Borough President Vito was joined by Freshkills Park Administrator Mark Murphy and Borough Parks Commissioner Lynda Ricciardone in announcing the Freshkills Challenge, a 10K obstacle race.
The Freshkills Challenge will take place on April 30, serving as a replacement for the popular High Rock Challenge. As with the High Rock Challenge, the race will continue to honor NYPD Officer John Kelly, who was killed in the line of duty in 2000.
There will also be a new race this year: The Borough President’s Cup will pit members of the NYPD, FDNY, Sanitation Department, and Parks Department against each other to vie for the title of the fastest team among the city’s uniformed employees.
"We're very lucky here on Staten Island," said Borough President Fossella. "We have the best Borough Parks Commissioner, we have the greatest Police Department, the Fire Department is unmatched, and the Sanitation Department is very strong."
Murphy gave a hint of what participants can expect in the Freshkills Challenge without divulging the full course of obstacles.
“The Freshkills Challenge is not just a 10K gravel-road race for runners,” he said. “It’s a spartan-style race that will challenge the racers both physically and mentally and will challenge them on land and in water.”
Those interested in participating can pre-register or can register at the race on April 30.
Borough President Vito Fossella, Cancer Prevention in Action Partnership, Unveil New HPV Vaccine Ad in the St. George Ferry Terminal
Borough President Vito Fossella, Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Richmond University Medical Centerhave partnered under the Cancer Prevention in Action (CPiA) grant to release an advertisement in the St. George Ferry Terminal about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
The ad will run on the screen over the main ferry gates through April 2. The ad focuses on the HPV vaccine’s ability to prevent cancer, and tells viewers that they can get the vaccine starting at age nine by talking to their doctor or school-based health provider.
“The HPV vaccine is one of the few evidence-based tools in our tool box for preventing multiple cancers," said Dr. Ginny Mantello, Director of Health and Wellness for Borough President Fossella. "We owe it to our community, to parents, caregivers as well as their children to educate and update them on this valuable resource. We are grateful to the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and RUMC for their partnership and help in moving this work forward and reducing the burden of cancer on Staten Island,” .
HPV can cause six different types of cancers in men and women, and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine, typically administered as two to three doses for children and adolescents beginning as early as age nine, is cancer prevention. It prevents over 90% of these six types of cancer, including cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal (back of the throat) cancers. Among New York City’s five boroughs, Staten Island has the lowest HPV vaccination rate for adolescents with only about 22% of 13-year-olds having completed the HPV vaccination series, as compared to around 60% throughout New York City.
The Cancer Prevention in Action grant from the New York State Department of Health and Health has allowed this partnership to work together to provide education about HPV and the HPV vaccine to the Staten Island community.
“The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia has been privileged to partner with Drs. Ginny Mantello and Ana Mendez and their extraordinary teams to develop and evaluate programs of outreach to reduce the cancer burden in Staten Island, which has some of the highest cancer rates and lowest HPV vaccination rates in New York State,” said Dr. Mary Beth Terry, Associate Director of the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at Columbia University’s Cancer Center.
Dr. Ashley Stephens, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, has given three grand rounds lectures to medical professionals with CPiA about the science behind the HPV vaccine and how to overcome vaccine hesitancy among patients. Two of these lectures were at Staten Island University Hospital to their medicine and pediatrics departments, and one was at the pediatrics department at Richmond University Medical Center.
“The HPV vaccine is one of two vaccines that we have to prevent cancer, the other being Hepatitis B," said Dr. Stephens. "The vaccine is a very effective cancer prevention tool, and it’s so important that we equip health care providers with the tools to talk about this vaccine with their patients.”
Dr. Stephens has also worked alongside Dr. Ana Mendez, Chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics at RUMC’s Patient Centered Medical Home, to bring HPV education to the RUMC patient population and to train school-based health center staff at high schools about how to offer the HPV vaccine, manage HPV vaccine hesitancy, and answer common questions about the HPV vaccine.
“As healthcare providers, it’s our duty to educate our patients and their parents on the benefits of the HPV vaccine, providing them with the tools necessary to make an educated and informed decision on whether or not to receive the vaccination,” said Dr. Mendez.
