Mindfulness, stress relief, purposeful positive thinking, and therapy can all help us learn to turn negative thoughts around. It will improve brain health, and we’ll likely feel happier, too.

Everything we think, feel, and do involves our brains, so keeping them healthy is worth our time. But doing so might require more from us than a nutritional diet, exercise, and occasional sudoku. Everyday habits can profoundly affect our neurological health, and some will likely surprise you. Checking Our Phones After Waking Up Many people have their phones in hand before they even get out of bed, but this morning routine could be doing significant damage. Immediately inputting so much sensory information causes our brains to miss crucial stages in the natural waking process. The dopamine we get from checking messages and likes also primes our brains for more, creating further distractions throughout the day. Experts suggest waiting an hour to check your phone, but if you can’t last that long, every minute you delay counts. Engaging in Negative Thinking Did you know poor mental health impairs our ability to think clearly? The same is true with patterns of negative thinking. Neuroplasticity means the input we give our brains shapes and changes how they function, and negative thinkers have more difficulty reasoning and forming memories. Fortunately, neuroplasticity also means we can choose to change.

Spending Too Much Time Alone Humans are social creatures. So, while our brains need new challenges and information to stay sharp, they also crave social

interaction. Spending time with others improves our mental health and ability to form memories. Socializing also keeps our brains active, which neuroscientists believe might fight dementia. Specifically, older adults can have trouble switching between active and daydream states, but social interaction will help sharpen that skill. Alone time is crucial, but too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Make sure to interact with friends and family often or find ways to meet new people whose company you enjoy.


Fighting With Your Neighbors? Try These Legal Fixes! Annoying neighbors make fantastic sitcom fodder, but they’re awful to live with in real life! Fortunately, if you’re fighting with one of your neighbors, there’s probably a legal solution to your problem. Here are five common disputes we see regularly and our best tips for resolving them without a fistfight. If your neighbor’s dog digs up your flowers or their cat kills your backyard birds …

First, try to have a calm conversation with your neighbor and come to a compromise. Maybe you could split the cost to reinforce the bottom of your fence, or they could leash their cat outdoors to keep it from roaming. If your neighbor isn’t willing to compromise and the nuisance continues, consider contacting animal control. If your neighbor is trespassing on your property … Call a lawyer and tell them about the situation. You may be able to negotiate with your neighbor and solve the problem outside of court. If that doesn’t work, you can consider pressing civil or criminal charges. If your neighbor’s yard is a mess or their Christmas lights are still up from last year … Check your homeowners association rules and/or city codes related to aesthetic nuisances. Sharing the rules with your neighbor might be enough to encourage them to shape up. If not, reach out to code enforcement. Of course, the best step in any of these situations is to call our firm and tell your friends and family to do the same! We’ll find the best legal solution for your specific problem.

If your neighbor builds a fence or shed on your property … Reach out to a lawyer who can help you enforce your boundary lines. They can mediate a fix to the problem, whether by forcing the neighbor to remove their structure, requiring them to pay you damages, or helping them secure the proper license to build.

If your neighbor’s loud music is keeping you up at night … Check with your landlord, homeowner’s association, and/ or city to see if there are noise ordinances in your area. You can send these ordinances to your neighbor as a warning, then contact the landlord, association, or police to enforce them if needed.




Save money this October with this delicious homemade pumpkin spice latte that will taste better than any store-bought coffee.


• 1–2 tbsp maple syrup • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice • 1 tsp vanilla extract • Whipped cream for topping (optional)

• 2 shots espresso (or 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee)

• 1 cup milk of choice • 3 tbsp pumpkin purée


1. In a small pot on medium heat, heat milk until simmering but not boiling. 2. Make your espresso (or coffee) and pour into a large mug or Mason jar. Add pumpkin purée, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla and stir until well combined. 3. With a milk frother, froth the heated milk until foamy. Then, pour into your pumpkin espresso mixture and top with whipped cream. For decoration, you can sprinkle more cinnamon or pumpkin spice on top!



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314




Will You Join Us to Help Kids With Autism? Page 1

From Stickers to Cakes: Food Revelations!

Are These Bad Habits Hurting Your Brain? Page 2

How to Win a Fight With Your Neighbor

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte Page 3

Love Spooky Season? Crypt of Fear Fest Awaits! Page 4

3 Halloween Events You Won’t Want to Miss Local Fall Fun for All Ages!

Halloween Family Skate at Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center Monday, Oct. 30; 6–8 p.m. $5–$17 If you have an active, fun-loving family, Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center is the perfect place to celebrate Halloween. Pull on your best costumes and lace up your roller skates for their Halloween Family Skate Night. You can score candy while you skate to classic Halloween music or enter their costume contest for a shot at the night’s grand prize. If one night isn’t enough, head back to the rink on Tuesday, Oct. 31, from 7–10 p.m. for an adults-only Halloween event.

into pumpkin pie and donuts, then wash your treats down with apple cider.

Spooky season is finally here! If you’re looking for exciting ways to enjoy Halloween without straying too far from home, we’ve got you covered. Pumpkin Picking at Decker Farm Monday, Oct. 9, and all Saturdays and Sundays in October; 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Free–$12 Enjoy the fall weather at New York City’s oldest continually working family farm! Decker Farm comes alive in October to offer weekends packed with all-ages fun, including pumpkin picking, pumpkin painting, hay rides, a kid-friendly hay maze, pumpkin chucking (drop your pumpkin in their bungee contraption and watch it fly!), and more. You can snap cute family photos or dig

Crypt of Fear Fest at Kreischer Mansion Saturday, Oct. 28; 3–9 p.m. Purchase advance tickets on $20 Calling all horror lovers and music junkies: Crypt of Fear Fest is waiting for you! This spooktacular music festival features bands like Who Killed Marilyn?, The John Collins Band, and Skappository, all playing at Kreischer Mansion — one of New York’s most haunted venues. The gothic home has a long history of ghostly activity, and in 2005, it was famously the site of a mafia murder. Head to the mansion on Oct. 28 for a night of music, food, and scares! 4

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