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Lynne Fuentes, Head of Fuentes & Angel CPAs LLC, is Accounting for Change

Lynne Fuentes
Lynne Fuentes

In addition to leading Fuentes & Angel CPAs LLC in Jericho, Lynne Fuentes has a new title: president-elect of the 24,000-member New York State Society of CPAs. She talked with the Long Island Press about the accounting profession and gearing up to lead the group celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

What are your priorities as president of the state society of CPAs?

I have two main focuses. I’d like to concentrate on small to mid-sized firms. There’s an overabundance of them. It’s difficult for them to get staffing. We’re competing with large-sized firms. Being able to provide them with better continuing education classes and showing how the society is really here for them and larger firms.

What’s the second priority?

To continue building the pipeline for the profession. There are fewer students going into the profession of accounting. To me, it was the backbone of every business. I always knew I’d have a job. People lost awareness and don’t know what an accountant can be.

Do most people know what an accountant actually does?

Most people think accountants sit behind a desk with tape on their glasses and a pocket protector. And all we do is look at numbers, put numbers on a piece of paper and come up with a tax. There are numerous things that accountants do. Many go into the FBI, work for the U.S. Treasury. Knowing numbers tells a story. If it wasn’t for accountants, the Madoff scandal may never have come to light. Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, was a CPA. Fred Wilpon, the former principal owner of the Mets, is a CPA.

How has technology changed the profession?

It’s made things a lot easier. Remote learning. You can have clients all over the country. It’s made choosing items to audit much simpler. The computer systems pick out things that look unusual. 

Why are you trying to get accounting included as a STEM profession?

The state society believes it‘s a natural fit. We use a lot of technology for bitcoin, big data, blockchain. Even doing an audit is no longer picking up a general ledger. We run it through our computer system. It tells us these are the items you should look at. In doing a company audit, you need the technology end of it to see if their systems have the proper controls in place.

Accounting traditionally was seasonal. Is that still the case?

I wish it was seasonal. When I first started out in the profession, April 15 hit and I was able to relax. Now with extensions, with Covid, Delta, Omicron, our deadlines have been extended. Every time they make a tax law and say it’s going to be easier, it becomes more difficult. There’s a greater need for accountants than ever.

Why did you go into accounting?

My grandparents are from Cuba. My grandfather came here when he was 7, became a union organizer. My grandmother saw the neighbor preparing tax returns and making money off it. She told my grandfather he had to learn that. He was the original tax accountant in the family. My father became an accountant alongside his father since he was 19 years old. I joke that one of his clients had a vending machine route. He would bring us a box of M&M’s. As a 5-, 6-, 7-year old, I said, “This is what I want to do, because I can get free M&M’s.”

What are some big changes in taxation?

This year, they had the additional child tax credits. For children under 17, you got $3,000 instead of $2,000 and for children under 6, you’ll get a credit of $3,600. It still needs to be reconciled with the return. They received stimulus money last year. Clients last year weren’t remembering how much they received. This year the IRS will be sending out letters, saying, “This is how much you received for your advance child tax credit and stimulus.”

Do you think the profession can do more to promote minorities?

We need to promote more people of color, Latinx. That needs to increase. We’re seeing more women as partners. Two years ago, I did a study of women partners in accounting firms. That number barely grew in the 11 years prior to that. In the last two years, it’s been more and more. You see a lot of women accountants as managers, but not necessarily as partners. We need to keep increasing that.

What’s your favorite thing about being an accountant?

I love my clients. I meet so many diverse people from different parts of the country and the world, from your low-income taxpayer to someone who paid $35 million in an extension. Everyone makes my day more interesting. It’s the personal aspect of it. Being part of the state society has been an influential part of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever written a resume. 

What’s it like to be running an accounting firm?

It’s got its challenges, especially this year, trying to find staffing. I’ve been doing work for some clients for so long. Some of these people have become like family or friends. Having to raise fees is the heartbreak of doing a job. But you need to pay people and stay on top of the rising costs.

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Is There An Upside to Inflation? Why It Isn’t All That Bad

inflation
Prices are rising, it seems, from the pump to the supermarket in a kind of financial future shock. (Getty Images)

“Invest in inflation. It is the only thing going up.” That’s a famous Will Rogers quote that takes a humorous approach to a not-so-humorous force reaching into Americans’ finances. “What’s in your wallet?” Capital One asks. Whatever’s there doesn’t buy as much today as it did a year ago. Will Rogers aside, there isn’t much that’s funny about the effect of inflation. And it is having a very real impact on industry and individuals.

You don’t need to be an economist to know nearly everything is more expensive lately than it was prepandemic. Prices are rising, it seems, from the pump to the supermarket in a kind of financial future shock. If an inflation costume had been for sale this Halloween, it might have been popular, if a little pricey. Inflation is the robber that picks your pocket, the thief that leaves you with less buying power. But in some cases, despite all the difficulties, inflation also can be your friend. There are benefits to this bane on buying power.

There really is a silver lining to the inflationary cloud hanging over the country. Wages are rising, even if they’re not always keeping pace with inflation. And inflation brings other benefits as well, even if it may be a net negative.

“There are very few winners from inflation, because it can more broadly outpace any net fiscal gains that the average person would experience,” said Richard Murdocco, an adjunct professor focused on urban planning, land use and economic development at Stony Brook University’s Public Policy graduate program. “In general, any perceived rising tides in pricing due to inflation alone are artificial, because any additional dollars earned are simply watered down.”

