STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — When Robert J. Fitzsimmons Sr. founded Gateway Arms Realty Corp. in 1977, the real estate business became engrained within his family.
It was inevitable that his children, Robert J. Fitzsimmons Jr. and Laura L. Volsario, would follow in his footsteps.
“My father never forced us into the business. We had real estate around us — our house was all about real estate,” said Volsario. “We had two phone lines, and emergency calls would come in during the holidays and, at times, our father had to run out when a holiday dinner was being served. Real estate management was simply part of our lives.”
However, the siblings’ paths into the family business weren’t the same.
“At an early age — around 8 years old — I would go to work with my dad on Saturdays, and he wanted me to remain entertained as he worked in the office, so I would go up with the superintendents and help them on little jobs in the apartments,” said Fitzsimmons. “Even as a young teenager, I would sweep and mop. I started doing porter’s jobs, like cleaning the stairwells, clearing out apartments, painting, basically whatever I would physically be able to do to both learn and earn a dollar.”
“After college, I had some decent job offers in Manhattan, but I knew I needed to learn the business well enough to at least protect and be sure to support the family business, whether that would be in a part-time or full-time role in the future,” he continued. “I was around 21 or 22 when I got my real estate license in 1996, and from there, I started in the family business full-time. And, here I am today, 25 years later.”
For Volsario, she started her career at 19 when she worked part-time as a licensed sales agent for the family business. At age 22, her father assigned her a six-story office building to manage with his oversight — even though it wasn’t something she aspired at the time since she was working full-time in food service management. However, following a detour in the food-service industry, Volsario entered the business full-time in 2000.
Her transition was certainly welcomed, as her brother was spurring new growth by offering additional property management services. Fitzsimmons said he knew that with his sister’s vast knowledge of management and passion for developing and leading a team, her expertise would be essential to the continued growth of the company.
“As general partners/managing members of an investment group with a vast portfolio of privately owned diverse real estate holdings throughout the five boroughs, we knew we were doing a great job with our own portfolio. So, for us to offer those services to others would be our segue toward expansion. From there, we just continued that growth through the years,” recalled Fitzsimmons, the president, NYS Licensed Real Estate Broker/Owner of Gateway Arms Realty Corp. and senior property manager of the firm’s Property Management Division. “We expanded to co-ops, condominiums, high-rises, mid-risers, homeowner’s associations, office buildings, shopping plazas and industrial warehouse-type properties.”
At its busiest, Gateway Arms Realty Corp. managed 3,500 residential units and 600,000 square feet of commercial space. While that number has slightly decreased through the years, the duo said that has been intentional, since they remain active with each and every property or transaction and wish to continue to provide that type of service to all clients, while balancing a family life at home.
“I would say the growth was definitely based on our combined drive and work ethic. Developing new business, assisting more clients with our vast knowledge of the industry, is second nature to us both” said Volsario, the vice president and NYS Licensed Real Estate Broker/Owner of Gateway Arms Realty Corp. and sales manager for the firm’s Sales Division.
The business is constantly evolving, and while its headquarters has been firmly rooted in St. George, Gateway has recently expanded to a new location in West Brighton. The expansion was warranted, as the business employs over 20 staff members and 12 associate real estate brokers and sales agents. The new office allows for a more convenient location to all their Staten Island clients and customers.
Fitzsimmons and Volsario have also become trusted confidants within their industry, often lending support and guidance to fellow business professionals.
“We are both frequently contacted by other real estate broker/owners, colleagues, appraisers, local reporters and publications. Without any hesitation, we are glad to share our knowledge and experience of the local market trends and statistics due to the diversity of our business,” said Fitzsimmons. “We feel by lending our diverse experience, we are helping the Staten Island community at large.”
Volsario said: “We are a boutique sales office. We were guided by our father that when we put a transaction together, it’s about fostering a true meeting of the minds between a seller and buyer. We execute each deal with knowledge and integrity.”
For their accomplishments, Fitzsimmons and Volsario are being honored with a Louis R. Miller Leadership Award, which they will receive in the Established Businessperson category. The awards — which are presented by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance — honor the memory of Louis R. Miller, a businessman and West Brighton resident who was also a community leader.
In addition to their father receiving a Louis R. Miller Leadership Award in 2005, the siblings also follow in his footsteps with their devotion toward the local community.
One of those beneficiaries has been the Seamen’s Society for Children and Families, which has been dedicated to securing the safety and well-being of the children and families entrusted to their care since 1846. Assisting that non-profit organization was so ingrained in the Fitzsimmons family, that when Robert Sr. passed away in 2019, the younger Fitzsimmons and Volsario established the Robert and Barbara Fitzsimmons Children and Family Fund at Seamen’s Society in 2021 to continue their parents’ desire to help and provide experiential opportunities for children and families in that organization’s care.
The St. George Theatre is also an organization that the family holds very dear and continues to support. Since the original Gateway Arms Realty Corp. headquarters has been based in St. George, the siblings said they understand the importance of the theater’s cultural impact, which continually enhances the North Shore and the Staten Island community as a whole.
However, that’s not the end of Volsario’s contributions. She is also: the current Immediate past chair at Seamen’s Society; a past member of the North Shore Rotary Club; a member of the Staten Island Board of Realtors & Multiple Listing Service. She also serves as secretary for the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), and has been a judge for the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s Building Awards. She recently co-chaired the Chamber Golf Outing, which kicked off the organization’s 125th anniversary celebration.