CPiA has also partnered with Project Hospitality to bring HPV education to a primarily Spanish-speaking population on Staten Island. Dr. Mantello connected CPiA to Project Hospitality’s health pop-ups, which she helped to organize. These events provide free health screenings, vaccinations -- including the HPV vaccination -- and resources to people who would be otherwise unable to afford or access care.
They continue to partner with Project Hospitality on HPV vaccination education, along with skin cancer prevention education, which is also part of the work they do on Staten Island. “HPV vaccination and skin cancer risk reduction policy change and education are the core tenets of CPiA’s work. This year we plan to expand our partnerships with local organizations to work on reducing the cancer burden in Staten Island,” says CPiA Staten Island Project Director Maya Lipsman of Columbia University’s Cancer Center, Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.
For more information about the Cancer Prevention in Action program in Staten Island or if you are interested in scheduling HPV education for your organization, please email Maya Lipsman or visit the Take Action Against Cancer website.
Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) was recently awarded a three-year grant by Cancer Prevention in Action (CPiA) of New York State Department of Health and Health Research, Inc. The award supports the HICCC’s work on skin cancer risk reduction and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination education in Staten Island. The HICCC is the first and only site in New York City to receive this competitive award by the CPiA program. HICCC has partnered with Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) and the Office of the Staten Island Borough President to complete the activities of this grant. These partners make connections with local organizations to implement sun safety policies and deliver HPV vaccination education.
Borough President Vito Fossella reunited Joey DeRobertis and Mary Ansbro in a small gathering in his office after their chance meeting on crowded subway car headed to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade led to a heartwarming serenade.
“What we saw last week between these two young wonderful people, it was a beautiful moment that brought joy to a lot of people,” said Borough President Fossella. “Most importantly to the families, we say thank you for giving us these two young, beautiful people. It is a reminder of how much in life is love and unity that conquers everything -- and of all places, on the subway.”
Joey was singing while taking the R train to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with his friends. Mary, a student at the Hungerford R. Hungerford School, who was on the train with her family, requested he sing a song with her name in it. Joey, a 2022 graduate of St. Peter’s Boys High School, was happy to oblige and had the perfect song at the ready: “The Wanderer” by Dion.
Passengers on the subway car joined in the singsong with the line, “Oh well, there's Flo on my left arm and there's Mary on my right.” At the end of the song, Mary gave Joey a big hug.
Borough President Fossella was so moved by the touching scene that he invited the duo into Borough Hall.
He put Joey on the spot and asked him for a reprise. Without hesitation, Joey launched into “The Wanderer” as Mary sat behind Vito’s desk. Borough President Fossella said the act of kindness “hit home” on Staten Island.
“It’s representative of and reflected in what we like to think our community is all about -- being there for each other, making someone smile, making someone laugh,” said Borough President Fossella. “Joey, you did that last week for Mary, and we wanted to take this moment on behalf of the half-a-million people here, and I am sure beyond Staten Island to thank you. Sometimes, we give a certificate of appreciation, but because this is a song-based, we’re going to give you a note of appreciation.”
To Joey and Mary, we thank you for making us all smile.
Borough President Vito Fossella and District Attorney Michael McMahon hosted a Vietnam Veterans "Welcome Home Breakfast" on Wednesday in the Hilton Garden Inn.
The breakfast was a way to finally say "thank you" to Vietnam Veterans, many of whom did not receive a warm welcome when they arrived back to the United States after their service. In a special touch, the breakfast took place on the 50th anniversary of when the last troops left Vietnam and the final group of American prisoners of war were freed and left Hanoi.
"We would not have the life we have today if it were not for those who dedicated their lives to protect the freedoms and people of our great nation,” said Borough President Fossella. "Our Vietnam Veterans were not appreciated appropriately when they came home from war, but we are forever grateful for their service and heroism and will continue to thank them every chance we can."
A “white table” was in the room to honor prisoners of war and soldiers who went missing in action. The table was set with silverware, a rose, a lit candle, a white tablecloth -- and an empty chair.