Still, inflation does have some winners or benefits. Civilian wages and salaries rose 4.2 % for the 12 months ending September 2021 after increasing 2.5 % for the 12 months ending in September 2020. The Associated Press reported wages for the three months ending September 2021 rose the most in 20 years in “a stark illustration of the growing ability of workers to demand higher pay.”

Inflation can be good news, depending on which side of a transaction you find yourself. It can push up home prices, while making houses more expensive to build. “Inflationary pressures make Long Island, which is already a challenging environment for builders, even more so thanks to increased costs of materials, labor, and debt,” Murdocco said.

A weaker dollar makes U.S. products cheaper abroad, which can boost exports. If you owe money, the bill can become easier to pay as the dollar becomes weaker. “Holders of longer-term fixed-rate debts, such as a 30-year mortgage, may benefit in a very limited fashion,” Murdocco added.

The extent of inflation has become a major factor, as the annual inflation rate in the nation reached 6.8% in November 2021, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest since June of 1982 and the ninth consecutive month above the Fed’s 2% target.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says inflation is being driven by rising commodity costs and demand, wage pressures, and supply chain disruptions. It comes as the economy essentially hits a reset, after being shut down.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.8% in November, but when you break things down, you see some huge jumps. Energy costs were up 33.3% in November with gasoline up 58.1% and food up 6.1%, the biggest rise since October of 2008. Excluding food and energy, inflation increased 4.9%, the highest since June of 1991, but only slightly higher than rising wages.

Inflation doesn’t mean the economy is weak, amid many signs of strength. Both Nassau’s and Suffolk’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.0 percent in October 2021, compared to 6.0 percent in New York State and 4.3 percent nationwide. The number of private sector jobs on Long Island increased over the year by 16,500, or 1.6 percent, to 1,058,900 in October, according to the New York Department of Labor. The stock market has been strong, putting more money in many people’s wallets or brokerage accounts.

Inflation, however, can be perceived as, if not a tax, a force depleting purchasing power. Few people find it humorous when they pay more for the same product or service than they did a month or a year ago. Will Rogers, where are you when we need you? And rising costs beg the question as to whether and how the Fed and government will react, even if comedians may find some fodder for humor.

“For policymakers, the challenge will be blunting the impacts of inflation while at the same time maintaining private sector investment and public environmental protections,” Murdocco said. “While the localities are currently flush with cash from the federal government, this money won’t last forever.”

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Valley Stream Shipping Company Prez Talks Delays in International Importing

shipping
Salvatore J. Stile

Consumers increasingly receive goods from around the globe. Alba Wheels Up International, an international freight forwarder and customs broker, specializes in bringing items into the United States. We talked with Salvatore J. Stile, president and chairman of the Valley Stream-based company which has more than $300 million in annual sales and about 200 employees, about importing in an increasingly international world.

What does your company do?

My company is an international freight forwarder and U.S. Customs broker. They work in tandem with each other. One service is bringing goods into the United States or exporting out of the United States via ocean or air freight. Customs clearance is guiding clients through the proper Customs rules and regulations. We also deal with other government agencies such as the FDA and EPA. We make sure we assess the proper duties and tariffs. There are over 25,000 tariff codes that apply to products coming into the United States.

What type of commodities do you handle?

We bring billions of dollars of goods to the United States ranging from apparel to footwear and accessories to electronics and food items. The most common would be apparel-related and consumer products. The most uncommon? We cleared the 911 monument in Bayonne, N.J., called Teardrop, given as a gift from the Russian government and a famous Russian sculptor. Many years ago, we exported 70,000 pounds of custom silver made of sterling from a company in Brooklyn that made it for the Saudi royal family wedding.

What countries do you deal with most and what are the biggest issues?

Asia and the Indian subcontinent. I would say now the biggest issues are the additional tariffs, the 301 tariffs more commonly referred to as the Trump tariffs. If a duty would be 10% from other countries, there would be an additional tariff ranging from 7.5 to 25% from China.

What’s the extent and primary cause for delays now?

Probably about 50 to 60 days. Something that would take from door to shelf in ocean in 30 days now takes close to 80. Factories have been shut down. There were allotments for electricity where they worked at 60 percent capacity. Steamship lines may schedule six ships to LA, but only send four. The LA ports are like a clogged drain. There’s been a lot of blank sailings where steamship lines don’t send vessels, because they either don’t have enough commitment to fill them or they want to keep the ocean freight rates at a stabilized level.

What other things cause delays?

There are equipment and personnel shortages. There is a shortage of chassis, the wheels that a container is put on that connects to a truck. A lot of people aren’t returning the chassis in time. They’re not manufacturing them as quickly as possible. Another reason for delays is, the terminal yard is so packed, it’s hard to maneuver in the terminal.

Has anything specific been happening in China lately leading to delays?

They had the Golden Week holiday in October. It’s a national holiday, so they shut down. There were fewer shipments coming out of China.

What does it take to survive as a logistics freight forwarder today?

Capital. Best in class technology. You have to be an advocate for your clients to come up with solutions outside of normal processes. And as a Customs broker, you have to understand how available rules and regulations can be beneficial to your clients.

Can you give examples?