“My parents brought Robert and me to Chamber events before we were working actively in the business. We went as a family to different community events. Our parents ran the annual calendar drive at Seaman’s Society, and our entire office assisted on that fundraiser, so we all worked on that from the time we were young,” she said. “My parents instilled in us that if we’re living and working in our community, we should support and give back toward that local community.”
Meanwhile, Fitzsimmons is currently a member of: various Realtor groups; the Forest Avenue BID; the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation; the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. At the chamber, he previously served on the board of directors, as well as several executive committee positions, including the Chamber Foundation Board, and he chaired the Annual Building Awards. For Eden II Programs, he chaired the Facilities & Grounds Committee.
Through the years, he has used his real estate expertise to research, discover, lease and sell available space to various local non-profits. Those include, but are not limited to: Seamen’s Society, Eden II Programs; the St. George Theatre; Community Health Action of Staten Island; On Your Mark; the Community Association for Senior Citizens; Project Hospitality, and the Jewish Board Family and Children Services.
“It was not easy for these not-for-profits to get the funding sources years ago, so we had to speak to the banks and work with their financial departments, chief financial officers, and executive directors,” said Fitzsimmons. “Instead of always leasing properties, if it was in their best interest, I looked for them to buy something and build-to-suit, to reduce their annual rent expenses and take it off the tax rolls, so they can benefit and have more cash in their budget to utilize for their agency’s mission.”
His most notable accomplishment was the Stapleton acquisition for Eden II Programs and expansion of their schools, both on Staten Island and Long Island, to better serve the autistic community.
Ultimately, Gateway Arms Realty Corp.’s success and the subsequent ability to help the community would not be possible if Fitzsimmons and Volsario didn’t make a great team.
“Over the years, we’ve realized we have similar, but also different strengths. However, we know our different skill sets create a dynamic team, which enables us to grow and excel in our evolving business as we provide our clients with the best possible service,” Volsario said.
Fitzsimmons added: “One of the best things we have going for ourselves is the family and our commitment to each other, the business and the community.”
Recipients of the Louis R. Miller Awards are recognized as effective business leaders and for their outstanding contributions to the local community. Awards are given out in four categories: Emerging, Established, Master, and Not-For-Profit. The honorees will be recognized during the annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards Breakfast on Wednesday, Feb. 16. For tickets, visit www.sichamber.com or call the Chamber at 718-727-1900.
Robert J. Fitzsimmons Jr.
Current occupation and title: NYS real estate broker/owner — senior property manager.
Hometown: Castleton Corners
Community involvement: Staten Island Chamber of Commerce; Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC); Eden II Programs; Seamen’s Society for Children and Families; St. George Theatre; Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI). He was recognized as one of SIEDC’s 20 Under 40 and was named Landlord of the Year during CHASI’s 20th anniversary gala.
Some of my life goals include: Live long enough to see my children accomplish their lifelong goals and hopefully give me some grandkids to spoil.
The best part of my job: Consulting others to assist them in achieving their goals.
The most difficult part of my job: Dealing with individuals who are not willing to be reasonable and role play everyday situations in life.
My life philosophy: What you may offer others in life is a direct reflection of what you get back.
I am most proud of: My family and seeing the next generation develop.
Something that no one knows about me: At 17 years old, I was fortunate enough to travel to Las Vegas as an executive committee member for the Monsignor Farrell Super Dance and present to Jerry Lewis on national television the approximately $92K we raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The quality I like best about myself: Fairness.
Personal interests and hobbies: Anything associated with the water, like boating, fishing, kayaking and swimming, just to name a few.
I laugh at: Nothing like a good funny movie.
I am really good at: Analyzing investments/businesses.
I admire: Goal-oriented individuals.
Some important thing/s I would like you to know about me: I like animals.
Laura L. Volsario
Current occupation and title: Real estate broker, director of sales, marketing and operations
Hometown: Native Staten Islander residing in Castleton Corners
Community involvement: Immediate past chair of the board for Seamen’s Society for Children and Families; co-chaired Seamen’s annual calendar drive; co-founder of The Robert & Barbara Fitzsimmons Children and Family Fund at Seamen’s Society; former North Shore Rotary member and co-chaired the Celebrity Chef event; business mentor for the Mentoring Monday event for women sponsored by the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com in 2020; member of Staten Island Board of Realtors, SIMLS, Senior Real Estate Council, NAGLREP, Residential Real Estate Council; member of Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and co-chaired the annual golf outing during the celebratory 125th anniversary year and judge for the Annual Building awards; current board member and secretary of the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District; current member of the Staten Island Business Friends Network.
Some of my life goals include: Being a great mom, leading and working with our terrific staff, supporting our associate brokers and sales agents, providing my clients with the best real estate support and services, and giving back to the community and to those less fortunate.
The best part of my job: Working for clients during happy, and sometimes sad, phases in their life. Guiding them as they navigate the maze of financial, legal and emotional issues that accompany the sale or purchase of a home.
The most difficult part of my job: Telling clients things they may not want to hear, but are in their best interest.
My life philosophy: Live life to the fullest.
I am most proud of: My beautiful daughter, Jenna. I am incredibly proud of the woman she has become.
Something that no one knows about me: I am a graduate of The French Culinary Institute.
The quality I like best about myself: My ability to understand and relate to people.
Personal interests and hobbies: I love the water, home design, gardening, travel and being outdoors with my dog. I equally enjoy entertaining, cooking, mixing a great cocktail and dining out with family and friends.
I laugh at: Slapstick comedy.
I am really good at: Caring for people.
I admire: People who are respectful.
Some important things I would like you to know about me: When I am working for a client I never quit until the job is done. I believe anything is possible.