John Kanas has never been your run-of-the-mill community bank executive.

In his 19 years at the helm of North Fork Bancorp., Mr. Kanas has relied on acquisitions and savvy marketing to build a $55 million-asset bank on the eastern end of Long Island into a $4.1 billion regional dynamo that will soon enter New York City.

In the process, he has won plaudits from analysts and scorn from neighboring bank and thrift executives who resent his tough-handed ways at bringing about acquisitions and forcing improvements in institutions his bank takes a stake in.

This past year has proved no exception. Mr. Kanas' active public campaigns against Riverhead-based Suffolk Bancorp and Queens-based Haven Bancorp produced strong returns on North Fork's investments . He's now bringing the Mattituck bank's community-styled banking into the outer boroughs of New York City with a $210 million deal - slated to close Dec. 31 - for $1.7 billion-asset North Side Savings Bank in Floral Park, Queens.

Not bad for a banker who started his post-college career as a junior high school history and English teacher. In fact, the 50-year-old banker was still on leave from the school district during his first few years at the bank.

But Mr. Kanas doesn't attribute all of his success at North Fork to skill. Instead, he credits the consolidation in the New York market with strengthening North Fork's role as a significant local player that can provide community-styled service to its customers.

"We sort of inherited bragging rights and are emerging as the Long Island bank."

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