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.
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.
Lindsay joined The ARK during the real estate development and pre-operational stage and has worked across the business. She focuses on corporate business development and marketing, operational strategy and property management. Her prior experience includes developing major gift and annual fund fundraising strategies for New York University and fundraising and event management at the Museum of American Finance, a Smithsonian affiliate. She has consulted for family offices and small businesses on marketing and internal control processes. Lindsay graduated with a BA from Gettysburg College, Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, and received her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Kristen McGowan heads the Equine Division of The ARK. She manages The ARK’s equine team members, and is responsible for the execution and superior level of personal care provided each animal that walks through the door. Kristen also handles customer reservations and scheduling, billing and accounts receivable, as well as daily USDA and shipper correspondence.
With an early love of all animals, Kristen began riding horses when she was 9 years old – and never stopped. She attended LIU Post, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management. While attending LIU Post she was Captain of the LIU Post Equestrian Team and began her 11-year equine career at North Shore Equestrian Center.
She has also had the unique experience of living on one of the “Gold Coast Estates” in Oyster Bay where she was responsible for the daily care of 4 therapeutic riding horses.
Kristen has worked closely with veterinarians, owners, trainers, and grooms throughout her career and brings a wealth of knowledge in stable management and equine welfare to The ARK.
Kristen’s fur-children include her American Quarter Horse Riley and a rescued Terrier-Mix named Moose.
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.
Joanne O’Connell has devoted practically her entire life to the care and well-being of animals, so it’s no surprise that 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 almost 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). 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. Aiden is still able to help people in another way, so Joanne signed him up 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 being devoted to the same company for 35 years as a successful Engineer, Manager and Executive, trading on her demonstrated leadership, organizational, and operational abilities. Joanne’s business acumen, 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 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 that there is no better person than Joanne to manage the ARK Pet Oasis and the Aviary here at The ARK. She and Aiden live in Nassau County with Joanne’s loving and supportive husband, Sean.
Shannon Walker began riding horses when she was 5 years old at the New York Military Academy. She grew up on a farm in Montgomery, NY where she had her own horses (7!), goats, dogs, cats, you name it.
At 18, she began her extensive 30 year career in the Equine field at Meadow Hill Farm, a Thoroughbred Breeding facility. Falling in love with the Thoroughbreds, she then worked for Ontrack Thoroughbred Training at Belmont Racetrack, where she started 2 year-olds under saddle for the racetrack. During that time, she also took retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) and retrained them for new careers in different disciplines. From there, she began working for Jimmy Toner as an exercise rider for his racing stable at Belmont.
Taking time off from the racetrack, Shannon began managing a private boarding facility for 13 years in Newburgh, NY. She was responsible for the care of 25 horses on a daily basis. Shannon also owned 2 mares of her own on her property, whom she bred and trained herself.
Shannon was an essential member to add to the team since she has first-hand experience working with quarantined horses at the USDA New York Animal Import Center. She was responsible for the daily care of imported horses as well as birds, and came to The ARK with her vast knowledge to share.
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”.