What I Learned in 2013

This year may not have been as tumultuous as others, but it was hardly uneventful. And in some ways, what made 2013 remarkable was that it was a time to reconcile ourselves to what was laid in the last few years. The aftermath of Sandy remains palpable even on the dawn of 2014, the American government shut down, workers were furloughed and disasters struck.

But wisdom was brought from dealing with these things. As babies were born and lovers laughed and elders passed, we learned about ourselves and the world around us. Some continued to do extraordinary things, and some just continued, extraordinary because of the resolve they spirited to get them to do it. We asked a few Long Islanders about this and drop knowledge they did…

imageVincent Ancona
Principal, Ancona Associates Attorneys

When I think about the cases I’ve handled in 2013, I can’t help but be reminded of how important it is to enjoy life and family instead of focusing on the headaches. It’s like what Frank Sinatra said when asked about his troubles: “You’ve gotta love livin,’ baby. ’Cause dyin’ is a pain in the ass.”

Ruth Appelhof
Executive Director, Guild Hall Center for the Visual and Performing Art
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In 2013, I saw the culmination of Mickey Straus’ 18-year run as chairman of our Board of Trustees. Mickey brought Guild Hall to where we are today. He never flinched when it came to difficult situations and he has the wonderful gift of persuading people to follow his example.

Ernie Canadeo
President, EGC Group, Full Service Advertising Agency

Age is relative. And a blessing. I caught my teenage boys doing things they shouldn’t. As I grounded them they said, “You probably did the same or worse when you were our age.” Of course they were right. My father is gone 30 years and I’m the age now he was when he passed. You can’t not think about that. I went to over 25 live concerts this year, most of the musicians are older than I am. Let’s keep rocking.

Mike Cave
CEO, 1st Equity Title & Closing Services Founder, PinkTie.org

We met with a financial advisor at a major bank. We talked sports, people we could introduce each other to and finally, PinkTie.org | Real Estate Professionals Networking For A Cure. He told us that very morning his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. One month later we found out their hospital bills were piling up. Insurance wasn’t covering many of the necessities, including a wig for his wife… We were able to provide him with a wig through our beneficiary: Find A Cure Today Breast Cancer Foundation (FACT). This was a very real and emotional interaction that confirmed our standing philosophy on the affiliation between networking, real estate and charity.

imageSteven Dubb
Vice President, Beechwood Organization, Residential Developers

Ever since I can remember they have been saying things are getting worse. The world increasingly dislikes us. Climate change will drown us. Obamacare will socialize us. Taxes on the Island will brain drain us. There is no denying the seriousness of these issues. But while the end is on its way, the sun’s still coming up every morning. Waves are still crashing on the beach. The Walking Dead still comes on every Sunday. And you decide to live for today and let “them” handle getting the word out that the world’s ending.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Our company rebuilt or repaired over 800 homes in Rockaway that were damaged by Sandy. Being a part of that effort is easily my proudest accomplishment this year.

imageAdrienne Esposito
Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment

In the 1984 movie Starman, an alien takes the form of a young widow’s husband and asks her to drive him cross-country so he can reunite with the mother ship and go home. As only can happen in the movies, they become friends. My favorite line was when Jeff Bridges, who plays the alien, tells the woman: “You are at your very best when things are at their worst.” I relearned this when Long Islanders worked to rebuild after Sandy. I joined volunteers; we were strangers who worked together as a team, shared lunches and hugged at the end of the day.

Tom Glazer
President, Graphic Image/GiGi New York

It was a year in which nothing seemed nailed down. Not at my hometown in Long Beach, not in our government and not at work. Yet work, although it was its usual challenging self, became an oasis where things actually were working. The plans we made coming out of that period started to click. After opening our store in Southampton, suddenly everyone knew who we were. At the factory, we have completed a transformation from a bookbinder to a handbag maker—on Long Island no less. And the boardwalk is open again. God bless.