Also in attendance were Korean War veterans and Lt. Anthony Aquaro, a 102-year-old World War II veteran and retired firefighter.
At the end of the breakfast, the veterans were presented with a custom challenge coin as a symbol of thanks and appreciation.
To all of our veterans and those still serving today, we offer our thanks.
Vito announced the continuation and expansion of the veteran discount program during a press conference in Rab’s Country Lanes in New Dorp.
He was joined by Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) President and CEO Michael Cusick and Staten Island Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Linda Baran, along with veterans and business owners.
The veteran discount program was started in 2012 by then-Assemblyman Cusick.
“One thing we all share on Staten Island, regardless of where you live or who you are, is that we love and cherish our veterans for their service to our nation,” said Borough President Fossella. “Our veterans are what makes this the greatest country in the world.”
There are more than 200 participating businesses which provide veterans with discounts of up to 10% for goods and services.
“Our businesses are very patriotic – they want to help our veterans,” said Assemblyman Cusick.
Businesses wishing to participate can fill out this form on the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce's website. Veterans wishing to receive a discount card can call Bobby Aanonsen at the SIEDC at 718-477-1400, ext. 827
Borough President Vito Fossella, District Attorney Michael McMahon Announce Bread Of Life Food Drive
Borough President Vito Fossella was joined by District Attorney Michael McMahon and students from across Staten Island to announce the 32nd annual Notre Dame Bread of Life Food Drive during a press conference in Borough Hall.
For the second year, the food drive’s catchphrase is "Fight Hunger, Not Each Other," which gives students an opportunity to contribute to the community in light of recent violent incidents in schools.
Students in both public and private schools will collect food for the drive, which will be distributed to 25 non-profit organizations on Staten Island that serve individuals and families in need of food.
“We always hear about a handful of bad kids, but the vast majority want to help their fellow sister and their fellow brother,” said Borough President Fossella. “That is what the Bread Of Life Food Drive is all about. This has been a labor of love for us for so many years because it is so important to the people of Staten Island.”
Across the country, 285 cities in 34 states participate in their own Bread of Life Food Drives.
“It started right here on Staten Island and it became a national model by building on the love that is so strong here,” Vito said.
District Attorney McMahon touched on the catchphrase.
“Recently, there has been violence within and among the population of young people here in our borough and that is very concerning to us,” said District Attorney McMahon. “By focusing on the love between us and not the anger, this program is going to make sure we all have a bright future. I know that you are all leaders in your schools and will bring that message back.”
Bread of Life Executive Director Joseph Delaney thanked the students who participate each year.
“Last year, when we totaled up what we collected in the Bread of Life Food Drive, there was a 12% increase in school donations than the previous year,” he said. “I attribute a lot of it to this get together, to your impetus in getting this started and to this work that you are doing for us.”
Claire Atalla, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Staten Island, one of the recipients of the food drive, said the nonprofit recently shifted one of its main priorities to food insecurity.
“You would be surprised to know that many of your Staten Island neighbors are food insecure,” she said. “They are people who live paycheck to paycheck, who can barely make ends meet, who are disabled, who are single parents, who are the victims of domestic abuse, who are between jobs. It can happen to any of us at any time and our job is to rally around our neighbors to make sure we help each other out. ‘Fight Hunger, Not Each Other’ is a true testament to what we need to do.”
Since its inception, the Bread of Life Food Drive has collected and distributed more than two million food items. This year, participating schools will collect non-perishable items through April 1. The food will then be boxed at Monsignor Farrell High School and delivered to the recipient organizations.
'Be Bold, Be Creative, Be Innovative': Five Borough Minecraft Challenge Open to Staten Island Public School Students
Creativity, building, innovation, letting your imagination run wild -- that is what is behind the Department of Education’s Minecraft Education Challenge.
Borough President Vito Fossella announced Staten Island’s participation in the five-borough competition for public school students in grades K-12 during a press conference at Wagner College on March 8.