We’re strong in the Section 321 program, a direct-to-consumer program. If you’re an importer and know who your client is before goods ship from the country of export, if the eligible merchandise is under $800 in value, there’s no duty on the product. If you bring in a container of women’s knitted blouses from China, the total tariffs and duty would be $29,000 or $30,000. If you utilize the section 321 program, effectively, it would be zero.

Is that something new?

It’s been around for several years. It used to be a $200 limit, but it was raised to $800. Not only is it duty free, after you pick up the container from the port, you can drop it into your domestic supply chain. You don’t have to go to your distribution center.

What has your company done to help clients get through these difficult times?

We’ve helped finance them with credit terms, because freight is five times more than it used to be. They rely on us for financial support and speed to market. We get goods delivered to market quicker than a lot of our competitors. We do that by planning shipments from export with technology, so we can anticipate what trucks are needed, reserve space, pick up goods at the terminal and clear goods before they arrive at the port.

What do you foresee in the next year as the impact on the import community?

I see trouble ahead, not only for the import community, but the consumer. I see rates staying high. I see the lending community going to pull back on advances to importers. They’re concerned. This can’t be an ongoing situation. A lot of importers haven’t been passing on higher rates to retailers. You could see another 5 to 10% bump in consumer goods prices.

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Retail Recovering on LI, Although Pre-pandemic Heights Remain Elusive

retail
While the times are changing, so are shopping patterns, which are different from pre-pandemic trends. (Getty Images)

You don’t have to be a weathervane to know which way the wind is blowing or an economist to get a sense of how the economy is doing. Just stop by a store.

In Plainview, Trio Hardware is seeing more customers stream in. P.C. Richard and Son, which offers first responder discounts, is getting busier. Restaurants are getting more crowded along with more takeout orders: You may need a reservation where until recently you did not. Barbershops are busier. Long Island is recovering as we head into the holiday retail season, although it’s hard to say what the new normal will be and what will happen in the winter.

Numbers and predictions paint pictures in ways that individual experience cannot, when it comes to the state of the local economy. Stores don’t expect to be spooked by soft sales. Deloitte predicts holiday retail will surge 7% to 9% while e-commerce sales are expected to grow 11% to 15% over 2020. E-commerce holiday sales are projected to grow 11% to 15%, compared to 2020. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27 could boost sales.

“We anticipate strong consumer spending for the upcoming holiday season,” says Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s U.S. economic forecaster, citing rising vaccination rates which will likely lead to “increased spending on services, including restaurants and travel.”

Expect e-commerce sales to “continue to grow as consumers demonstrate an ongoing and steady movement toward buying online across all categories,” Bachman says of a retail landscape with a little less competition, due to empty stores.

Consumer spending on Halloween-related items was expected to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation’s forecast. “Americans plan to spend more than ever to make this Halloween a memorable one,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said of pent-up demand. He added that amid lingering supply concerns, retailers in this new not entirely normal brought in Halloween products earlier to ensure shelves were stocked with seasonal goods ahead of the holiday.

Things are improving locally despite inflation, but we’re still far from pre-pandemic heights in terms of jobs and in retail, specifically. Nonfarm employment on Long Island (jobs physically located here) was down 119,100 or 8.8 percent as of August 2021 from pre-pandemic August 2019.

The leisure and hospitality sector on Long Island, “the hardest hit during the pandemic,” is still 29,400, or 20.4% below pre-pandemic levels, said Shital Patel, principal economist and labor market analyst for Long Island at the New York State Department of Labor. Employment at restaurants remains 17.2% below pre-pandemic levels, she said.

“The retail sector has fared a bit better compared to leisure and hospitality, but the recovery has been uneven,” Patel said, noting retail employment is 10.8% below pre-pandemic levels.

“Building material and garden equipment stores, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, have regained all the jobs lost during the pandemic and employment is currently above pre-pandemic levels,” she said.

These stores benefitted from consumers “spending more time at home and renovating and upgrading their living spaces,” Patel said. P.C. Richard and Son added interactive Smart Home Departments with Wi-Fi thermostats, video doorbells, and much more, seeking to ride the home high-tech boom.

At the other end of the spectrum, employment on Long Island at clothing and clothing accessories stores, which Patel said “were already struggling prior to the pandemic,” remains 25.3% below pre-pandemic levels.

E-commerce is soaring with brick-and-mortar retailers relying more on clicks as delivery rockets. The courier and messenger industry, which includes companies to which e-commerce retailers outsource local delivery, has grown by 27.9% over the last two years, Patel said.

Long Island’s 5.1% August unemployment rate was nearly half of the 9.7% during the height of the pandemic, but above the 3.8% in August 2019. If “Help Wanted” signs make it seem that fewer people are working or seeking work, data bears that out. Long Island’s labor force shrank 3.6% from pre-pandemic levels. 

“While we don’t have details on who has been exiting the labor force, there are many issues at play,” Patel said. “Childcare and eldercare issues as well as lingering fears of the virus and the Delta variant continue to keep many on the sidelines. The region’s older workers may also be retiring in larger numbers.”

While the times are changing, so are shopping patterns, which are different from pre-pandemic trends. Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail and distribution sector leader, said “pandemic-influenced shopping behaviors continue to gain traction.” Convenience as well as delivery may be king.

Retailers who respond to “shifting consumer behaviors and offer convenient options for online and in-store shopping, as well as order fulfillment,” Sides said, “will be poised for growth this holiday season, and into the new year.”

