John J. Cuticelli, Jr. is Chief Executive Officer of ARK Development, LLC, the corporation responsible for leasing, development, financing and construction of the land and structure known as Building 78 – The ARK at JFK ad ARK Import Export Center, LLC the operating entity for the animal quarantine and export center.
During his tenure as head of ARK Development, LLC, Mr. Cuticelli has led a world-class team of veterinarians, bio-chemists, architects, engineers and other professionals to accomplish the planning and construction of this state-of-the-art facility. No other private entity has developed a facility of this scope and complexity in this discipline.
Mr. Cuticelli is committed to private development for the public good; another of his recent endeavors is the Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialty Hospital located in Elmont, NY adjacent to the Belmont Race Track. This state-of-the-art hospital is dedicated to the treatment and surgery of horses. Mr. Cuticelli acquired the functionally obsolescent equine surgery center and, together with the expertise of Cornell University Veterinary School, re-positioned it into a leading destination of equine welfare.
Alex is a veteran real estate executive, with extensive knowledge and experience in acquisitions, asset valuation, and asset management. Prior to joining Racebrook, Alex was the Chief Operating Officer of Accelerated Marketing Partners, LLC. Much of his recent focus has been in the area of distressed real estate and operating companies in both an acquisitions and advisory capacity.
Previously, Alex was the Director of Real Estate Portfolio Management at Starwood Hotels & Resorts responsible for real estate strategy and product development, developing and executing on business plans for some of Starwood’s largest assets, including the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, the Sheraton Boston, and the Sheraton Manhattan. In a different role at Starwood, he evaluated and executed corporate acquisitions, partnerships, and investments, in addition to managing Starwood’s corporate leasing activities. Prior to his tenure at Starwood, Alex was an Investment Banker at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc.
Alex is a Chartered Financial Analyst, holds a B.A. in economics from Williams College and he is a member of the Boston Security Analysts Society.
Elizabeth is Managing Director of The ARK at JFK with dual responsibilities for oversight and promotion of The ARK’s entire import/export business as well as specifically managing and directing the operations of The ARK Pet Oasis – which is dedicated to the in-transit travel needs of companion animals.
Prior to taking on her responsibilities at The ARK, Elizabeth served as Managing Director with Racebrook Capital (developer of The ARK) with strategic planning, compliance and oversight responsibilities. She is a licensed real estate broker in CT, FL and RI. In addition, Elizabeth is President of George Washington Mortgage & Investment Corp. – a closely held boutique firm that manages real estate assets in NY and MD and provides consulting services on asset portfolio acquisitions.
Earlier in her career, Elizabeth managed the operations divisions (credit analysis, servicing and asset disposition) of banks and equipment leasing companies including HSBC/Concord Leasing, Household International, and Citytrust (acquired by Chase). She was a financial/portfolio analyst with Booz Allen and Hamilton and Kaplan Smith and Associates (acquired by Boston Consulting Group).
Elizabeth received her B.A. in Economics with Honors from The College of William and Mary where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and a M.A. in Economics from The George Washington University.
Kiera Mejia is Communications Manager of The ARK at JFK and works alongside the Managing Director to communicate the core message of The ARK. She manages the social media outlets, assists with ARK Pet Oasis and/or Import Export Center operations, in addition to daily outreach efforts and content marketing, Kiera can be seen wearing many hats with a smile on her face.
Kiera is a Queens, NY native with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. Since receiving a certificate for “Animal Care and Passion” in Kindergarten, Kiera has made it her mission to love any animal that crosses her path. She began riding horses when she was 8 years old and grew up around dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. During her years at Baruch College, Kiera worked as a waitress, bartender, and assistant manager at a neighborhood restaurant while training and caring for horses in her spare time. After graduating, she joined a Social Media Marketing and Consulting agency where she was tasked with educating, consulting, and selling social media strategies for a variety of businesses. With a wealth of knowledge in hospitality, management, marketing and animal welfare, Kiera joins The ARK at JFK excited to be able to turn her lifelong passion into a career.
