James S. Oddo: New Borough President Ready to Work Hard and Deliver Results

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo

James S. Oddo, republican and former Council Member was sworn in as Staten Island’s new Borough President on January 1, 2014.

Borough President Oddo was born and raised in Dongan Hills, Staten Island, and bought his first house only a few blocks away from where he grew up. As the youngest of four boys, Oddo values the sacrifices his parents made. Oddo watched his father, a motorman, leave early and get home late to work, working two or three jobs at a time, while Oddo’s mother raised four boys. Oddo learned the value of hard work and dedication and says that he works to make sure that his actions reflect well on his parents, as well as his constituents now that he is in public office.

Borough President Oddo graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School in 1984, and then attended Fordham University, in the Bronx. He was the first in his family to go to college. After graduating with a major in history, he enrolled in a two and half year law program at New York Law School. Oddo considered becoming a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent or an assistant district attorney, and he interned at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office during law school. Oddo’s ambitions changed when he met Council Member John Fusco, the City Council Member from Staten Island who offered Oddo his first job post-graduation.

Oddo began his career as counsel to Council Member Fusco, and rose to become his chief of staff. When Fusco left the City Council, Oddo ran for and won the vacant seat. He was elected five more times to represent the 50th District which covers mid-Staten Island and a small portion of Brooklyn. Oddo was also elected to be the minority speaker from 2002 until he left the Council to become the Borough President. Oddo is most proud of sponsoring legislation requiring the availability of automated external defibrillators in many public places. Oddo pushed long and hard for this legislation, which unanimously passed in 2005, and has since helped saved New Yorkers’ lives.

During his time in the City Council Oddo successfully worked with members across the aisle. Oddo believes his ability to transcend partisan politics was threefold. First, as a republican and a member of the super minority, he was forced to build coalitions if he wanted to deliver to his district. Second, Oddo believes that working at the most immediate level of government transcends politics because constituents need their problems solved quickly. Third, Oddo recognized that he could avoid conflict based on philosophy or ideology if focused on the needs of his district. His approach in the City Council, and as Borough President, was to remain true to himself and his district, and, above all, to deliver for his district. Oddo also credited his ability to work with the members of the opposing party to the openness of the former speaker, Christine Quinn.

As Borough President, Oddo is eager to deliver on his campaign promises to be as accessible as possible to his constituents, fight property tax increases, and balance the North Shore revitalization plans, while maintaining the suburban “bedroom community” feel of the South Shore.
Land use issues will be a major priority. Three weeks into office, Borough President Oddo packed his schedule with meetings to ensure that he is up to date with the latest land use developments in Staten Island. There are currently four major projects underway, including construction of the largest Ferris Wheel in the Western Hemisphere along with an outlet shopping center to be located at the St. George Water Front. The total investment in these projects equals almost a billion dollars. The projects will open the door to smaller investments needed to revitalize Staten Island’s North Shore. Oddo hopes that the projects will bring more tourists to Staten Island who will then stay to experience the various cultural activities Staten Island has to offer.

Borough President Oddo is also eager to address Staten Island’s transportation issues. Staten Island has some of the longest commute times in the nation, with an hour and half to two hours commute time to Manhattan. Recognizing that there are no silver bullets to solve this problem, Oddo believes one solution is to take advantage of the waterfront. He is a major proponent of fast ferry service and hopes to encourage fast ferry service from both the north and south shores of Staten Island.

Oddo, who was term-limited as a Council Member, chose to run for Borough President, instead of Congress because “local city government is what I know and love, and it is how I can impact lives.” As an example of his style of local government, Oddo began visiting each of the Staten Island’s public schools. At a recent visit to PS78/PS14 in Stapleton, he got right down to local business and promised that he would get better equipment for the schools, including a smart board.

By: Elizabeth Osley (Elizabeth is a City Law Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).

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