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Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, Offers His Food For Thought

long island cares

For nearly 14 years, Paule Pachter has been the CEO of Long Island Cares, which operates the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Over the past year, as hunger and food insecurity increased on Long Island, Long Island Cares expanded. We talked with Pachter about this persistent problem, the organization Harry Chapin founded just a year before his death, and what’s being done to help those in need, especially during the holiday season.

How many people need food banks on Long Island and is that number increasing or decreasing?

It’s 287,000. That represents a 6% decrease in the number of people when you compare it to 2020. The numbers for 2020 were skewed because of Covid. We were assisting about 480,000 people due to Covid.

How did you do that?

We did it and Island Harvest did it. Other hunger-assistance organizations did it. We were fortunate to have the resources. If you look back at 2020, people lined up in parking lots to pick up emergency food. Covid caught people off guard. Nobody thought they would go to a supermarket and find empty shelves or be laid off or furloughed. From March of 2020 through the end of the year, in some places we looked at a 70% increase in the number of people.

Who are Long Island’s hungry and food insecure?

People have an image of what someone struggling with hunger looks like. The stereotypical image is a poor person, a person from a minority community, someone who doesn’t work because they “don’t want to work” or can’t due to health or a disability. You have to look at who the people are.

And who are the people in need?

Sixty % of the people utilizing the emergency food network are people we might expect to have issues with food insecurity. They may be permanently unable to work due to health or socioeconomic issues. They are eligible for government entitlement programs such as SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], public assistance. These are people who don’t own homes. They may live with two or three other people. 

Who are the other 40%?

They are Long Islanders, most who are working, but not earning enough salary to lift them out of poverty. These are people who may make 10, 12, even 15 dollars an hour. Because of the cost of living in our region, the astronomical cost for rent, utilities, gas for your car, car insurance, 40% of people using our food network are Long Island’s working poor. They cannot lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty.

What do you mean by the “cycle?”

The cycle of poverty on Long Island is different from in most places in the United States. Four or five years ago, the Long Island Association (LIA) did a survey that found for a family of four to live on Long Island in some comfort, they have to earn $94,000. A family of four earning $54,000 a year is eligible or government entitlements on Long Island, because they’re classified as poor.  The group making more than $54,000, earning $60K, $70K for a family of four, those people are coming to the food pantries. 

How do you distribute the food and is that changing? 

For Long Island Cares, it’s changing. Historically, food banks provided the bulk of the food that we secure, whether privately, through donations or contracts, to organizations, pantries and soup kitchens. That’s the focus of our two government contracts. In 2009, Long Island Cares did a study of agencies. We do it every three years.  We found the majority of organizations we support couldn’t or wouldn’t expand. We started to open our own pantries to increase distribution of food to those who need it the most. If you look at Long Island Cares today, we have eight locations. We distribute food to the community through six. We have large operations in Freeport, Lindenhurst, Huntington Station, Hampton Bays, and our newest location in Bethpage.

Why and when did you add the latest location?

Bethpage opened last week. During the height of Covid, we received $2.5 million from the Town of Hempstead to open 18 temporary pop-up distribution centers throughout Hempstead. One of the pop-up distribution centers was in Bethpage. We knew there were needs in Hicksville, Levittown, Wantagh. We decided after the temporary pop-ups were going to be closing down, we would like to stay in Bethpage. 

Is Bethpage different from other locations?

Each satellite location is different. Bethpage is known as The Harry Chapin Food Bank Essential Market, a boutique model supermarket. You walk in, pick food. We’ll have a nutritionist come in once a week and do cooking demonstrations. The food is free.

How has Covid complicated distributing food?

Delivering to a senior housing program now requires us to deliver the food to the door to the apartment. There’s no longer a community room where people can come in and pick up. We do more home deliveries. That’s been a game changer. We also have mobile food delivery to disabled veterans. And we do deliveries to homeless enclaves. We deliver food to an average of 800 homeless people basically living on the street. That number doubled in the last year from 400.

How are financial donations doing?

Donations of money to food banks across the country, not just Long Island Cares and Long Island Harvest, are up significantly. Covid and all the press that came with lines for food distribution hit a nerve with Americans. Our average donation in 2020 was roughly $85 per person. Previously it was $40 or $50.

How do things look in terms of providing holiday meals?

We seem to have enough resources to provide people with a holiday meal. We won’t be able to provide 15- or 16-pound turkeys. The supply chain is still backed up from Covid and the cost of food has gone up significantly. Last year, we were able to purchase an average turkey of 14 pounds at about 79 cents a pound. Today it’s $1.29 a pound. That will impact our ability to donate as much as we have in the past.

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Long Island Malls Innovate to Thrive in New Era

malls
People are seen walking through Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Samanea New York Mall, formerly known as the Mall at the Source, spans more than 750,000 square feet and 38 acres. Like other malls, when the pandemic hit, it temporarily shut down. But vaccinations, time, an economy reopening, and a $30 million revamp complete with two new entrances are helping it reimagine retail.

Samanea, acquired in 2017 and still largely vacant prior to the pandemic, is now at more than 65 percent occupancy, with negotiations ongoing for another 25 percent. It announced a steady stream of new tenants, including Bloomingdale’s Furniture Outlet, which opened in 2020, as the first anchor tenant. That’s in addition to existing tenants such as Dave & Buster’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Fortunoff Backyard Store, and others.