He was joined by Department of Education representatives and Wagner College President Angelo Araimo. Also participating were students from Staten Island Tech, CSI High School for International Studies, New Dorp High School, Tottenville High School, Curtis High School, Susan E. Wagner High School, and McKee High School.
In the Minecraft Education Challenge, students will build a space that answers the question: “How can we create a safe, connected, resilient, and sustainable borough that moves NYC forward without leaving anyone behind?”
“Education can be exhilarating, it can be boring, it can be a lot of different things, but in this case, you can have as much fun as you want,” said Borough President Fossella. “This is a blank canvas. Be bold, be creative, be innovative.”
To participate, Staten Island students can create a team and submit their design by April 5. The teams selected will move onto a qualifying round and compete against other borough schools in a live challenge. The winning teams from the qualifying round will compete for the Borough Champion on May 13 at Wagner College.
That team will move on to the Mayor’s Cup and vie to become NYC Battle of the Borough’s Champion.
“Let yourselves shine,” said Borough President Fossella. “There are no limitations to this, you have the freedom of you own mind to be your tour guide -- and at the end of the day, we want to bring a winner home to Staten Island.”
Borough President Vito Fossella was surrounded by students from P.S. 78 to announce that the public playground adjacent to the school will be secured exclusively for their use during their recess.
The announcement came a month after the Stapleton school’s windows were pierced by bullets from a nearby shooting. Nobody was hurt in the incident.
Securing the playground exclusively to the P.S. 78 students is a collaboration with the City Department of Education, the City Parks Department, and District Attorney Michael McMahon.
“We walked around the playground and within a couple of days, thanks to the way government should work for the people starting with the mayor and all the way down to the Department of Education and the Parks Department, we were able to secure this facility for the children everyday between the hours of 9 o’clock and 2 o'clock for them to enjoy,” Borough President Fossella said during a press conference on March 8.
Principal Jodi Contento said collaboration is one of the core values taught at P.S. 78.
“Nobody could do it alone,” she said. “For me, this is about taking something negative that happened -- and we’re thankful that nobody got hurt -- and turning it into a positive. What happened was we were able to identify one of our needs. So, when the DA and the Borough President came, they asked us what it was that we needed. I told them that one thing that could be a quick fix is that we don’t have a playground. We don’t have a place that is just for P.S. 78."
She said gates and signage will be installed to alert the community about the new use of the playground during weekdays.
“This is a public playground, and of course we want the community to enjoy it, but we have to ensure that my 600 students who are going to come outside have a place to play that’s safe during these hours,” she said.
The students passed around the microphone to talk about the importance of having a playground to call their own.
“We need recess, because we have to take out all our energy, because in class we’re just sitting down and learning,” said Stanlee Uruchima, president of the third-grade student council. “We want to run around and play games and have fun.”
Borough President Vito Fossella joined Councilman David Carr to announce a more than $3M renovation to the Midland Beach Playground announce a more than $3M renovation of the Midland Beach Playground, which is adjacent to P.S. 38. The renovations will feature new play equipment, a safety surface, seating, landscaping, and fencing.
He recalled walking by the park when he was a student at Egbert (I.S. 2) Intermediate School.
“It’s a vital part of the community,” said Borough President Fossella. “I used to see this park all the time and nothing has really changed. It does serve P.S. 38, and it serves it well, but anybody who drives by here on a nice spring or summer afternoon knows that this is very well used by the Midland Beach community. This is why we come together because the public space, the parks, and the playgrounds make life just a little bit better, especially for young families who want to watch their kids enjoy aimless time instead of watching their phone.”
The allocations include $2.4M in funding from Borough Hall and $1.8M in City Council funding.
“It’s an investment that’s definitely needed because it’s been well over two decades since there was substantial investment to make this a truly operating playground,” said Councilman Carr.
A community input meeting will be held in the spring, which will include students from P.S 38.
“We like to meet with the kids because they’re the ones who give us the best ideas for what they want to see in their local playground,” said Joe Homsey, chief of staff to Staten Island Borough Parks Commissioner Lynda Ricciardone.
Watch the full press conference here.
(Photo courtesy of the Staten Island Advance/Paul Liotta)