By Grace Cassidy
In 2017, Michael Furino found himself at a crossroads. Having grown up in Port Washington on Long Island before graduating from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s in finance and an MBA in marketing and management, Furino had spent much of the previous decade on Wall Street, where he traded oil and gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“I just wasn’t happy commuting to the city every day, sitting at a desk, and doing the same work over and over,” he said. “It was not fulfilling.”
It was Furino’s wife, Jackie, who urged him to make a change. With their son due in January 2018, she suggested he pursue his longstanding dream of getting his real estate license. A month later, Furino was a licensed agent, and in February 2018, he joined Douglas Elliman Long Island.
“If my wife didn’t push me to make the decision,” he admitted, “I don’t know if I ever would have taken the risk.”
Indeed, the risk has paid off by enabling Furino to double down on investing in his hometown community of Port Washington.
“I grew up there, went to elementary, middle, and high school there, and have my family and friends there,” he said. “It’s a great town, and there’s so much history that I like to share when I work with buyers. Plus, it’s nice to be able to drive by all the local shops and restaurants, tell stories, and introduce clients to local business owners.”
Like many markets on the outskirts of major urban centers, Port Washington experienced a bump in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Port Washington was always a hot spot for real estate, but I think post-2020, it exploded even more than other towns on Long Island because of the easy commute to the city,” Furino said. “I think some of the buyers that usually were hesitant to make the move out to Long Island decided to move sooner than expected because they were now able to work from home. They knew at some point they would have to go back into the city, but with the express train, it wasn’t as much of a concern.”
As in many towns and cities, the mix of high interest rates and economic uncertainty is causing potential buyers and sellers in Port Washington to wait and see, making inventory in the market scarce. But Furino is bullish on his hometown’s value and resilience.
“I think Port Washington real estate will continue to thrive in the coming years,” he said. “The town has so much to offer, between the atmosphere and city-like feel on Main Street, combined with tons of activities for all ages. Access to water is the icing on the cake.”
Furino’s passion for Port Washington also comes through in his commitment to community-building and fundraising for local initiatives. In addition to volunteering his time for local organizations, including The Rotary Club of the Gold Coast, he founded his own nonprofit, Be the Best Sport, in 2010. Inspired by the story of a friend’s autistic son who was unable to participate in annual Thanksgiving soccer games with his cousins, Be the Best Sport provides adaptive sports and socialization programs for children, teens, and adults with developmental disabilities and physical impairments.
“I always played sports growing up and met some of my best friends through basketball and baseball,” he said.
Furino drew on his business and marketing background to create programs, secure funding and hire trained staff. Over the last decade, the program has grown beyond Port Washington and now offers services across Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties and Queens, allowing thousands of children to have access to sports and recreation activities throughout the year.
“I have a passion for raising money for different causes, especially ones involving children,” he said. “There are so many children who are either not well, disabled or have some sort of need in life that raised funds can assist with. Having two children of my own now, I think of them and how fortunate I am and how I would do anything to keep them safe and provide for them.”
For Furino, the chance to work with clients across Long Island has been especially gratifying—and a far cry from the monotony of his Wall Street days.
“The biggest reward for me is being able to sell in all different areas and really learn about Long Island and be a resource for buyers and sellers all over,” he said. “Every day is different, and I’m constantly busy.”