“Retail changed, even pre-pandemic. You can go shopping for home furnishings and enjoy entertainment and restaurants,” said Dominic Coluccio, chief leasing and development officer for Samanea (pronounced “suh-man-ya”) New York. “You can spend the entire day. Previously, malls were just focused on the retail component. Now you can have an experience with a tenant you wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

Malls were hit by a kind of anchors away in recent years as some anchor tenants left. Sunrise Mall in Massapequa lost Sears and Broadway Commons in Hicksville lost Macy’s, while Green Acres Mall lost Sears and JCPenney. But lately some malls are going from ghost towns to a kind of new downtown. A strong economy, despite inflation, and pent-up demand are fueling a resurgence, even a possible renaissance, at some malls. 

“Demand for our space from a broad spectrum of tenants is growing,” said David Simon, CEO and president of Simon Property Group, which operates Roosevelt Field in Westbury, Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, and Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. “Occupancy gains continued, retailer sales accelerated, including our owned brands, and cash flow increased.”

Simon recently raised its quarterly dividend and upped full-year earnings projections as it reported 92.8 percent occupancy at its U.S. malls with a base minimum rent per square foot of $53.91, as of Sept. 30, 2021

“It looks as if Simon has, indeed, turned a corner,” according to The Motley Fool. “The situation is complex and there are overlapping issues here. But things are definitely looking up.”

Alexander Goldfarb, a managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Sandler, says international tourists aren’t back, but notes that many “malls are packed, shoppers are there, and tenants are taking space” again. “The fear of getting back in the department store, the fear of getting back in whatever weak retailer, is not there anymore,” he said.

The pandemic, Goldfarb added, “cleaned out a lot of weak retailers” and while e-commerce is strong, there appears to be an appetite for traditional retail. And e-xperience and e-xclusivity compete with e-commerce at malls like Samanea, where 99 Ranch Market, an Asian supermarket with more than 50 locations nationwide, is opening its first New York location. Let’s Craft!, golf simulator X-Golf, moCA Asian Bistro, KPOT Korean BBQ, a Szechuan restaurant, and a 35,572-square-foot Empire Adventure Park with trampolines, virtual reality, and rock climbing are all part of the plan for the mall mix.

“It’s creating new experiences,” Collucio said of reimagining malls. “We’re repositioning and looking at the best use of where we are.”

Coluccio points to the desire to feel, touch, and test products before buying, an experience as something e-commerce can’t really sell. “You can’t go to an adventure park or go to a golf simulator on your computer,” he said. “It’s being interactive with the community.”

Goldfarb said malls are converting retail to restaurants and offices, pointing to Simon’s Galleria in Houston, which has offices and hotels. An NHL (National Hockey League) arena and headquarters are going up at Northgate Station in Seattle and Simon’s earnings show its brick-and-mortar business is back. 

Simon reported $679.9 million in third-quarter income, up from $145.9 million a year ago. It’s also looking to licensing as well as renting as part of its revival. Those earnings include $111.9 million from interests in Forever 21 and Brooks Brothers intellectual property licensing ventures, as mall operators reimagine their role. 

Samanea opened a Halloween House and planned a Christmas House along with a holiday market in the parking lot. Pop-up experiences are different from pop-up ads. It’s also planning an amusement park in the parking lot next summer, hoping entertainment complements e-commerce. And there’s another potential big plus to being in the mall business. “No one is building a new mall,” Goldfarb said, although new uses may be part of the new norm.

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Businesses Hope to Score Boon from UBS Arena Debut

ubs arena
Renderings of the new UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders. (Photo: NHL)

You didn’t have to be at the recent grand opening of the UBS Arena in Elmont to know it was a big deal. The Empire State Building, Pier 17 at The Seaport and the Nassau County seat of government’s dome were all lit in Islanders and Nassau County blue and orange on Nov. 20. Key players — not on the Islanders, in this case — in the project were slated to ring the morning bell at the New York Stock Exchange a little more than a week later.

The opening of the UBS Arena, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 19 a day before the Islanders’ first game there, is part of a celebration where the venue, not only the Islanders or performers, is the star. The arena built at Belmont Park on the border of Queens and Nassau is a major development in terms of entertainment and could have a big economic impact.  

“The new UBS arena keeps the Islanders here, contributes to Long Island’s sports economy and will have a multiplier impact of billions of dollars over the life of the developer’s lease,” Long Island Association CEO Matthew Cohen said. 

Local business groups view the opening on New York State-owned land as a win for the community, bringing in new businesses and benefiting those in the area. 

“This development will bring a steady stream of revenue locally and statewide,” said Julie Marchesella, president of the Elmont Chamber of Commerce. “The Islanders as well as arena partners in the construction process have already been using several delis, restaurants, printers and other business services to effect a change in the economic circumstances of our community.”

The new home of four-time consecutive Stanley Cup Champion New York Islanders was developed as a partnership between Oak View Group, the New York Islanders and Jeff Wilpon. Construction went on despite the pandemic, building facilities including medical-grade air filtration and ultraviolet light systems to help with cleaning. 

Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group and leader of the arena project, talked about the project’s “promise of helping reinvigorate the New York economy,” among other benefits. 

Organizations are hoping to harness the arena as a marketing engine as well. Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling announced a sponsorship agreement with the Islanders and UBS Arena, saying his system is “proud to align ourselves with New York’s newest premier sports and entertainment venue.”

