Merlino & Gonzalez - December 2021

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REALESTATEPLANNINGLAW.COM 718-698-2200 December 2021



Delivering Opportunity: SIEDC


As real estate professionals, economic, business, and sustainable development is key. Since 1993, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) has been a major advocate for many forms of development on Staten Island. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, SIEDC’s mission is to “enhance Staten Island’s economy by promoting public and private investment and encouraging responsible and sustainable development, all of which improve the quality of life and provide broad and diverse employment opportunities in the borough.” Its CEO, Cesar Claro, is a seasoned professional, dedicated to enhancing Staten Island and providing opportunities for improvement.

need help with government agencies, need assistance with permits, or are hiring new employees, we provide free services.

We also offer a membership, similar to a chamber of commerce, and for differing fees, we provide different levels of promotion. We are also involved in a lot of projects, including infrastructure and a light rail. We are hoping to build a park, known as the Skyway, on an abandoned rail line, similar to the highline in Manhattan. We are starting to explore the world of solar power and sustainable energy to deliver a variety of possibilities in the near future. We project that green energy will be a big part of the future. At SIEDC, we also facilitate many events, including health expos, business conferences, and networking events to help business professionals connect on a professional level. It’s a very satisfying feeling to see a project through from start to finish. Whether it’s an event that we created just out of a simple idea or if we’re helping a business professional complete a project on both small and large scales, it’s gratifying once the project is complete. Helping others and our city is remarkable, especially seeing the transformations that take place up close and personal. The reality is that on Staten Island, we need help. As we do our best to navigate the pandemic, unemployment is hovering around 10%, and we haven’t had the greatest COVID-19 recovery. Most of all, we need more public investment, infrastructure, and larger-scale projects centered around transportation, new real estate development, or highways to jump-start the economy. I am positive about our future and excited for all that 2022 has to offer and the many projects that will take off in the new year! Happy holidays and happy New Year!

I am proud to say that my job is both fulfilling and impactful. Years ago, I worked in economic development in Brooklyn. When my family and I moved to Staten Island, a friend alerted me that a job had opened up at SIEDC, and I interviewed. Now, after 25 years, here I am!

In every borough in New York City, there is an economic development corporation, or EDC, and each is independent

Transportation Projects

Business Improvement Districts & Merchant Organizations

Solar Energy Projects

and nonprofit. The SIEDC aims to seek

Industrial Business Zones

Downtown Revitalization Initiative

funding from all levels of government — city, state, and federal — in the form of membership money, sponsorship funds, and foundation funding. We then utilize that money to provide business services on Staten Island. Simply put, if any business or entity is interested in moving or expanding, they seek the help of a trusted and reliable real estate firm, such as Merlino & Gonzalez, as well as come to us for assistance. Whether they are looking for land, are searching for tax incentives, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation Service Footprint

–Cesar Claro



Katy Perry’s Legal Battle With Nuns FIGHTING FOR CONVENT REAL ESTATE

Katy Perry is known around the globe for having multiple No. 1 hits, including “I Kissed A Girl,” “Teenage Dream,” and “Firework,” but two nuns in Los Angeles know Perry for a completely different reason. They were in a multiyear legal battle with Perry and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over the purchase of a convent. In 1972, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pooled their money and purchased an 8-acre, French-style chateau in Los Angeles. Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman lived in the chateau-turned-convent until 2011, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reportedly forced them to relocate. Two years later, Archbishop José Gomez sold the property to Perry without any input from the sisters, but the nuns felt that the archdiocese did not have the right to do this. Gomez accepted a $14.5 million cash offer from Perry, but the nuns refused to sell to her. Believing they had sole ownership of the convent, they instead sold it to restaurateur and developer Dana Hollister.

The archdiocese and Perry both sued Hollister for her involvement, claiming she took advantage of the nuns, and a judge invalidated her purchase months after it was made. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the archdiocese, creating an opportunity for Perry to buy the estate due to the fact that the nuns did not have the approval of the pope, the Holy See, or the archbishop. In 2017, a jury found that Hollister intentionally interfered with Perry’s legal purchase. She was ordered to pay both Perry and the archdiocese millions of dollars. The sisters continued to support Hollister, and they both accompanied her to bankruptcy court, where Sister Holzman collapsed and died during the court proceeding. Sister Callanan blamed Perry for the death of Holzman. The convent is back on the market, and it does not appear that Perry will move forward with the purchase.


If you’ve seen the classic movie “Casablanca,” you might be surprised to learn that the original version was more risque than the one later shown on theater screens. The night Rick and Ilsa shared in Paris was more, ahem, explicitly passionate, but those lines were dropped on the cutting room floor. Why? Well, it wasn’t because of artistic choice. According to Mental Floss, “Joseph I. Breen, the head of the Production Code Administration, personally objected to any reference in ‘Casablanca’ about Rick and Ilsa having possibly slept together in Paris.” What a killjoy! Breen’s objection was backed up by an industry standard of the time called the Hays Code (or officially, the Motion Picture Production Code). This now-forgotten list of rules predated today’s movie rating system and governed Hollywood from 1934 to 1968,

restricting expression in countless movies and TV shows. It was intended to clean up the violent, drug-filled movie business much like Prohibition — which preceded it— had been designed to clean up a drunken America. As the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) puts it, “The code prohibited profanity, suggestive nudity, graphic or realistic violence, sexual persuasions, and rape” — but it also prohibited certain kinds of costumes and dances, censored homosexuality, and banished married movie couples to separate beds! Just a few of the stranger things banned under the Hays Code were justifications of revenge, mockery of the clergy, and showing alcohol “when not required by the plot.” You’ve likely watched movies and TV shows filmed under the restrictions of the Hays Code without realizing it was to blame for the wacky choices the directors made. For example,

