When Joseph M. Mattone Sr.’s grandparents arrived in New York from Italy after the American Civil War in 1875, it was with the hope of a better life for their children and generations of their family to come.
Mattone’s father was forced into adulthood at a young age, and therefore developed a strong work ethic that was passed down to his children.
It was this work ethic, coupled with a dedication to education, that provided the foundation for Mattone’s successful career.
Born in the height of the Great Depression in 1931, Mattone worked his way through New York City’s public school system and eventually landed at St. John’s University, where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees.
“I’ve known Joe Mattone since I met him in grammar school,” said former Governor Mario Cuomo. “He was a quiet, hardworking and highly intelligent student, who has grown steadily in those directions ever since. His intelligence and hard work made him an extremely successful entrepreneur, helping his family flourish and do well. Joe also shared his success and other good fortunes with many of his friends and his numerous great causes. He is still shy, with a sense of humor and humility that has made him popular with hundreds of people. He is Queens’ ‘Person of the Year,’ but for many of us, his close friends, and those hundreds of people who know him too, Joe will continue and always be ‘Person of the Year’ for years to come.”
Opening his first law office, located in a home built by his maternal grandfather in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, Mattone served as legal counsel for various local businesses.
“My father was the only one in his family to graduate from college and law school,” said Mattone’s son, Michael X. Mattone, chief financial officer of the Mattone Group. “All of that was made possible by the sacrifices of his parents and his siblings, all of whom took jobs at young ages to help with the family’s finances. My father was the baby and it was incredibly important to them that he achieve his goals.”
Mattone’s real estate development career began in 1955. At the urging of his older brother, Carl, Mattone had earned his Certificate of Appraisal at Columbia and took his first steps into the real estate industry by working on the trial of condemnation issues in both Brooklyn and Queens.
With wife Mary Ann and Pope Benedict after mass at the Vatican.
A very successful endeavor, this work got Mattone noticed by the major real estate developers he was representing at the time. These developers retained Mattone’s legal counsel to negotiate leases purchased on their behalf. For Mattone, what would become a lifelong passion for and commitment to real estate development was born.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Mattone worked on developing over 1 million square feet of commercial and industrial properties in Brooklyn and Queens.
By 1962, the young mogul branched out and began to develop real estate on his own. Some of his earliest independent endeavors included the development of service stations and fast food locations. He built and leased facilities to McDonald’s, Burger King, Texaco, Exxon and Mobil. In addition, Mattone built for and leased to Chemical Bank and Home Federal Savings and Loan.
Yearbook photo from St. John’s
At this same time, Mattone began to delve into residential properties, most notably, the Harway Terrace. The Terrace consisted of two 19-story, 360-unit apartment buildings in Brooklyn.
Today, Mattone sits as chairman and chief executive officer of the Mattone Group, a Queens-based development and construction company that handles commercial, residential and industrial properties.
A true testament to the scope and scale of the Mattone Group, the company currently manages over 1.5 million square feet of property in New York, Georgia and Florida. Under Mattone’s guidance, the group manages its property portfolio with professionalism, financial expertise and a dedication to providing clients with the very best service in the industry.
“Joe Mattone is a business leader of great integrity who cares deeply for his family, his friends, and his community,” said Aaron Fleishaker, Senior Vice President of Fairway Market.
In an always-evolving commercial real estate market, Mattone’s leadership has allowed the company to stay abreast of changes and new developments, and respond effectively. This has allowed the Mattone Group to maintain its high-quality, diversified portfolio.
Among the most important ways that Mattone has achieved the company’s mission is maintaining a conservative investment profile to continue the company’s 45-year history of successful investment.
The Mattone Group also focuses on creating value by utilizing the best resources of both the public and private sectors, acquiring assets within the New York metropolitan area, diversifying equity into office, retail, residential and industrial assets, and diversifying equity contributions to include the purchase of assets, with either triple net leases or value added development and renovation opportunities.
Since the Mattone Group was founded, its dedicated chairman has placed strong emphasis on successful commercial, residential and industrial development and management. This includes working closely with clients to develop properties that fit their criteria, right down to the smallest details. With Mattone at the head, he and his team handle all aspects of commercial property development and management, from cost analysis and site selection to construction oversight and occupant recruitment.
