On Monday, Dec. 23, BP Oddo joined with the Jewish leadership of Staten Island and members of the community to celebrate the Festival of Lights at our annual Menorah Lighting.
“Thank you for sharing a part of the holiday with us,” BP Oddo said at the ceremony. “The overriding sentiment we should all have at this time is joy. This is truly a happy occasion when we get to spend time with the people we love, the people we are closest to, the people who are most precious to us and we should enjoy that.”
For a few minutes, he turned his attention to “go into the darkness, sort of into the shadows because it needs to be said.”
He spoke of a recent meeting with District Attorney Michael McMahon, the heads of Staten Island’s four police precincts and leaders of the Jewish community.
“We talked about what is happening in the world with greater frequency and we certainly didn’t come up with fixes to what has been a long-standing problem, but there was a value to us coming together. It is a reminder that we do need to undertake more efforts to get to the kids while their still young before the adults instill hatred in them,” he said.
“Maybe, if we shine our lights a little brighter, maybe, just maybe, we can chip away at those shadows and at that darkness. The fact that we are all here tonight at this event is a small part of it. Tonight we will send a message out that across Staten Island, across NYC and across the country, we are in fact one and we celebrate our diversity.”
The evening was sponsored by the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island. In attendance from COJO were Scott Maurer and Mendy Mirocznik.
Before we lit the menorah, there was an uplifting performance by students from the Young Day School, singing traditional Hanukkah songs.
“I wish each of you a very happy holiday,” BP Oddo said. “I hope it is filled with peace and joy and love and happiness and fun.”
On Thursday, Dec. 5, DBP Ed Burke hosted Borough Hall’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting.
“I love this time of year,” he said. “All of the holidays this time of the year, let’s face it, are about giving, charity, and love – and that’s really evident with all of you showing up here for the tree lighting.”
At the event, carols were performed by local talents, including Al Lambert, D. Sharp Studios, Miss Staten Island Madison L'Insalata, and Rob and Lizz Kipp.
The kids of D. Sharp Studios -- decked in Santa hats -- dazzled the crowd with Christmas favorites before leading a sing-along to “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Scooter the Holy Cow, the mascot of the Staten Island Yankees, was spotted dancing in the crowd.
After the music, the big moment came: Santa arrived at Borough Hall by way of a police escort. With a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho,” he made his way up the steps. After a countdown from 10, the giant switch was pulled: “The tree is lit,” said DBP Burke.
Santa then handed out books, donated by Barnes & Noble, to the children in attendance.
The tree lighting was sponsored by Allstate, Barnes & Noble, the Gavel Grill, Rispoli Bakery, Killmeyer’s Old Baveria Inn, Downtown Staten Island, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island Yankees, the National Lighthouse Museum, the NYPD, the city Parks Department, the South Shore Rotary, Project One Staten Island and Casandra Properties.
Thank you to all our sponsors and performers. We wish all Staten Islanders a happy and safe holiday season.
Winner of Empire State Opioid Epidemic Innovation Challenge Demo Day moves closer to commercial viability
In February, Borough President James Oddo announced the winner of the Empire State Opioid Epidemic Innovation Challenge Demo Day, a challenge that served as an open-innovation platform for a diverse community to co-create solutions that would have the potential to change the trajectory of the local and national opioid crisis.
As part of Demo Day, six teams—composed of engineers, data experts, social workers, clinicians, and other professionals—competed in front of a cross-disciplinary panel of expert judges for a grand prize of $10,000 and six months of acceleration support through the CAMTech Accelerator Program (CAP) for their innovation.
The winner was Team QuikReversal for their innovation of a nasal patch that dispenses Narcan to prevent opioid overdose. Now, QuikReversal’s life-saving innovation is moving closer to commercial viability.
Demo Day, the last leg of the Empire State Opioid Epidemic Innovation Challenge, was hosted through a partnership between Borough President Oddo, the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) at Massachusetts General Hospital, the State of New York, Northwell Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering. The event served as a competition for teams to show progress made 90 days after first formulating their solutions at the Challenge Summit and Solutions Sprint in September, 2018. All 12 teams that formed during the Solutions Sprint were eligible to compete at Demo Day.
“When my team first pitched the idea for the Challenge, the common retort was that these competitions were nothing more than marketing gimmicks—superficial attempts at innovation without tangible outcomes. Fortunately, our sponsors—the state of New York, Northwell Health and Columbia University's schools of public health and engineering—recognized that our model was different. The goal of this challenge was to have talented individuals work together to create solutions to address the local and national opioid crisis, and now we can demonstrate that the investment in the Challenge was worth it,” said Borough President Oddo.
“The CAMTech Accelerator program and its support have allowed QuikReversal to achieve the foundational milestones necessary for gaining scientific viability, funding, and business validation. Since joining the CAMtech Accelerator, with the guidance its mentors, QuikReversal has managed to design user-based studies in collaboration with multiple universities, create valuable relationships with key partners, and most notably become named a Socail Venture Grand Winner in NYU’s $300k Entrepreneurship Challenge,” said Asher Varon, Team QuikReversal.
The idea for the challenge came from the BP’s Policy Team, who learned about a successful opioid “Hack-A-Thon” hosted by CAMTech in Boston in 2016. The Borough President’s office reached out to CAMTech and collaborated with them to create a similar event in New York City.
