New York Insider: Staten Island Attorney Michele Sileo

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Attorney, wife, mother-of-two and business-owner Michele Sileo moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island five years ago and loves her new borough. She can make fun of Staten Island with the best of them (the word goomba was sweetly used by Sileo no less than five times), but she says that's what she likes about it -- the stereotype keep people out, leaving the great food, community and cultural spots to her.

Did you know Staten Island Technical High School has a 100 percent graduation rate? Or that some neighbors give $20 in Halloween baskets? Tried Denino's pizza? That's Michele's Staten Island.

Name, Age, Occupation: Michele Sileo, 37, managing partner of Morange Workshops

Neighborhood: Huguenot on Staten Island, N.Y.

Abode: Three-bedroom, high ranch house

How long have you lived in Staten Island?
We moved from Brooklyn into this house five years ago. And I love it!
What do you love most about your neighborhood?

I love the suburban feel. And I love that even though it feels very suburban it's close to the city. I mean that in distance, but also the feel, since you get the New York City feel out here. Things will be open late, it's almost the-city-that-never-sleeps but with the suburban mix. You're not so far from the city, so you can enjoy its convenience. I can get a bagel at midnight if I wanted to.

I also love that if I wanted to get a spectacular meal I wouldn't have to leave Staten Island. Same thing if I wanted a little country breakfast. It's the perfect mix.

Do you talk to your neighbors?
I don't, but it's not because of anything other than I have a busy lifestyle. It's not a young block, so there aren't a lot of families with my schedule, it's mostly grandparents. But when I do see them they are sweet as pie.

One neighbor gives my kids Christmas presents every year, even though they haven't moved in yet. They make my kids Halloween baskets and give them bucks, $20 bucks each! They are kind people.

Best kept secret on the island?
I think the best kept secret of it is Staten Island. There's that mom-and-pop feel here. When you walk into places here you get a, "Hi Sweetheart, how are you?" It's so homey. I like that people think it's goomba mafia types, so we can keep all the good stuff for ourselves. The food on Staten Island -- where ever you go -- is absolutely delicious. There are amazing Italian specialty shops. If I tried to name a best-kept-secret place, if I said Denino's Pizza is the best on the island, there would be 100 people saying, "Oh, but you haven't tried Brother's on Victory Boulevard."

It's an insular island. We call it the floating circus because it is the craziest place to live. You don't get this experience anywhere else. It is a suburban but urban mixture. You have the stereotypes, absolutely, but there's also the foods and specialty shops and there is culture: great parks and arts centers and a real community. If you put an ad in the local paper -- which everyone reads -- you will get a ton of responses. Everyone is really into the community. And the Staten Island Ferry is free. You get amazing views of the Statue of Liberty.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden is the best kept secret to go to. It's the cultural center of Staten Island. I take my kids there all the time. There's a Staten Island Children's Museum and it's huge and fantastic. And there are Tibetan gardens with these serene meditation gardens. It's never crowded and they have an art lab where you can take classes.

There's a newly renovated Bloomingdale Park in Huguenot and it has nature trails and I just love it. It's huge by Staten Island standards at two-and-a-half miles all the way around. And it's got beautiful playgrounds, soccer fields and a football field. In the fall they have a Halloween party for the kids and it's free. There really is so much here.

What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Honestly, I hit the Internet because there is always something fantastic going on. Like Snug Harbor has a concert series and there are comedy shows around town.

Apparently law school had a big effect on you since you have a law school prep company?

Yes! We are in our ninth year. My partner and I started it after practicing law for a few years. We thought "if we only knew back then what we know now," and started a company to help law students. It provides full spectrum support for law students. We provide practice work and tutoring for law classes, but also study-guide support, help picking classes, finding jobs and resume work. We tell them what kind of computers to buy, what kind of paper they will need, even how to eat before an exam and what to wear. When we say everything, we mean everything.

OK, but is the Staten Island stereotype true?
I think there's an element of truth in every stereotype, but there is so much more to this place. It's fun to make fun of it -- which is why the Jersey Shore kids are making so much money [note: two are from Staten Island]. I mean, people will put on a full face of makeup and do their hair to go to the gym, but the goomba thing is ok. And if that's why you aren't coming here that's fine. We will have our little Halloween party and our great mozzarella to ourselves.


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