In fact, one of Mattone’s most notable properties in Queens is the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, located in the heart of Jamaica.
“Queens is the home of the underdog … the place where the American Dream is still very much alive,” Michael Mattone said. “I think my father epitomizes that.”
In addition to his property development work, Mattone is also a senior partner in the law firm of Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Mattone, Megna and Todd, which is a full-service, Queens-based law firm. The firm represents several financial institutions as outside counsel for their residential mortgage closings, including Citi Mortgage, BNY Mortgage Co., LLC, Washington Mutual, HSBC Mortgage Corp, Emigrant Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, and GreenPoint Mortgage Company.
Joe celebrates his birthday surrounded by his seven children
Stemming from Mattone’s family history, the Mattone Group and members of the Mattone family have maintained a dedication to education throughout the years. A testament to his continued dedication, Mattone sits on the board of directors for Futures in Education and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
He is currently a board member of St. John’s University and has been a trustee of the institution for many years.
“He has an incredible fondness for St. John’s University and St. John’s Law,” Michael Mattone said. “The Vincentian fathers allowed his family to pay tuition when they could, and he has never forgotten that.”
As a true display of his commitment to education, Mattone has been quoted as saying, “As the expression goes, it’s either the book or the gun. Choose the book.”
Mattone has spent his life and career instilling values of charity, service to the less fortunate and commitment to the community into the lives of his seven children and 27 grandchildren.
“My father’s success has enabled him to help so many people along the way,” said Michael Mattone. “He sees it as his obligation to give back, like the many people who helped him along his path to success.”
In fact, Mattone has been an active philanthropist since early in his career. In the 1970s, he was honored for his services as chairman of the St. Vincent’s Home, Queens Division.
In 1983, he was selected as “Man of the Year” by the Italian Charities of America for his commitment to the organization and the people that it serves.
From 1983 to 1987, Mattone served as general chairman of the annual dinner of the Order of Sons of Italy.
His fundraising did not stop there, as he served as the general ticket chairman for the Coalition of Italian American Organizations from 1984 through 1995.
“In the 35 years I’ve known him, despite the complexity of his life, he has always been able to maintain relationships and always has time for everyone,” said son-in-law, Dr. Gaetano Bello. “He has been so generous and philanthropic and is the best example of what a real father, husband and businessman should be. He is honorable and upstanding. Everyone who knows him admires him.”
Throughout his career, much to the honor and delight of his children, grandchildren and loving wife Mary Ann, Mattone has been the recipient of the Good Scout Award from the Queens Council Boy Scouts of America, the Progress of People’s Achievement Award from the Catholic Charities, the Community Leader Award from the Queens Symphony Orchestra and the Spirit of Service Award from St. John’s University.
The acknowledgement from St. John’s holds particular significance due to Mattone’s personal and professional involvement with the university, where he met his first wife, Irene.
And this year, the Columbus Citizens Foundation’s annual fundraising event paid tribute to Mattone.
Late wife Irene at top left, with daughters, Teresa, Fran, Irene and Julie
In describing his father’s long career, Michael Mattone fondly says, “His success inspires me not because of the material aspects, but because of how it has enabled him to help so many people along the way. When I talk to my kids about success, I use their grandfather as the perfect example of how being successful gives you the ability to help others.”
“It is not enough to simply call Joe the ‘Person of the Year’,” says Mattone’s longtime friend, Judge Joseph Golia. “He is respectful, a regular church attendee, intelligent, humorous, charitable. These are just a few of the many accolades that encompass Joe’s character. He’s committed to young people. He contributes to many Catholic charities that support education, which is a testament to his sincere concern for education.
He is just a very honest, upfront, truthful person. It’s hard to find someone with all these traits.”
Bruce Ratner, Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, echoed the sentiment: “Joe Mattone is one of the finest, most giving individuals that I have ever met. We go back many years as both friends and business partners. I am grateful for the many years that I have had the honor to know him and experience first-hand his integrity, his business acumen, his humanity and his wonderful family. I congratulate Joe and the whole Mattone family on this well-deserved honor.”
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