La Casa’s Director of Program & Fund Development, Carrie Puglisi, sat with Jeffrey Monge (pronounced Mon-Heh), Managing Partner of Monge Capital, an MBE firm focused on providing capital solutions and advisory services for real estate projects and operating businesses, to learn about his company and why he supports La Casa de Don Pedro. Monge Capital served as Giving Tuesday’s 2021 Event Underwriter.
I wanted to support an organization that took a holistic approach to creating community.
L to R: La Casa’s President & CEO Peter T. Rosario, Cisco Tejada, Lares Monge, Jeffrey Monge, and La Casa Board Chair, Arcelio Aponte. Jeff, his team and family volunteered at La Casa’s Giving Tuesday food distribution in December.
What is your connection to Newark?
At my old firm (over 15 years ago), I was tapped to lead our investment efforts in New Jersey with a specific focus on Newark. Our efforts were focused on both economic returns and community impacts. Through our efforts, I was drawn to Newark due to the similarities of the diverse, underserved communities I came from living in the Bronx and my years working in Harlem and Washington Heights. Nonetheless, Newark has amazing history and infrastructure that makes cities great (major universities, major airport, mass transit, roads, etc.) along with a buzzing new generation of organizational leadership, entrepreneurs, educated youth, strivers, businesses, etc. ready for a new day. Once I decided to start my business, it was natural to focus on the City of Newark with its potential to thrive. I could combine my passion of bringing resources to large-scale economic development projects and maintain a commitment to providing social returns to the community.
Tell us about the work you do in Newark. What do you love about it?
Over the past 13 years, Monge Capital has largely focused on helping organizations, developers and businesses execute large-scale projects by putting together complex financing strategies, raise the capital and close the deals. This includes federal, state and local funding as well as private equity and debt. Projects have included the redevelopment of Boys and Girls Club of Newark, Audible’s Headquarters, Rock Plaza Lofts, Indigo Hotel, and 494 Broad Street, to name a few with several amazing projects in the pipeline. Because my firm is a resource, I love that I have the freedom to pick to whom I want to offer my services. If there is no intentionality in providing social impacts on the project, I do not take on the assignment.
What attracted you to La Casa and our cause? Why do you donate to La Casa?
Honestly, the name of the organization! As a young Puerto Rican, I was amazed to “discover” Don Pedro Albizu Campos in college. He is our Malcom X before Malcom X! His dedication to the Puerto Rican people by an any means necessary approach for self-determination and self-empowerment was incredibly influential to me as a young man.
Economic self-determination and empowerment is such an important tool in the struggle of people of color, which is why I have dedicated my career to community development finance and real estate. Then, I had a by-chance opportunity to meet Raymond Ocasio [former Executive Director] at a small gathering and learned about La Casa’s commitment for the community and then another by-chance meeting with you [Carrie Puglisi] and walked away with a sense of humbled, selfless dedication to the community.
Later, I heard stories of La Casa having real estate holdings of interest by third parties yet not wanting to part with them. I loved to hear that because to own is central to self-determination in community development. I was always looking to get on the radar with a Puerto Rican/Latino community based organization. All of this drove me to La Casa. I wanted to support an organization that took a holistic approach to creating community.
What do you hope La Casa will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
I hope La Casa can continue to strive to meet its mission of self-determination and self-empowerment, which was initially influenced by its namesake. To do so, I believe there needs to include building a community of real estate, businesses, entrepreneurs, advocates, etc. Learning and teaching the art of finance is something that has escaped our communities.
Who inspires you?
My late mother will always be my hero. She was one of the smartest people I ever met, yet she never graduated high school, choosing to work to support her family. She worked her way to Regional Manager for Pfizer in Northern Virginia before retiring. She escaped a domestic violence situation when we lived in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City with just the clothes on our backs. She busted her behind and maintained her dignity and strength as she guided me to achieve heights she never did. She believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself at times and was tough on me when I was wrong. She always looked for the best in people, and she was extremely loved and respected. She always pushed for a better life for us. She taught me how to love Puerto Rico and our people when the media and society didn’t. No one has been more influential.