Her four-legged companions include: Cyrus the Formosan Mountain Dog rescued from North Shore Animal League, and Akuma the Lionhead bunny.
Alyssa Burke joined The ARK in January 2019 as its Corporate Administration Manager. Coordinating all ground movement for equine import and export reservations she also handles The ARK’s new hire processing within regard to the rules and regulations of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Customs border of Protection. Coming from one of JFK’s largest ground handling companies with several years of Human resource experience, Alyssa also specializes in billing, payroll, employer-employee relations, labor law compliance and training and development. Alyssa has a passion for helping others, she emphasizes on team building and is always looking for new ways to develop and approve administrative systems, policies and procedures.
Joanne O’Connell has devoted practically her entire life to the care and well-being of animals, so it’s no surprise she’s here at The ARK at JFK. What’s more amazing, she has filled most of her adulthood with a life of consideration for other people, and doing so with the help of her caring dogs. You may have already seen Joanne’s companion Aiden, who is an ambassador for The ARK.
For over a decade, Joanne has served as a fundraiser, docent and puppy raiser for The Guide Dog Foundation as well as for America’s VetDogs. Over the past eight years, Joanne has raised six puppies, five of whom became assistance dogs: three guide dogs (for people who are blind) and two service dogs (for veterans with disabilities). An is now raising her 7th puppy, who she bring to The ARK everyday. For the past three years, she and Aiden have served as visiting therapists, continuing the prior eight years of service Joanne and her beloved shepherd Shadow performed for Therapy Dogs International.
Aiden also serves as an ambassador dog for The Guide Dog Foundation. He was released from the guide dog program as a puppy for a potential medical issue and adopted by his puppy raiser Joanne. He could still help people, so Joanne signed him for the Foundation’s ambassador dog program, where he goes on speaking engagements to schools, clubs, and other events.
If that wasn’t enough, for over 15 years, Joanne has been a Wishing Granter, fundraiser and event co-chair for Make-A-Wish.
In her spare time, she found success in Corporate America, with the unique experience of working for the same company for 35 years, as a successful Engineer, Manager and Executive, trading on her demonstrated leadership, organizational, and operational abilities. Her business acumen, along with her empathy and interpersonal abilities, helped her to work with and support such notable firms for 25 years on Wall Street at Citibank, JP Morgan and SmithBarney, then moving to Long Island becoming HP’s Account Executive to Canon USA. Throughout her professional career and during her years of humanitarian efforts, Joanne has been recognized by those she has helped with numerous Volunteer, Customer Satisfaction and Client Service Excellence Awards, not to mention the numbers of shout-outs from appreciative people on Social Media. If only animals could Tweet.
You can see how we knew immediately there was no better person to manage the ARK Pet Oasis and The Aviary here at The ARK at JFK. Joanne and Aiden live in Nassau County. Oh, by the way, they also live with Joanne’s loving and supportive husband Sean.
Chris Lapkowski studied at Juniata College, a small liberal arts college located in central Pennsylvania. There he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Education. During his time there he studied a wide array of fields, from the broad study of Ecology, Botany, and Wildlife Management, to the more specific Plant Ecology, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and Vertebrate Zoology. He has experience in the field, catching and releasing all vertebrates (animals with a backbone), and can identify both plants and animals down to their Genus and species. The fields of Mammalogy and Herpetology (the study of mammals and reptiles/amphibians respectively) are his main interest. And has worked with large mammals, like deer and bears.
He has experience in the classroom teaching, through his minor in Education as well as his college employment at Science In Motion; A mobile education where teachers go to local middle and high schools and provide equipment and teach in the fields of Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science.
Previous to employment at The ARK, Chris gained managerial experience at the age of 23, where he was the Head Bartender in a restaurant located on Long Island. There he learned to manage employees both older and younger than himself, and handle many different situations that arise within the customer service industry.
Chris has had a wide array of pets. From dogs, cats, small mammals like gerbils/hamsters, reptiles, and some invertebrates like hermit crabs. Currently he is accompanied by his 2 and half year-old pup Sadie. She is a Shi Tzu, Bichon Frise mix which is actually called a “Teddy Bear”.
