Merlino & Gonzalez April 2019

April 2019





We’re Not Your Average Mortgage Banker

Just as she’s added a great deal to my life, she’s improved the quality of our mortgage business. It’s amazing to work with somebody who understands you and brings you balance. It’s our mission to provide the smoothest process possible for our clients, and we work together to achieve that. We also provide a level of personal connection that you won’t find at a large bank. Nalua and I have even visited clients in their homes when it wasn’t convenient for them to come see us. That’s a level of connection and service you just won’t find from most mortgage banks. The focus on client experience is something we share with the team at Merlino & Gonzalez. “I met Ken at an industry event through pure coincidence,” Nalua says. “We just happened to have booths near one another. As we began talking, it was clear we could work very well together. Ken, John, and their team are extremely professional and provide only the best for their clients. When a closing needs to come together, you want to collaborate will a law firm who holds up their end of the bargain. Merlino & Gonzalez does that and a whole lot more.” Nalua and I are the type of couple who loves working together. It allows us to operate with a level of harmony that benefits our clients. We’re partners in work and life, and I hope she’d agree that we’re both very lucky to have found each other.

We’ve been practicing real estate law for many years, so we know just how important working with a great mortgage banker is. It’s our job to make sure the legal considerations of your transaction go off without a hitch. A great loan officer does the same for the financial aspects of the real estate process. Michael Gaggi and Nalua Cuenca of First Home Bank in Staten Island definitely fit the bill. We love working with them and more importantly, so do our clients. I want to give this awesome duo a chance to tell you a little bit more about themselves and their work. Take it away, guys. The best way to describe Nalua and me is to say that we’re a team. On the business side, we function as two halves of the same brain. That process is certainly aided by the fact that we’re also partners in life. In fact, when I first met Nalua, I had no idea she had a background working with mortgages. She was working at a restaurant I happened to walk into, and I was smitten from the start. I came to learn that Nalua had many years of experience in the same profession as me. We were already discussing her moving to New York, but that settled the matter once and for all. “I have to be honest,” she says. “Moving to New York was an adjustment. For one, I wasn’t used to having seasons. But no matter how tough the cold was, I knew that being with Michael was more than enough to get me through the transition period. The temperatures may have been different, but I knew from day one that I was home.” I’d like to add that it felt like a new experience taking Nalua to Central Park and Times Square when she first arrived. Since then, it’s been amazing to show her the sights and sounds of the city. As a born and bred New Yorker, it’s given me a chance to see my home town through her eyes. When you live here, it’s easy to take the exceptional for granted. Sharing this place with Nalua has reminded me that most Americans don’t have access to countless incredible events and more great restaurants than you could visit in a lifetime.

To learn more about Michael and Nalua’s bank, head to michael-gaggi. –Michael Gaggi

NMLS #806183

Nalua’s NMLS #1434354 Michael’s NMLS #63106



SHHHHHHH! It’s National Library Workers Day! NLWD recognizes and celebrates the vital work performed by library staff. Librarians and their team do far more than simply place books on the shelf and shush noisy teenagers, after all. Library science is a multidisciplinary field that takes years of study to master. Today’s librarians have the skills of managers, IT specialists, documentarians, archivists, and educators — equipping them to help anyone from elementary students to doctoral researchers. These professionals can be an invaluable resource for anyone looking to delve into a particular topic, even if they don’t know where to begin. Just tell your local library worker what subject you’re interested in, and they can help you track down books, databases, magazine articles, and more. How should you celebrate National Library Workers Day? Some groups, such as the students at the University of Arizona, go above and beyond by delivering balloons and signs to library branches across Tucson. More commonly, however, library branches ask their community members to vote for a “star” staffer. If a library worker has made a difference in your life, you can submit their name to the American Library Association by visiting and clicking “Submit A Star!” Lastly, you can show your appreciation by visiting your local library and thanking these professionals. These important community centers only work because they do! FOR THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER: ‘THE NIGHT DIARY’ 12-year-old Nisha navigates her world after the partition of India creates the new country of Pakistan and her family is forced to leave their home. Her mother may be gone, but Nisha finds solace in writing nightly letters to her in her diary as she discovers what the future holds. Based on author Veera Hiranandani’s memories of her own family, this moving tale lets readers experience life through someone else’s eyes. While some might not think of comics as proper reading, Penelope Bagieu’s graphic novel forces reconsideration. Her clever, colorful artwork and engaging narrative take the reader through the biographies of 30 women, from Bette Davis and Mae Jemison to lesser-known but equally intriguing ladies like Giorgina Reid. All in all, this book provides a great way to get kids excited about history in an entertaining form. FOR TEENS: ‘BRAZEN: REBEL LADIES WHO ROCKED THE WORLD’

Whether you have a card or not, libraries are an important part of our community. They serve as meeting places, research stations, employment centers, and local historical archives. They help kids and adults alike explore vast literary worlds and immense databases of knowledge — all for free! Behind every library is a dedicated staff of librarians, catalogers, assistants, and administrators who keep the system running smoothly. While it may not be the most well-known holiday, April 9 is National Library Workers Day (NLWD). As part of National Library Week,