Mental Floss reports the code is the reason “I Love Lucy” never showed Lucy and Ricky sharing a bed or used the word “pregnant,” even when Lucy was expecting! It’s also the reason why Betty Boop temporarily lost her garter belt and why the birth scene in “Gone With the Wind” was filmed in shadows. In fact, even a “silhouette” birth should have been off-limits, but somehow, the producers sneaked it through. To learn more about the origins and ending of the Hays Code, check out the NPR story “Remembering Hollywood’s Hays Code, 40 Years On.”


How Scammers Are Taking Advantage of a Crazy Market SCAM ALERT!

The housing market is booming. From September 2019 to September 2020,

top tactic these criminals use to rip people off is by getting people in the market to send money to fake addresses. The scammers will literally go out, find legitimate houses for sale, advertise them for rent, and persuade buyers to send first and last month’s rent and a security deposit to a fake address. They will even use “spoof” photos if need be for a completely fake listing. One big red flag is if you are told that you can only drive by to check it out. Another scam out there has actually been around since the housing market crash in 2007– 2009. Scammers will promise a service to end foreclosure proceedings, then collect the funds electronically and never perform the service. Scams also circulate around moving companies. Many times, when you hire a company to assist in the moving process, you never meet them in

homeowners collectively accumulated $1 trillion in home equity. Last year, 6.5 million homes were sold, and that number is projected to jump to 7.1 million by the time this year closes out. In the midst of the real estate frenzy, scammers are jumping at the opportunity to take advantage. With much of the paperwork involved in real estate transactions now taking place online, especially as a convenience factor during the pandemic, the opportunities for scamming are endless. According to the America Land and Title Association, homeowners were scammed out of $220 million just in closing costs.

person. Fraudulent “companies” collect upfront fees from those planning on moving, then never show up for the job. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is proceed with caution and use common sense. Pay attention to the email addresses that companies email from and do some in-depth research on the company before you give away any payment or personal information.

Safety is the name of the game, so always be on the lookout!

Closing fund theft via fake collections is just one of the many ways scammers get creative. The




Making your own eggnog is easier than you think! This creamy, delicious drink will be a hit with your holiday guests.


• 6 egg yolks • 1/2 cup sugar • 1 cup heavy whipping cream • 2 cups milk • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

• 1 pinch salt • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract • Cinnamon and whipped cream, for garnish


1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Set aside. 2. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream, milk, nutmeg, and salt. Bring to a simmer. 3. Add a spoonful of the milk mixture to the egg mixture. Whisk vigorously and repeat, one spoonful at a time. 4. When most of the milk is whisked in, add the egg mixture to the saucepan. 5. Whisk until the liquid thickens slightly or reaches 160 F. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. 6. Pour the eggnog into a glass container and cover. Refrigerate. 7. When the eggnog has thickened, pour it into glasses, garnish, and enjoy!

Inspired by



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



718-698-2200 |


Development in the New Year Page 1

Katy Perry’s Real Estate Battle The Secret History of the Hays Code Page 2 Beware of Scammers in the Market DIY Holiday Eggnog Page 3

Helping Hands Monkey Helpers for the Win Page 4


You’ve heard of service dogs, but what about service monkeys? For many years now, capuchin monkeys have been lending helping hands to people with disabilities! Helping Hands Monkey Helpers, located at Monkey College in Boston, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit organization designed to help people with disabilities and mobility issues, such as quadriplegia, by pairing them with a monkey service animal. These simian helpers are specifically trained to help with daily tasks while providing companionship, happiness, and a renewed sense of purpose that many struggle with when navigating an injury or disability. When monkeys graduate, they will have developed the ability to navigate major

household appliances and electronics as well as basic items within the home. They can even retrieve a canned beverage from the refrigerator, open it, and put a straw in it! A service monkey can also assist with retrieving things that are dropped or out of reach, turning pages in a book, scratching an itch, pushing buttons on electronic devices, and performing other menial tasks within the home. Each human applicant and the capuchin monkeys undergo a pairing process to find the best fit for placement! A social worker and placement specialist work together to sift through applications and determine which monkeys will be the right choice for

the applicants based on lifestyle preferences and the tasks that will be most helpful to the person with disabilities. Plus, Helping Hands Monkey Helpers ensures that the monkeys are completely free of charge to the recipients! The human-animal bond created along the journey after placement is absolutely beautiful. Helping Hands Monkey Helpers brings love, companionship, and laughter to many who are fortunate enough to work with the organization. These monkeys are the best, hands down. And, monkeys, thank you for going to monkey college, and thank you for your service! 4

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