The arena, in a region where the division between Nassau and New York City goes beyond an area code, builds a new, big bridge between Nassau and the Big Apple. The structure is in Nassau, a slapshot away from Queens, but with sections of the parking lot in Queens.

“You really don’t even know whether you’re in Queens or in Nassau,”Queens Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Grech said. “There’s no demarcation literally between Nassau and Queens. In that area, it’s fungible.”

Marchesella said the arena realizes a vision the community first outlined years ago for a sports/entertainment venue. 

“Elmont’s vision plan, written almost 15 years ago, is now coming to fruition,” she said. “This was the vision for Elmont. Other things were added, like a hotel and stores. From a regional approach, it had to be economically viable.”

The $1.5 billion arena and surrounding redevelopment, according to developers, is expected to generate $25 billion in economic activity, including infrastructure improvements such as the revamp of the nearby Belmont Park Long Island Rail Road station. The development is slated to include 315,000 square feet of retail and a 250-room boutique hotel along with the 23,000-square-foot Islanders locker and team training facility.

While some worry that the UBS Arena could compete with the Isles’ longtime home, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, developers bill the venue as a boon in a region big enough for both. Organizers say the arena, able to fit up to 19,000 for concerts and 17,250 for NHL hockey games, is slated to host more than 150 major events annually.

“Before and after games and events and concerts, we want folks to come and stay, eat, drink and be merry in Queens,” Grech said. “There’s a lot of restaurants right on the outskirts of the parking lot and the arena.”

The Islanders debuted in their new home Nov. 20, playing the Calgary Flames, followed by Grammy Award-winner Harry Styles slated to perform on Nov. 28. WWE was on the calendar for Nov. 29 as part of WWE Monday Night RAW.

But some Hockey fans hoping to see the Islanders play a game at UBS may have to watch them on TV. As of press time, suites were gone, and there were very few single-game tickets left.

 “Selling out season tickets is a true testament to this loyal fanbase,” Leiweke said.

Adam Haber, CEO of Trellus, Talks Same-day Delivery Service For Small Businesses

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Adam Haber

Adam Haber is the cofounder and CEO of Trellus, an on-demand, same-day delivery service and marketplace that formally launched in January 2021. The Long Beach-based business currently works with businesses in Nassau County and as far east as the Sagtikos Parkway in Suffolk, and delivers from all of Queens to Montauk.

What need does your company meet?

We’re much less expensive than a courier service, about half the price or even less. The merchant partner buys a shipping label, just like with UPS. That alerts the closest driver to come get it. You don’t have to call a courier service. It’s user friendly. You don’t even have to interact with us. The purpose is to service only small businesses and create a marketplace that can compete with Amazon where you can on-demand order anything within the service radius of our platform and get it quicker.

Is your goal to help local businesses compete with companies on the internet?

Our business model is to give the small, downtown business and home-based businesses getting their butts kicked by Amazon a way to compete. We’re helping them to compete in time. I feel that having a flourishing downtown helps the community thrive. It helps with home values and quality of life.

Is this the shop local message?

Every politician says, “Shop local, save energy.” People will only do something if it adds value to their lives. Shop local and get things quicker is a lot different than shop local. 

Why is it called “Trellus?”

A trellis is a network that connects things together in gardens. The website domain name was $27,000. Spelling it with an “us” was 10 dollars. It was much better for us. It checked several boxes for us, a unique word, a recognizable brand. 

How did you get involved with this?

I do a lot of venture investing. My background is in finance and real estate. I probably have 50 investments in start-ups. This is one I’m all in on. With the others I’m a limited partner and passive investor. With this one I’m a cofounder and putting capital in and very excited about helping small businesses compete. 

Where’d you get the idea?

In 2016, when my son and I went to visit colleges, we went to several colleges around the country. He ended up going to Wake Forest. There were no or few individual stores where the person knows your name, what you like. The small-town feel wasn’t there. I saw Northern Boulevard have empty  storefronts. Why? Because Amazon provides goods and services cheaper and people don’t have to leave their homes. I thought if we can do the same thing, it would work. People want convenience.

How did you create the company?

I partnered with Brian Berkerey and JR Jensen. I went door to door to get feedback, to see if there was a business there. After I had signed up 40 or 50 businesses, we knew we had something special. We’re raising $2 million in seed money, which we’re probably going to close on very shortly.

How widely is Trellus used?

So far we have 90 businesses. Some libraries like using us. We have special rates for nonprofits. We have a nonprofit diaper-delivery company. We work with services, firms like legal firms, for paperwork. But the crux of our business is small and home-based business. We do an average of 100 deliveries a day and are growing rapidly. Some of our merchant partners end up working with other businesses. This isn’t just “B” to “C.” It’s also “B” to “B.”

What categories do you work with?

We do not do cooked food. It’s an extremely crowded space. We created an advertising platform, a marketplace where we drive people to shop local. People click on the links of the website of our merchant partners or even call them. They shop with the businesses. They can do UPS and curbside pickup. If they want to do same-day delivery, they use us. We integrate with Shopify, so it can be a selection at checkout if you want it the same day.

Where do I go if I want to use your service?

The website is bytrellus.com. As a consumer, go to our marketplace. Click on any of the categories. We do food, butchers, seafood shops, bakeries, chocolate shops, and candy. Most of our deliveries are within two hours. We guarantee them the same day. We only do small, independently owned businesses and franchisees to give them a way to compete.