George Gorman Jr.
Acting Regional Director, New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

In 2013 I saw unprecedented cooperation between federal, state and local agencies working to rebuild Long Island State Parks in the aftermath of Sandy. As damaged parks reopened, visitors expressed thanks and appreciation—they needed to visit to get away and escape. It reminded me of the reason I chose my career with State Parks over 30 years ago: To connect people, and myself, with nature.

Penny Fern Hart
President, TSC>Direct Insurance Company

I learned that politics in the developed world is no different than that of a Third World country.
I learned in romantic relationships, “What’s love got to do with it?”
I learned that there is nothing more valuable than an old friend.
I learned that no matter how progressive business becomes, I will always be a girl.
I learned that forgiveness is an enlightening thing as long as you don’t forget.
I learned that looking in the mirror and liking who we see matters most in life. I learned that trying to find a date stinks and breaking up a long-term relationship is fattening!

imageDottie Herman
CEO, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

I learned about optimism and faith. People who were in foreclosure or lost their homes in short sales are back in the marketplace, looking to start over. And a younger generation of homeowners are looking to put down roots in this precious region. Real estate is thriving again all over Long Island, and the Gold Coast has emerged as an international destination for buyers of luxury real estate. This year, I was repeatedly reminded that all things come around in time.

Joe Iavarone
President, Iavarone Brothers Gourmet Foods

Having recently been hit by Sandy, many Long Islanders were still recovering from its crippling effects. We helped assist them through fundraising and by holding prices even though we faced some of the highest food and operating costs ever encountered. It equated to working harder and making less. But the Iavarone family was happy to do it. I learned about loyalty.

Kenneth JayNe
Merken Fisheries

Maybe I should have gone to college. This question reminded me of the sinking feeling I got in my stomach when I went down to the docks to see the devastation after Sandy. All the nets and equipment I accumulated over 25 years were gone. All I could think was “now what?” Having lost so much, it got me thinking about the decision I made to become a commercial fisherman. What I learned is that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing—what I love.

Kevin Law
President/CEO, Long Island Association

I was privileged to interview Al Gore and Hillary Clinton in 2013, meet one-on-one with Governor Cuomo and advise our county executives and other elected leaders on matters affecting our region. I also caught the MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field and Billy Joel at The Paramount. However, my two sons are unimpressed with who I know or hang with and still want me around as much as I can be in their lives. I make it a point to be home before they go to sleep and to be the first person they see when they wake up. My work puts me in touch with some serious big shots, but the biggest of them all are waiting for me when I get home.

Mamma Lombardi
Lombardi’s Restaurants, Catering and Foods

I’m 82 this year! What have I learned? I have a beautiful family! After all these years and how much my family has grown, there is still room at the table. And there will always be enough pasta! A little wine (using half a finger as a measurement) is good for you.

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Marotta Facial Plastic Surgery, PC

“I have not failed,” Thomas Edison said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote has become one of my favorites. Our state-of-the-art center for aesthetics and wellness in Smithtown is due to open at year’s end. It took three long years from conception, to purchasing the land, to construction and hopefully completion. It all started with just a thought, a dream, a hope and a lot of fear. Would it all work out? What nightmares await us? What mistakes will we make? You can never predict all the variables in business or in life. The important thing is to see every mistake as an opportunity to learn—as one step closer to inventing your own light bulb.

Kevin McAllister
Baykeeper & President, Peconic Baykeeper

There is nothing more encouraging or inspirational than when citizens become activists. The Old Inlet breach on Fire Island opened during Hurricane Sandy was a positive outcome from a tragic event. The ocean-bay exchange that was created nourishes Great South Bay with clean water while flushing out polluted water. Initially, elected officials were pushing for the closure of the breach. But those who understood the benefits to the bay were united in overwhelming opposition to its closure. As a result, officials are now reconsidering their previous position.

