Vito kicked off the inaugural Staten Island Borough President’s Cup for high school girls’ basketball teams with these words during a press conference at the College of Staten Island.
“I guess the simple thing for me to say is ‘it’s about time, right ladies?' It’s about time that we have a Staten Island High School Basketball Tournament for the girls. We know the boys have had it for many, many years and we just thought it was long overdue for the girls to participate and enjoy what the boys have enjoyed for many, many years.”
All 13 girls’ basketball programs in Staten Island high schools -- eight from public schools, four from Catholic schools, and Staten Island Academy -- will play in the tournament.
The tournament’s inaugural round of games begins Friday at Moore Catholic High School at 5 p.m., followed by round two on Sunday split between two sites -- St. Joseph Hill Academy and Staten Island Academy. The quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday, Jan. 30, and the semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 1, both at the Petrides School.
It will culminate with the championship game -- “The Staten Island Borough President’s Cup” -- at the College of Staten Island at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3.
As a bonus, the games will be streamed live on Community Media of Staten Island -- Channel 34 on both Spectrum and Verizon, as well as on their free app. Momentum for the tournament had already been building with an Instagram page created by the players, featuring photos and videos thanking Vito for organizing the tournament.
“These girls have been waiting,” said Kristine Zieris, a committee member and former player and coach at St. Joseph-by-the-Sea High School. “They’ve watched the boys. They’ve seen the big crowds. Now, it’s their turn to finally get their recognition. All these teams are wonderful, they are enthusiastic, and they can’t wait to show you what they can do. So, it’s about time.”
Samantha Giordano, a member of the Port Richmond High School Raiders, has been playing for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve been playing basketball for a really long time and with most of the girls standing behind me since I was a little girl,” she said. “So, to be able to bring us all into one tournament is something that makes the younger girl inside of me really happy.”
Danielle Williamsen is graduating from St. Joseph-by-the-Sea High School this year.
“It’s going to be a great competition, especially knowing some of these girls behind me -- it’s a bunch of friendships that I will have forever,” she said. “So, playing against them and seeing who’s the best is a great way to go out.”
Borough President Fossella left the girls with a message.
“At the end of the day, you talk about experiences, friendships, competition, and coming together,” he said. “This is a team, this is a family, but most of all ladies, we are doing it for you. We hope you have a great time, a great experience. Play hard, make new friends -- and on February 3rd, we hope this place is packed for the championship game.”
Borough President Vito Fossella smiled as he leaned against a bookshelf in the library of P.S. 32 as he waited for Madison Piantosi to walk through the doors.
When she did, she was greeted with a chorus of “Surprise” from Principal Nancy Spataro, Assistant Principal Evy Schultz, her teachers, her classmates -- and most importantly, her family.
Madison, now a fifth-grade student, was among the winners in the 2023 “Readers Are Leaders Challenge.”
Last year, for the first time in the Challenge’s history, the winners were offered the opportunity to write a story or book of their own with one selected for publication.
Still not sure what was going on, Madison shyly nodded when Vito asked if she remembered participating in the Readers Are Leaders Challenge and if she remembered writing a book when she was in the fourth-grade.
“Well, you were not alone,” said Borough President Fossella during a visit to Madison's school. “A lot of students submitted books, but we could only choose one winner who could actually get the book published. And, you know what book we chose -- yours!”
Vito held the manuscript in his hand of Madison’s short story, titled “The Time The Sisters Switched,” a tale of sibling rivalry and sisterly love which carries the message that anything is possible.
“The Time The Sisters Switched” will be published by Bob Williams, the owner of Showtime Publications. He will be partnering with Denise Arena, owner of Wizard of Art & Design, who will craft the illustrations to bring Madison’s story to life.
“Your book will be in every bookstore, not only in the country, but around the world,” Willams told Madison. “Now, what I want you to think about is where do you want to have your first book signing? Do you want to have it here at school? All the kids are going to want a signed copy of your book. Do you want to have it at Barnes & Noble? You’ll be a big shot at Barnes & Noble.”
Principal Nancy Spataro said the school places a strong emphasis on writing.
“We know this was in the fourth-grade,” said Principal Spataro. “There were some rough drafts along the way, you persevered, you didn’t give up, and look where you are now.”
The most poignant moment was saved for Madison’s dad, Michael.
“I am so proud of you,” he said as father-and-daughter locked in a long, tearful hug. “Like, I tell you all the time, if you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want to do. And, this is just proof. I see big things.”
Borough President Vito Fossella, United Federation of Teachers File Federal Lawsuit to Stop Implementation of Congestion Pricing
Borough President Vito Fossella and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew announced the filing of a federal lawsuit to block the implementation of congestion pricing, which is scheduled to go into effect this spring.
Also joining the lawsuit are seven individual plaintiffs, including teachers who work at schools in Manhattan and commute to work because there are no convenient means of public transportation available to them.
“From a Staten Island perspective this plan is a three-strike loser,” said Borough President Fossella at a press conference outside of Borough Hall. “It will increase traffic, it will make air quality worse and take tens of millions of dollars out of their pockets each year. Why on earth would we support this?”
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the United States Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn. The following are named as defendants: The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, state Department of Transportation, and the city Department of Transportation.
According to the lawsuit, the current congestion pricing plan "would not eliminate air and noise pollution and traffic, but would simply shift pollution and traffic to Staten Island, the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and Northern New Jersey."
The Federal Highway Administration’s environmental assessment of the congestion pricing plan -- not a full Environmental Impact Statement -- “ignored and failed to mitigate” many potential negative effects of the plan in “the hurried process that led to its premature approval,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit asks the court to halt the implementation of congestion pricing until the Federal Highway Administration prepares a “full and proper” Environmental Impact Statement.
Mulgrew likened the lack of a full Environmental Impact Statement to a child’s homework.
“It was what we would say in my world is the kid only read the cliff notes,” said UFT President Mulgrew. “They cut corners constantly and everywhere. It was just an assessment, so we are now asking the courts to intervene. It is finally time to learn what this scheme is actually about.”
The current congestion pricing plan would charge drivers $15 for every day they enter the Manhattan Central Business District between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. The congestion pricing toll would be in addition to normal parking charges and to other current tolls on bridges and tunnels, though partial credit would be given to some payments on certain crossings. The congestion pricing fee would be reduced -- though not eliminated -- on nights and weekends.
“As we have said for decades, Staten Island has been denied adequate mass transit options,” said Borough President Fossella. “That is why so many Staten Island residents must use their cars to get to work. To make matters worse, we’re the only city residents who must pay a toll to get into and out of Staten Island. We have thousands of teachers, firefighters, Sanitation workers and others who are essential to the fabric of New York City. Make no mistake, these workers will be intentionally punished under the proposed scheme. At a time when many are fleeing the city due to the high cost of living, why would we want to give people another reason to leave?"
Following the announcement, most of Staten Island's elected officials joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, State Senators Jessica Scarcella-Spanton and Andrew Lanza, State Assemblymen Michael Tannousis and Michael Reilly, and Councilmembers Joseph Borelli, David Carr, and Kamillah Hanks. Also joining the suit is State Assemblyman David Weprin, a Queens Democrat who has been vocal against congestion pricing.