Timothy Walker, a Brooklyn native, who grew up less than 10 miles away from JFK International Airport. Tim, as he is affectionately called, had a fascination for animals from a very young age. As a matter of fact, to get him to read, it had to be a book about animals. He still a very avid reader of dog training and handling books.
Tim attended Kingsborough College studying in Liberal Arts. While attending school, Tim volunteered at a number of animal shelters in Brooklyn but mainly worked at Animal Care & Control (AC&C). At AC&C, he was a Level 1 volunteer to dogs that were up for adoption and some with aggressive behavior.
Tim left AC&C to join the staff of The ARK in 2016. With his great dog handling background and his ridiculous aviation knowledge, he is a perfect candidate for The ARK.
Tim is the owner of a red ear sliding turtle name Tigger and also helps with the care of his brother’s dog, a Maltese Poodle mix, name Luis.
Brandy Valdivieso started her career in the equine industry as a child. She was raised right outside the Amish country in Pennsylvania where she learned how to care for and ride horses at her mother’s training facility, Eclipse Equines, a hunter/jumper training and show barn. During her school years, Brandy moved into training horses/ponies, and children to ride them for the family business. She frequented local shows with her students and horses, usually bringing home a few championships from each show.
After high school, Brandy decided she wanted to step away from the horse industry. She moved to Miami to attend UM for Business Administration. While attending college, Brandy picked up a job at a company called Animal Air Service at the Miami International Airport. They were responsible for all the loading and unloading of equines and other animals onto and off of the airplanes. She was hired for her knowledge of horses and how to handle them. By the end of her first year at the company, she was overseeing all animal shipments and was the main human resources contact.
After working for Animal Air Service for three years, Brandy was offered a job as a loadmaster for a 747 cargo airline called Atlas Air. She spent two years traveling with 747; loading and unloading them all over South America and Europe. She was the first woman hired for this type of position by Atlas Air and ended up being known for her accuracy with loadplans and ability to load almost any type of cargo being shipped. Her reputation got her a job offer from another airline, Staff Cargo, as an Operations Manager, where she handled all ground operations for their flights. She stayed for the next couple of years until they changed ownership.
When Staff Cargo changed ownership, Brandy, with the help of her father, ended up buying Animal Air Service and together they ran the business from 2004 until 2019.
Kristin Sommermeyer, or Krissy as she is known around The ARK, graduated from Centenary University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, majoring in Equine Studies with a concentration in Business Management. While at school Kristin was active on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) teams, where she competed successfully in the Novice Hunt Seat and Intro Dressage classes. With a love for horses, Krissy became a working student her senior year of college at an Eventing barn in New Jersey, and after graduating in 2011, she became a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) professional and was co-managing and training at an 80-stall show barn on the North Shore of Long Island. Krissy still teaches, trains and keeps her 2 show horses at the show barn where she formerly managed.
Alyssa Burke joined The ARK in January 2019 as its Corporate Administration Manager. Coordinating all ground movement for equine import and export reservations she also handles The ARK’s new hire processing within regard to the rules and regulations of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Customs border of Protection. Coming from
Chris Lapkowski studied at Juniata College, a small liberal arts college located in central Pennsylvania. There he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Education. During his time there he studied a wide array of fields, from the broad study of Ecology, Botany, and Wildlife Management, to the more specific
Timothy Walker, a Brooklyn native, who grew up less than 10 miles away from JFK International Airport. Tim, as he is affectionately called, had a fascination for animals from a very young age. As a matter of fact, to get him to read, it had to be a book about animals. He still a very
Brandy Valdivieso started her career in the equine industry as a child. She was raised right outside the Amish country in Pennsylvania where she learned how to care for and ride horses at her mother’s training facility, Eclipse Equines, a hunter/jumper training and show barn. During her school years, Brandy moved into training horses/ponies, and
Kristin Sommermeyer, or Krissy as she is known around The ARK, graduated from Centenary University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, majoring in Equine Studies with a concentration in Business Management. While at school Kristin was active on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) teams, where she competed