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 A. Schuette, President and CEO of The ARK Import Export Center, LLC oversees all day-to-day operations of JFK International Airport’s animal health, reception, and quarantine center – The ARK at JFK. The ARK provides safe and humane animal reception, accommodation, handling and transport services to airlines and their ground handling agents as well as shippers, forwarders, and individuals. Elizabeth works closely with senior TSA, CBP, USDA and CDC officers, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials, IATA representatives, as well as airline executives, public health officials and veterinary medical experts. Elizabeth is an active contributor to animal shipping trade organizations including the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (“IPATA”) and Animal Transportation Association (“ATA”).
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 division (credit analysis, servicing and asset disposition) of banks and equipment leasing companies including ICON Capital, 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 High Honors from The College of William and Mary and a M.A. in Economics from The George Washington University.
Elizabeth is the proud pet parent of adorable Tucker, ARK Ambassador.
Michael Falacara joined The ARK in January, 2020 as Chief Operating Officer. He is responsible for day-to-day operations and interactions with air carriers, cargo agents, ground handlers and regulatory bodies to reinforce The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey/JFK Airport’s status as one of the U.S.’ premier airports for traveling animals.
Mike brings over 30 years of air cargo and ground handling experience at JFK and an invaluable knowledge of air cargo and port operations to The ARK’s team.
Prior to The ARK at JFK, Mike was Chief Operating Officer for DNATA US, Aviation Services U.S. based operations responsible for managing over 3,000 employees, overseeing 7 discrete business lines that produced over $100MM in revenue with strong profitability. In this role, he coordinated ground handling for approximately 200 daily wide body international flights from over 45 different airlines at 17 U.S. airports. The position required strong execution skills and strict adherence to safety and compliance requirements. Before DNATA, Mike held various senior level positions with ground handling, operations, equipment leasing and airline operators at JFK.
“I am excited to be a part of this entrepreneurial company,” says Mike. “This is an opportunity to bring a niche business line to forefront of the aviation community here at JFK and beyond. I look forward to the challenge of moving the company to the next level and providing the array of services that The ARK operation offers to customers and airlines alike.”
Mike is a native of Long Island and presently lives with his wife and children in Massapequa.
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.
Kiera Mejia is the Director of Sales & Marketing for The ARK at JFK working alongside the President & CEO to communicate the core message of The ARK. She manages the Pet Shipping team, updates social media outlets, manages The ARK JFK and ARK Pet Oasis websites, searches for outreach opportunities, and content marketing.
Kiera first joined The ARK as an Equine Attendant, working alongside a team in the Export Barn to provide basic care for horses, prepare and clean stalls for horses coming and going, and maintaining a bio-secure environment. She then moved on to create outreach and marketing content for every division within The ARK at JFK such as ARK Pet Oasis, Equine Export, Equine Import, and the Aviary/In-Transit facility. As the business grew, she began assisting pet parents with reservations for their companions traveling into or out of JFK/LGA/EWR airports and from there developed the Pet Shipping department. Kiera can be seen wearing many hats at The ARK with a smile on her face and is always quick to lend a helping hand wherever it is needed.
Kiera is a Queens, NY native with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. Since receiving a certificate for “Animal Care and Passion” in Kindergarten, Kiera finds that being able to work with animals daily a luxury. She began riding horses when she was 8-years old and grew up around dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. During her years as a student 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 joined The ARK at JFK excited to turn her lifelong passion into a career.
Kiera is a proud dog-mom to Cyrus, the Formosan Mountain Dog, rescued from North Shore Animal League. She will never forget Akuma, her Lionhead rabbit who she loved for 10-years and unfortunately passed away in September 2021.
Alyssa Burke is the Director of Operations and Logistics at The ARK. She joined the team in January 2019 to expand her knowledge and expertise in the Aviation Industry. Alyssa is responsible for myriad daily operations from overseeing completion of the daily equine import and export operations, coordinating all ground movement, 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, U.S. Customs Border and 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. With all that she has accomplished thus far, she still has a goal to continue learning and developing her knowledge of the Aviation Industry so she can continue her upward trajectory in her career.
Jaclyn Rodriguez is the Controller of The ARK at JFK. She oversees all accounting functions, including bookkeeping, financial reporting, budgeting, and risk management/assessment alongside management. Jaclyn partakes in operational work with all departments. From Long Island, NY, Jaclyn graduated from Molloy College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting where she was also part of the softball and equestrian teams. Jaclyn’s family worked in aviation at JFK for over 25 years and visits them frequently in South Ozone Park, NY, only a short way away from The ARK. Being an animal lover her entire life, Jaclyn made it a point to work in an industry that included this passion. During Jaclyn’s time at college, she worked in general accounting, internal audit, and taxation positions. She also worked at a dog boarding and grooming facility in between busy seasons. In her spare time, Jaclyn likes to ride horses and spend time with her family and friends. Her four-legged companions include: Snow the American Eskimo Mix rescued from North Shore Animal League, Bella the Black Lab, and Bambino the Cockalier.
Equipped with a NYRA Groom’s License from the state of New York, Gump previously worked at Belmont Racetrack where he was responsible for the care of 10 to 20 horses at a time; setting schedules, detecting injuries, and training new staff members. He has excelled in this role for 8-years and joined The ARK in October 2017 with a natural way of handling and caring for our equine guests. Among other initiatives, Gump is tasked with managing our bio-secure cleaning and disinfection protocols for all imports. With a strong attention to detail and the motivation to ensure all horses are handled well and cared for while at The ARK, Gump is a key member of our Equine Import Quarantine team.
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 in college, 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. Chris has also worked with large mammals such as deer and bears.
Chris has experience teaching in the classroom 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.
Prior to joining the team at ARK Pet Oasis, 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 the various situations that can arise within the customer service and restaurant industry. Chris joined the team at ARK Pet Oasis as an Animal Attendant and worked his way up to Manager and has since transitioned to The ARK at JFK as a Customer Experience Manager working with pet parents and other shippers around the world to coordinate inbound and outbound services for traveling pets. He is tasked with understanding the requirements for entry of various countries, completing international and domestic health certificates alongside an Accredited Veterinarian, communicating with airlines to book flights for pets, and follow country regulations to ensure a seamless experience for both the pet parent and their companions.
Chris has had a wide array of companions of his own ranging 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”.
Ryan Lalla is a native of Trinidad and Tobago and grew up by the seaside which was surrounded by an oil refinery and a Thoroughbred racetrack. Ryan has always been passionate about horses; while growing up he would bring horses to swim in the sea as part of their training. He studied Oil Refining Operations in England with the City & Guilds London Institute and then returned to Trinidad to work with the Petrotrin Oil Company. For the past 15 years Ryan has owned, bred, trained, and raced many Thoroughbred horses with the Trinidad and Tobago’s Racing Authority. Ryan’s first winner was the daughter of ‘Bellamy Road’ who won the 2005 Wood Memorial stakes at Aqueduct. He recently obtained a Thoroughbred trainers license from the New York State Gaming Commission and is actively searching for ways to expand his knowledge and skills in the Equine industry. Ryan possesses an impeccable character and genial disposition, joining The ARK’s Equine operations team in 2021. He is ambitious, effective, and efficient in pursuit of upward mobility with horses.