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.
An already familiar face at The ARK, Dr. DiCicco has taken on the role of Chief Veterinary and Bio-Security Compliance Officer. In this position, Dr. DiCicco is responsible for overseeing the operation’s compliance with best veterinary care practices as well as bio-security requirements that support animal transportation. Dr. DiCicco works with USDA-APHIS VMOs to coordinate bio-security measures for The ARK’s equine export stable and 48 stall equine quarantine. In addition, Dr. DiCicco will address animal welfare needs and oversee various agreements that The ARK has with various City, State and Federal agencies.
DiCicco has been deemed uniquely qualified for this role based on his 40-year experience as an equine practitioner at Belmont Park, Yonkers, Saratoga, Aqueduct and Roosevelt racetracks. In addition, DiCicco provides practice consulting for small animal veterinarians and is familiar with all shipping requirements for companion animals. DiCicco holds a Category 2 USDA accredited veterinary license and finds time to serve on the United State Trotting Association’s Harness Racing Medical Collaborative along with some of the best academics, equine research pharmacologists and practicing veterinarians in the nation.
Separate and apart from his compliance position at The ARK, DiCicco will continue to provide veterinary medical services to the JFK and New York equine stakeholder community in support of equine imports and provide veterinary care to those traveling with their domestic animals. All imports for the Yonkers International Trot come through this state of the art facility at JFK
DiCicco received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Dr. Mittel is a faculty member at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University and is a senior extension associate at the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Before her position at the College of Veterinary Medicine, she was an equine practitioner for over 25 years throughout the U.S. She owned and operated her own practice in New York and Connecticut after spending close to 10 years as resident veterinarians on large breeding farms in Kentucky, New York, Texas, and Arkansas. She has special interests in infectious diseases and biosecurity. Upon her move to academia, she worked in those areas researching tick-borne diseases, parasitology, and equine coronaviruses. She also oversees the New York state Contagious Equine Metritis (“CEM”) facility at Cornell and provided veterinary care, biosecurity, and diagnostic testing for the quarantine horses at the center. In addition to her research, she consults with veterinarians, teaches diagnostic medicine, and is active in many equine organizations. She chaired the American Association of Equine Practitioners (“AAEP”) infectious disease committee, participated as a member of the task force for the development of the Equine Disease Communication Center (“EDCC”), and represented the AHC in USDA stakeholder meetings. She actively participates in many other equine related organizations.
As part of the team from Cornell that has been working with the ARK, Dr. Mittel has developed the biosecurity plans, standard operating procedures, and provided technical expertise in these areas. She has worked diligently to implement the highest possible biosecurity standards for The ARK’s Equine Import and Export Center. Her years of experience as a seasoned equine practitioner supports her efforts to provide excellent care, introduce the highest standards of biosecurity, and understand the welfare concerns for the arriving and departing animals from the ARK.
Although Dr. Mittel’s primary area of concentration at The ARK is the Equine Import and Export Center, she also assisted The ARK Pet Oasis in developing its biosecurity plans, training staff members, and providing veterinary oversight to the Pet Oasis facility. Also, she established the avian quarantine facility, the biosecurity plans, and the husbandry and care associated with this discipline of The ARK.
“The ARK is the epitome of animal air transportation of horses, dogs, birds, and other exotics in the US. It has been an outstanding experience working in this area to help develop the guidelines and care for our air-traveling animals the ARK. Our society values their pets or as part of their families and demand the best care for them when being flown as they should”. I have learned a lot about air travel, and I am happy to be a part of the ARK.” quoted Dr. Mittel.
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.
Alyssa Burke joined The ARK in January 2019 as its Corporate Administration Manager. While coordinating all ground movement for equine import and export reservations she also manages The ARK’s new hire processing to ensure new and existing employees understand the rules and regulations for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Customs border of Protection, and that they are followed accordingly. Alyssa comes to The ARK with several years of Human Resource experience from one of JFK’s largest ground handling companies. She also specializes in billing, payroll, employer-employee relations, labor law compliance, training, and development. Alyssa has a passion for helping others and emphasizes on team building. She is always looking for new ways to develop and maintain administrative systems, policies and procedures, and is a key member of the team at The ARK.
Kiera Mejia is Customer Experience Manager for The ARK at JFK and works alongside the Managing Director to communicate the core message of The ARK. She manages Pet Shipping reservations with ARK Pet Oasis, updates social media outlets and websites, 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.
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.
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.