At the Solutions Sprint in September 2018, four teams received seed funding and three months of acceleration support leading up to Demo Day: Team Random Access Network (RAN) with the innovation to link individuals with certified peer advocates to meet patients at hospitals and treatment recovery centers; Team Recover-We for innovating a search engine chat to link individuals with prevention, treatment, and opioid recovery programs; Team QuikReversal for innovating a nasal patch that dispenses Narcan to prevent opioid overdose; and Team Addiction Recovery Kit (ARK) for innovating a kit that aggregates existing prevention, treatment, and recovery tools for hospitals, needle exchanges, detox centers, and rehab facilities.
On Tuesday, November 26th, Deputy BP Ed Burke joined with Mannix Shop Rite Stores to donate turkeys to help feed the less fortunate in our community. In honor of the Thanksgiving season, Shop Rite donated 800 turkeys to 13 local food pantries.
"Thanksgiving is a time for food and family, and we hope these donations will help all Staten Islanders enjoy this special holiday," said Deputy BP Burke. "Thank you to Shop Rite for partnering with us again on this important drive."
We wish all Staten Islanders a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
Borough President James S. Oddo is pleased to announce that his annual Christmas Tree Lighting will take place on Thursday, December 5th outside on Borough Hall Plaza (facing the Ferry terminal). He will also host the annual Menorah Lighting ceremony on Monday, December 23rd in Borough Hall, Room 125. Both events will begin at 6:30pm.
At the Christmas event, carols will be performed by local musical talents. Santa will join Borough President Oddo to light the Christmas tree and give out books to children who attend. The event is sponsored by Allstate, the Gavel Grill, the National Lighthouse Museum, Downtown Staten Island, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Staten Island Yankees.
The Menorah Lighting ceremony will feature musical performances from various community groups. The event, which celebrates the Festival of Lights, is sponsored by the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island.
“The holidays are a time for all of us to come together and celebrate the spirit of the season. We invite all Staten Islanders to join us this year at our annual holiday lightings,” said Borough President Oddo.
Both events are open to the public.
Over 400 people attended a Forest Ecology Forum on Tuesday, November 19 at the College of Staten Island to hear presentations on severe damage to the health of Staten Island’s thousands of acres of woodlands, caused primarily by deer.
The Borough President and the New York State DEC held this forum to raise awareness about the impacts deer are having on native vegetation and forest animals, and also the broader issue that our forests are ecosystems with interdependent roles for native plants and wildlife.
The DEC has documented the damage on Staten Island by over-browsing of deer to the point where few new trees are surviving past the seedling stage. Oak trees, for example, were heavily browsed. With no new trees growing, the future of our Greenbelt and other forests is at risk.
Evidence was also presented about how deer over-browsing on native plants and berries on the forest floor can collapse the woodland ecosystem and invite unwanted invasive species of plants. We can halt this rapidly growing threat, but we are running out of time.
Many of the 400 attendees were members of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and the Greenbelt Conservancy, two of Staten Island’s leading conservation organizations. Also in attendance were students and teachers from Staten Island schools and many concerned citizens. This was the first major briefing for Staten Islanders on this topic.
We were fortunate to have three experts present their work at the forum. Dr. William McShea, Research Ecologist from the Smithsonian Institute’s Conservation Ecology Center, spoke about the pressures on forests in the entire Northeast/Mid-Atlantic from overpopulation by white-tailed deer, which reach unhealthy densities as natural predators like bears, cougars and wolves have been removed from ecosystems.
Dr. Susan Elbin, NYC Audubon Director of Conservation and Science, followed with a presentation focused on the impacts on forest birds when native plants are over-browsed and supplanted with invasive species.
Ken Scarlatelli, NYS DEC Regional Natural Resources Supervisor, provided field evidence on the effects of over-browsing by deer in Staten Island’s forests – particularly on State lands. To view the PowerPoint presentations given by the listed presenters, please visit our website here.
The Borough President put together this forest ecology forum to educate and inspire Staten Islanders to join our call for action. To make a change, Staten Island residents who care about forests need to be active voices in future management decisions.
At the Forum, Borough President Oddo stated that we collectively want to hear ideas on addressing the problem: “I publicly have stated that I support a highly managed and monitored cull which is the only way to immediately and humanely reduce the deer population – an approach that is done effectively throughout New York State and the Northeast…but I also invited Staten Islanders to offer alternatives that will help reduce the deer population to safe levels and protect the forests.”
Borough President Oddo emphasized that we did not want to draw battle lines on this issue of deer management, but rather collectively discuss the options, using science-based facts as our guide.
A panel discussion followed led by the College of Staten Island’s biology and environmental science departments. Those on the panel included:
Panel members answered audience questions about deer and the state of Staten Island’s forests, issuing a call to action to Staten Islanders to be active voices in future management decisions.
One important take-away from this forum is that -- to care about animals, we have to care about the ecosystems in which the animals live. Otherwise we are fooling ourselves. The animals will starve and disappear if their habitat is compromised. This is a complicated issue but clearly there is a great deal of passion to slow the steady denuding of our Greenbelt, our parks and our woodlands.
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