WORLDS WITHIN PAGES Books to Engage the Whole Family

Learning to read opens up a world of possibilities. When your child walks through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia with Lucy Pevensie or rides with Harry Potter on the train to Hogwarts, they connect to something beyond their own experiences. In the U.S., April 23 is World Book Day, and the date commemorates the deaths of legendary authors Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as the birth of author Vladimir Nabokov. World Book Day is the perfect time to sit down with your family and let yourself be transported to new worlds. So, here are three great stories to help you take young readers on brand-new adventures. “Song of the Wild” makes a great read-aloud book for beginner readers because they can get lost in the beautiful artwork while you read the text. Written in prose and rhyming poems, this book showcases sprawling landscapes — savannahs, jungles, and oceans — and features the wildlife living there. It’s worth a read simply to appreciate the colorful depictions of each animal. This book was written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. FOR THE ELEMENTARY READER: ‘SONG OF THE WILD: A FIRST BOOK OF ANIMALS’



Last fall, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was featured in a Capital One commercial. That may not sound like a big deal, but it instantly struck the wrong cord with the Purple One’s longtime fans. See, Prince was notoriously protective of his work. During his lifetime, he didn’t even allow his music to be streamed on Spotify or Apple Music. He most certainly would not have offered up one of his most iconic songs for a credit card commercial. How did a situation occur where Prince’s music could be used so blatantly against his wishes? The answer is simple: He had no estate plan. While it was eventually determined that Prince’s six siblings would be his heirs, the bank controlling the estate decided the song could be used in the ad. Even if Prince’s heirs had put up a fight, they would’ve had an uphill battle to stop the commercial from airing. With an estate as large and complicated as that of a multi-millionaire recording artist, the lack of a clear estate plan can tie up assets and

rights for years. Even for smaller estates, it can cause everything from minor delays to serious problems. There’s no guarantee your assets will go where you intended them to or that they will be used as you would’ve wished. Odds are you won’t have scammers and frauds claiming to be your relatives in order to secure a slice of the pie, but you never know. If Prince had taken the time to create a thorough estate plan, he could’ve prevented his songs from being used in tacky commercials. As it stands, there’s nothing stopping Coca-Cola from making “Purple Rain” the official song of grape-flavored Fanta. Safeguarding your estate from probate, misuse, and unneeded expenses can be easily achieved through diligent planning. Call our office today to get started on an estate plan that will protect your wishes, as well as your little red Corvette.


take a break


• 12 ounces asparagus, stalks trimmed • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil • 1 Fresno chile, deseeded and finely chopped • 2 tablespoons soy sauce • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice • 1 teaspoon agave nectar • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated • 2 tablespoons peanuts, crushed • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut, toasted • Salt, to taste


1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. 2. Season asparagus with salt and sauté, tossing frequently until blistered, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter. 3. In a mixing bowl, combine chile, soy sauce, lime juice, agave, and ginger. Mix in peanuts and coconut. 4. Spoon over asparagus and serve.

718-698-2200 3

394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314




Meet Michael & Nalua Read Up on National Library Workers Day Books to Engage the Whole Family

Sometimes It Snows in April: An Estate Planning Tragedy

Blistered Asparagus With Peanut-Coconut Sprinkle The Importance of Rain to the Survival of Cultures

DANCING TO BRING THE RAIN The History and Cultural Significance of Native American Rain Dances

While traditions and dances vary between Native American tribes, many of them feature rain dances. Because water is essential to life, and because many tribes lived in agrarian societies, these dances were important rituals, pleas for the survival of the tribe for another season. These dances have existed for hundreds of years, and many tribes still perform them today. Rain dances are notably common in the Southwestern U.S., where the dry climate means water is scarce and every bit of rainfall is essential for survival. Generally, rain dances are performed to ask the spirits or gods to send rain for the crops. Tribes such as the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Mojave perform rain dances often. An old Cherokee legend says that the rain is filled with the spirits of past chiefs, and the rain is an indication of their battle with evil spirits beyond the natural world. One interesting fact about rain dances is that both men and women — not just men — participate in the ceremony.

Dancers wear special regalia, sometimes including headdresses, masks, body paints, and jewelry. What is worn varies from tribe to tribe, but turquoise is very important in rain dances for many tribes and is often incorporated into the jewelry. The rain dance regalia is not worn at any other point or for any other purpose during the year, and participants dance in a zigzag pattern, unlike all other dances, which feature a circular motion. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the U.S. government was relocating Native Americans all over the country, they banned the practice of many ceremonial dances on reservations, sometimes including rain dances. However, rain dances continued undercover: Native Americans simply performed the ritual as a different, unbanned ceremony. The dances and the traditions continued, and today many tribes still perform rain dances, even if only in reverence for their heritage. 4

Published by The Newsletter Pro •


Chris Herren Former Boston Celtics Player and Recovery Advocate/Speaker Honoring Celia Iervasi Associate Broker at Casandra Properties Inc. and Community Advocate

Join us for an evening filled with hope, inspiration and recovery, as we share stories of the past and look forward to the future. Tickets are $95 per person and can be purchased at or by contacting Marie Howard at 718-948-3232 or

Sponsorships and journal ads are available.

Your participation truly makes a difference in our community. All funds raised benefit our Annual Campaign, ensuring no one is turned away from our services due to an inability to pay. Rebuilding Lives, Restoring Hope

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