What’s the cost?

There’s a fee for a business to be on our marketplace between $9.99 and $99 a month, depending on how many deliveries they do. The delivery fee within 5 miles is between $6.99 and $9.99 up to 50 pounds, as long as it’s in one box. If it’s outside 5 miles, it’s $1.50 a mile above that. When you do multiple deliveries, we have a batching system. We’re so much less expensive than UPS or a courier service. As a consumer, it’s up to the business whether they eat the cost of delivery or pass the cost on to you. Our drivers get tips from consumers, if they want to give them.

Do you expect Trellus will be even busier for the holidays?

Our businesses have already said we’ll be doing many more deliveries. A lot of the toy stores, chocolate shops, those businesses and more are going to be very busy during the holidays. We’re ready for the holiday seasons. If people want to shop local and get it the same day, even up to Christmas Eve, we’re here.

Are you hiring?

We’re hiring rapidly, executive positions in marketing and tech, and we always need more drivers. Just look at our website to see what positions we have.

How do you hope to expand?

We sign up merchant partner businesses in all of Nassau County and in Suffolk out to the Sagtikos, however we are expanding rapidly and plan on being all over Long Island by the end of the first quarter of next year. We’re going to offer a lot of services. We’re going to offer credit card processing, advertising, basket optimization services to have bigger sales.

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Long Island’s Generic, Over-the-counter Pill Business Booms

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Far from pausing during the pandemic, Long Island’s pill-making industry has been going into overdrive. (Getty Images)

Long Island may not be home to big pharma brands like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Sanofi, but when it comes to generic drugs, over-the-counter medications, and nutritional supplements, the region is a massive pill manufacturing center – and it’s getting bigger.

Far from pausing during the pandemic, Long Island’s pill-making industry has been going into overdrive, adding manufacturing to feed the nation’s insatiable appetite for medications and supplements. And that means hiring, investing in technology, and building in a kind of pill boom.

Generics, drugs made when original products go off patent, are at the core of the growth, typically providing cheaper options under manufacturer brand names, store brands, or for other companies.

Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey-based company specializing in generic drugs with large Long Island operations, supplies more than 10 billion generic doses to customers annually. It also produces jobs, employing about 900 people in Brookhaven, Hauppauge and Yaphank. 

ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug maker founded in 2009, operates 90,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space at its Hauppauge headquarters. The company says it can make up to 10 billion tablets and capsule units a year.

ScieGen on its website says construction is under way on a new facility that will include an additional 150,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, “allowing us to increase production.” 

Meanwhile, Central Islip-based generic pharmaceutical company Ascent Pharmaceuticals operates 309,000 square feet of manufacturing and laboratory space on Long Island. That’s in addition to about 15,000 square feet of laboratory space in India.

Hauppauge-based Contract Pharmacal, which says it has a 17 billion pill capacity, develops about 100 new products and makes more than 600 products annually. 

And Deer Park-based Allegiant Health, spun off by A&Z Pharmaceuticals, makes private label over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements, as well as products under its own Health A2Z brand. It now has a portfolio of more than 100 over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and supplements. 

Sounds like a lot? Enough to make the name of the TV show Billions seem like a rounding error? All of this adds up to a big little pill industry and a kind of hub of generic manufacturing, where other companies typically develop drugs then made on Long Island, fueling manufacturing in Suffolk County.

“In terms of what we do on Long Island, we manufacture and distribute generics,” Anthony DiMeo, an Amneal spokesperson, told the Long Island Press. “Generics is a critical industry in U.S. healthcare. It represents the vast majority of total prescriptions, 90%.”

Bridgewater, N.J.-based Amneal, DiMeo said, has been “focused on affordable, essential medicines,” since the company’s founding in 2002. Amneal acquired a Brookhaven site in 2008 and in 2017 completed a major expansion, which DiMeo said made it the largest pharmaceutical facility in New York State at approximately 600,000 square feet. He said Amneal’s generics business has been growing by 2%-3% a year, driven by new products.

Generics, drugs made when original products go off patent, are at the core of the growth. (Getty Images)

While Amneal makes many medications under its own brands, Contract Pharmacal specializes in making and packaging pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements for other companies. It employs more than 1,300, works for 65 customers worldwide and has annual bottling capacity of 300 million and annual solid-dose capacity of 20 billion.

“Fifty years ago, John Wolf, our cofounder, had a vision to help companies bring quality pharmaceutical-grade products to consumers,” Chief Operating Officer Jeff Reingold said as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary. “People assume quality, but you have to prove quality.”

Contract Pharmacal had grown its work force from 630 in 2012 to twice that number by 2019, according to a statement by Empire State Development and the New York Power Authority. 

“Contract Pharmacal has deep roots on Long Island and thanks to support from New York State this innovative company has seen significant job growth in recent years,” then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who toured their facility, said in 2019. “Their continued expansion is part of our ongoing strategy to create good-paying jobs, invest in our workforce, and ensure a brighter economic future for Long Island and across the state.”

Contract Pharmacal President Mark Wolf at the time said $8 million in tax incentives tied to his company’s investment and creation of jobs helped the business “expand and remain competitive in this highly specialized industry.”

In addition to manufacturing, the industry’s expansion is leading to high-tech warehousing for billions of pills made in the United States, even if most manufacturing has moved offshore.