Maureen Tara Nelson
President, Maureen Tara Nelson Private Matchmaking

It was both the hardest and luckiest year of my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. I decided to take the most radical approach and get a double mastectomy. The surgeon found cancer hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes. That meant no radiation or chemotherapy would be necessary. I learned I had the strength to beat breast cancer because I had such an amazing support system—my children.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: I’m proud I still have the passion to serve my clients and work hard to restore my business every day.

imageDr. Marina Peredo
Spatique Medical Spa

I was invited to attend a highly prestigious, professional advisory board in August. It comprised 20 elite female dermatologists nationally. I was both honored and humbled to be part of this group. The memorable weekend consisted of conversation between doctors and women sharing their knowledge and expertise. That weekend, we became a sisterhood. The most important lesson that I learned from this camaraderie of powerful women is that we communicate differently than men. We are secure, confident and more willing to share our successes and failures.

imageNoel Raab
President, FiveStar Advertising, Inc.

Dogs really are man’s best friend. Fifteen years ago, my two young daughters begged to get a dog and I reluctantly took them in search of the perfect family pet. I was looking for a big, macho “man” dog, but was overruled by my girls. They wanted a five-pound scraggly, Yorkie puppy. Over the years, Kirby was the last face I saw when I left for work, the first greeting when I returned home, my excuse to take a walk, smoke a cigar or just get out of my house for a breath of fresh air. Sadly, we had to put Kirby down this past January. I have come to realize that loyalty comes in all shapes and sizes and how important it is.

Gordian Raacke
Executive Director, Renewable Energy, Long Island

Our recent Long Island Clean Electricity Vision study shows that it is technically feasible to meet all the Island’s electricity needs using clean energy sources, but could it be done in the real world? My doubts vanished in September at the fifth annual 100% Renewable Energy Conference in Germany. Communities from all over Europe are already meeting all their electricity needs with clean, carbon-free energy. This transformation is about revitalizing local economies and empowering residents with a new, sustainable dream for the future. If they can do it, we can do it.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: My home has run on 100 percent solar electricity for more than a decade.

imageElliott Sroka
Executive Director, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts

I hope to remember 2013 as the year I stopped worrying about the future of the arts. Sure, there are challenges on the business side, but somehow my focus shifted. I was bowled over by Chris Botti and Savion Glover mentoring our LIU students. When he joined our honorary board, Bill Cosby took an hour to share his concerns about education and civil society. Diana Krall’s stories about her family were highlights in an unforgettable gala performance. As much as their talent sets great performers apart from us, it’s their ability to connect as people that is their greatest gift and the best hope for the arts.

Lloyd Van Horn
GM, Montauk Yacht Club

For us at Montauk Yacht Club, 2013 really spoke to our “come as you are” philosophy. Each season, you never exactly know what you’re going to get as far as travel diversity. We know that people are attracted to our elements. And that’s about all they have in common. Sometimes it’s ultra-sophisticated and fancy, sometimes it’s barefoot and beachy. Sometimes it’s like a scene from the bar in Star Wars. We just roll with it and have fun.

imageTerry & Steven Vogel
Owners, Event Kings, planning & production

This year we learned that if you truly believe something is possible, then it is achievable. After years of thinking about opening another office in the South, we just opened Event Kings Palm Beach in November. The power of positivity really makes a difference. The year confirmed if you put positive energy out into the universe, you will receive it back tenfold.

Mike Watkins
President/CEO, Woodstone Development

I can safely say that working hard and being a good person do actually pay off in the long run. You just have to be willing to be patient, honest and take the good with the bad. BRAGGING RIGHTS: Keeping all 20 of my employees during the economic downturn. In addition to continuing to build many custom homes in The Chapin Estate (Bethel, NY), late this past summer I also broke ground on my first development—a $30 million project located in Monticello, NY.

Dave Widmer
GM/Market Manager, Connoisseur Media, Long Island Radio Group

I’ve learned a lot this year about losing. My son was the senior quarterback and captain of his high school football team. The season began with high hopes and expectations of success. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way and the team finished 1-7. But they stayed together. It’s only high school football and there will be bigger challenges ahead of them. This season taught them, and me, a lesson about the importance of being a good friend and teammate and knowing that you gave it your all for a worthy cause and never gave up.