Borough President Vito Fossella was on hand as Mayor Eric Adams announced the completion of the $110 million New Creek Bluebelt Expansion to prevent flooding on Staten Island. The announcement was made on the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which tragically claimed the lives of 24 Staten Islanders.
The New Creek Bluebelt Expansion consists of three connected projects in parts of Midland Beach, Grant City, Dongan Hills, and Todt Hill. Stormwater that falls on roadways, rooftops, and sidewalks in those areas will now drain into new catch basins and storm sewers and will be discharged into the New Creek Bluebelt. From there, it will slowly make its way into lower New York Bay while being naturally filtered along the way.
Borough President Fossella described the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in the neighborhoods surrounding the project as “hell on earth” and said the drainage project was completed at almost half the cost of installing new sewers.
“We not only lost life, but the property damage that occurred was just unbelievable,” said Borough President Fossella during a press conference. “And here we are, in a restoration of sorts that is a win-win not just for the people who live here, but for all people across Staten Island."
He recalled intense flooding in South Beach where he grew up.
“I know what it was like when the rains came and the floods came, and it was not pretty,” said Borough President Fossella. “To know that we are making significant progress to allow these homeowners and residents peace of mind when the storms come that they don't have to run to the basement to bail themselves is great.”
Borough President Vito Fossella sent a message to the University of Pennsylvania, which is his alma mater -- and to all institutions of higher learning -- that there should not be any hesitation in condemning terrorist attacks and that it is time for universities and colleges to revisit and re-affirm their core values.
Shortly after the Hamas attacks on Israel, a festival on the Penn campus showcased Palestinian art and culture. Though it was not sponsored by the University, it led major donors -- from billionaire hedge fund managers to high-profile television and movie producers -- to pull their funding.
“In the wake of these attacks, I couldn’t believe the expressions of support for the Hamas massacre on the campuses of some of our most prestigious universities and colleges, including Penn, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia,” said Borough President Fossella at a press conference outside of the Penn Club of New York. “As a proud Wharton graduate, and someone who cares deeply about the University of Pennsylvania, I believe we must speak out when we see something so wrong like we did recently -- the University’s failure to immediately condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel. When Penn provides a platform, space, and facilities with some faculty participation to host an event, even if that event is not officially sponsored by the University, there is a reasonable perception on the part of many that Penn shares most of the positions voiced at the event.”
Borough President Fossella said his “true desire is that Penn -- and other institutions of higher learning -- use this opportunity as a pivot point to reaffirm their responsibility to offer a town square for free speech, but also make it clear that there should be no hesitation in condemning this terrorist attack.”
“Together, we all need to pull together to stop evil in its tracks,” he said. “There are many donors and others who recently announced that they would no longer give money, but to me this is about more than money, but about getting Penn and other universities to re-establish their core sense of values. As we’ve all been forewarned, teach your children well.”
Borough President Vito Fossella capped off the revitalization of Curtis High School’s front plaza with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the culmination of several months of work done on the landmarked school’s entrance.
The Curtis High School Borough Student Advisory Council appealed to Borough President Fossella after recounting constant tripping and flooding issues associated with the plaza’s old pavers. In June, he answered their request by allocating $250,000 in capital funding to replace the pavers, the first replacement in over 90 years, as well as replacing the grating to mitigate ponding issues. Additionally, Curtis High School invested in beautifying the plaza with boxwood shrubs and uplighting, as well as raising the curbs to prevent flooding.
“The reality was there were safety hazards and it wasn’t right,” said Borough President Fossella at a press conference outside of Curtis. “It took a collaborative effort. To the students -- thank you very much for bringing this to our attention, we’re happy to do it. Although, we started with the request just about pavers, we figured we were going to do it right so we changed the landscaping here with the boxwood hedges, cut some branches, and ultimately, there will be some nice uplighting so you could see this gorgeous building behind us.”
Borough President Fossella also pointed out a special guest who was in attendance for the ceremony.
“Generations of students have made this place shine,” he said. “One of those students, who graduated in 1957, is a proud Curtis alum and is my father. And although we did not plan it, today is his birthday.”
Principal Greg Jaenicke thanked Borough President Fossella for the funds to restore Curtis, often referred to the “Castle On The Hill.”
“The need for a renovation and refurbishment of this pathway became evermore apparent as missing and cracked bricks, casualties of age, weather and the footsteps of thousands of students, staff and visitors over the years began to multiply in recent years,” said Principal Jaenicke. “For us, as the borough president mentioned, it was first about safety, but it was also about aesthetics and keeping the historic site well-maintained, preserved and poised to serve the community for many, many more years to come.”
Borough President Vito Fossella gathered with his fellow elected officials and representatives from the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island and the Council of Jewish Organizations to stand in solidarity with Israel after last weekend's terrorist attacks left more than 1,000 dead.
"The people of Staten Island understand, sadly, what terrorism is about," said Borough President Fossella at a press conference in the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC. "When we were attacked, Israel stood with us. Now when Israel is attacked, we must stand with them."
Deputy and Acting Consul General of Israel Tsach Saar said the “cruelty was unprecedented.”
“The victims were Jews, non-Jews, Israelis and Americans from civilians to soldiers from the young to the elderly,” he said. “The atrocities committed are unspeakable. These were not just acts against Israel, but against America, against the free world, against all of humanity.”
Mendy Mirocznik, the president of the board of directors of the Council of Jewish Organizations, recounted a phone call with his son, Ariel, who is studying in Israel.
“We spoke to Ariel, our son just turned 18, and his reaction was ‘mom and dad, I am not leaving -- this is my home, my cousins were taken to the front to mobilize, and my contribution is to make the lives of the soldiers easier and to show moral support to the people of my nation. I am staying here.’’’
Borough President Vito Fossella visited Staten Island Technical High School to congratulate them after they were ranked as the number one best high school out of 25 across New York State by Niche, which reviews schools throughout the country.
“The formula for success is like a three-legged stool: It’s the students, it’s the parents and it’s the professionals who walk the hallways every day at Staten Island Tech,” said Borough President Fossella during a press conference, echoing the philosophy set forth Principal Mark Erlenwein. “You don’t want to brag or spike the ball too much, but you work very hard, you commit yourself every day and you have found your way. We couldn’t be prouder. You give us great joy and we know your best days are ahead of you.”
Principal Erlenwein called the ranking a team effort.
“First and foremost, I want to say congratulations to the whole Staten Island Technical High School family -- and that includes past, present and future,” he said.
“It’s a communal effort. Everything works better when we do it together.”
Abigail Hecht, a senior, recalled that her parents wanted to move during her freshman year. She responded by telling them how hard she worked to get into Tech: “I am staying here.”
“The past four years have been an absolute honor to walk these halls,” she said. “I’ve only had a positive experience. It’s not only about the academics, but it’s about the extracurriculars, the sports and the sense of community that I feel every day.”
A special guest was U.S. Army Lt. Col. Adam Scher, a Tech alumni who was nominated to the United States Army Military Academy West Point by then-Congressman Fossella.
“It truly is an honor and a privilege to be here because my story is Staten Island Tech’s story,” he said. “What I found in these hallways was a passion for public service that made me decide that I wanted to lead our country in uniform. This award is truly a credit to the students who come through these halls every day and take advantage of the leadership the teachers provide. I am motivated every single day to know that we are surrounded by the next generation of leaders who are going to help solve the world’s toughest problems.”