“Our automated warehouse has the proper segregation to store materials of different environmental conditions to meet their requirements,” ScieGen says on its website. 

Many of the companies were created by entrepreneurs of Indian heritage, such as Amneal, founded in 2002 by brothers Chirag and Chintu Patel, whose father, Kanu Patel, worked as a pharmaceutical regulatory inspector in India.

SciGen CEO Pailla Malla Reddy, an Indian American businessman, in 1995 founded Bactolac Pharmaceutical and in 2009 launched ScieGen Pharmaceuticals. Sudhakar Vidiyala is CEO of Ascent Pharmaceuticals.

Companies do a lot of research as well as manufacturing on Long Island. Amneal in Brookhaven operates an R&D site not far from an 84,000-square-foot warehouse in Yaphank. 

Many pharmaceutical companies have been expanding on Long Island to meet growing demand, often driven by generics that prove an Rx for growth.

“Yes, we have been hiring on Long Island,” DiMeo said. “If you look at our LinkedIn page you’ll see we’ve had a number of job fairs this year.”

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Memorial Sloan Kettering Doctor Talks Cancer Care on Long Island

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Dr. Diane Reidy-Lagunes, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Regional Care Network

As the medical oncologist and associate deputy physician-in-chief of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Regional Care Network, Dr. Diane Reidy-Lagunes plays a key role in cancer care on Long Island. We talked with her about cancer, cures, Covid, the pandemic, and efforts to serve Long Islanders closer to home.

Are you from Long Island?

I am from Long Island. I was born and raised in Nesconset. I’m proud to work at MSK and have the opportunity to be back on Long Island and oversee the regional care network.

What is the regional care network and what is it on Long Island?

Many years ago, MSK decided we needed to bring our care closer to where our patients live and work. We developed regional care network sites. There are three on Long Island — Hauppauge, Uniondale, and Commack — three in New Jersey, and one in Westchester. The hope and expectation is we can provide care to our patients closer to home, to make it more convenient and eliminate the financial toxicity of having to take off a lot of time from work, providing childcare, and driving to the city. Over the years, we’ve developed new sites and tried to attend to patients’ needs by being where they are. We go to them, as opposed to assuming they will go to us.

What can you do at regional sites and when do patients need to go to Manhattan?

At our regional sites, patients can get chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as blood labs and things they need. There are pharmacies. The only thing not available is surgery. The surgeons are there, but for the operative care itself, that’s pretty much still in Manhattan. In Commack, we have an interventional radiology suite. That means certain procedures that interventional radiologists do can be done on Long Island.

How big is your Long Island regional presence and is it changing?

Now we have 20% of our patient population, all the patients we care for, on Long Island. It’s a big number. But any patient can get their chemotherapy and radiation anywhere.

How has cancer care changed since the pandemic?

The world changed since the pandemic. Nowhere are we more aware of that than at a cancer center. Our patients tend to be older and have cancer. They’re the highest-risk population for getting severe symptoms from Covid if, God forbid, they are exposed. We have gone above and beyond to get proper protocols in place, to make it the safest place to go and be. The protocols of keeping our patients safe are so tight. We’ve learned what keeps our patients and employees safe.

Can you describe some protocols?

It’s universal masking for everyone. If anyone even has a sniffle, they’re immediately tested. We have labs on site, so we can get responses quickly. Anyone who goes into an operating room is tested beforehand. All our employees are required to be vaccinated.

How are you using telemedicine?

That’s critically helpful for our patients, particularly on Long Island, who live a distance from the city. We can care for many patients through telehealth in the comfort of their own home. There are still safety issues in terms of visitor policies. Having telehealth allows us to invite any family members who want to attend a meeting. They can come on the video, even if they’re at work.

Did people delay care due to the pandemic and are you seeing a surge in demand for care?

I think early on, there were delays, in March of last year and most of the spring. Thankfully, we think that delay is no longer the case. We want to encourage patients to go back to screening and getting cancer care. 

What new tech/treatments are there or on the horizon?

Tremendous strides have been made, such as immunotherapy, medications that turn on your immune system to attack the cancer. It’s a drug given intravenously that turns on your immune system, particularly your T-cells, white cells fighting off the cancer. We have targeted treatments that allow us to treat patients based on the genetic dispositions of the cancer. Based on mutations in the cancer, we have new therapies targeting that.

What can people do to reduce their risk of getting cancer?

First and foremost, make sure you do the screening tests that save lives and prevent cancer. Colonoscopy for patients 45 and older. Mammograms and early detection are important. Going to see the dermatologist, making sure there’s no evidence of skin cancer or melanoma. And maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smoking is addictive, but going through smoking cessation programs is important. And eating. We know a lot of cancers today are associated with obesity.

Is MSK expanding, adding services or otherwise growing on Long Island?

Uniondale is a brand-new facility. We expanded our Commack facility in 2019 to be larger and we have the potential to expand Uniondale to be larger. I don’t think we plan on having another building. We’re continuing to see an increased number of patients. We’re bringing on doctors who have unique specialties that allow patients to get specialized care locally.

How crucial is it to fund and fight cancer – even as Covid-19 becomes such a key concern?

The pandemic has brought so much tragedy, but cancer continues to do the same. We have to keep to our mission, making sure we keep our eyes on the ball and keep going with research that we desperately need to do.

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