Bill de Blasio (58999)

Mayor de Blasio’s first ever town hall meeting on Staten Island was held last month in a gymnasium named after the island’s current Republican Borough President James Oddo.

Addressing the crowd, the two men put party affiliation aside to compliment each other’s successes before heeding questions from the parents and business owners who made it out to the three-hour event.

“We realized that the job was to get jobs done,” de Blasio said during his opening address. To his credit, the mayor was well prepped on local issues, mentioning the 500 new miles of paved roads and the fleet of new ships set to motor out from the harbor at St. George. An addendum made known that evening was that an indoor pool will soon be built at an undecided location.

All this information was given before de Blasio discussed a plan to fight back against the rising heroin dependency on Staten Island. His recourse, the audience found out, will be an additional $5.5 million in funds to solve the problem.

“I think governments on all levels are just catching up with the totality of this issue,” de Blasio said. “We need to move very quickly, very intensely. I know the borough president understands that, the NYPD understands that. We’re going to provide the resources to go a lot further, a lot quicker.”

With questions arising about the intent to bring an indoor pool to Staten Island and the continued development of unused waterfront property near St. George, one attendee identified a hole in the community left by Hurricane Sandy and urged the mayor to “please keep the community in mind.”

Before the storm, St. George housed Cromwell Recreation Center, a place the questioner highlighted as being “the best place on Staten Island” and as “a melting pot” despite how “ugly” it was “where anyone in the city” from as far off as the Bronx could go. She named it as the hub at the epicenter of the borough connecting key mass transit spots, a place where “parents felt safe dropping their children” off.

De Blasio said that 80 percent of homeowners affected by Sandy have received either a check from the government or direct refurbishment to their properties and promised that by year’s end that number will be at 100 percent. Yet non-homeowners have received little in reparations.

The mayor took some blame by admitting “the bucks stops with me” and that he “dropped the ball” by ignoring the recreational center for as long as he has, but he hedged a little by placing some of the blame on the Bloomberg administration. “I fully get how big of a deal and loss it was,” de Blasio sympathized. He stated, “Yes it is back on the agenda.” But also made it clear that there were no plans to introduce a Cromwell proposal into the city’s next budget.

The mayor also tackled one resident’s complaint about the cost to clean the city’s water. The resident commented that with the growing amount of sewage on the island, his water bills have continued doubling. The questioner pleaded for a moratorium on his bill after years of price hikes.

De Blasio denied his request for a water bill freeze. Instead he leaned on his record, telling the crowd that he has successfully been trimming the city water bill by cutting out its use “as a cash cow” to pad city coffers, then going further by referencing programs in place to help those who are eligible for it. He did mention a reason for the discomfort could be that not enough homeowners know these programs exist, suggesting that the city could be better at marketing them to the public.

The general civility turned midway through the town hall after an elderly woman told de Blasio not to get too close to her during a heated exchange between the two. Her attitude may have been spurred on by the countless calls she claimed were ignored by the city.

For his part de Blasio eventually got her to speak with the commissioner heading his department of environmental protection, Emily Lloyd.

De Blasio’s efforts took several tries, with him saying, “If you don’t want help, you don’t want help.”

The mayor’s comments preceded those of Oddo. Oddo chimed in condescendingly with, “You’re right, you’re right. We never helped you.”

That was interestingly the sole deviation to anger during the whole meeting in the only borough de Blasio lost in his bid to be the city’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.

The rest of the night touched on several more local issues, including thruway traffic, homelessness, public school programs for children (one such discussion involved a somber exchange with a child who has dyslexia and the child’s mother who longs to teach her to finally read) and imminent domain about an empty space being misused by someone refusing to sell.

The mayor did his part to help the audience members feel recognized by publicly attending to the needs of those who were lucky enough to be called on that night.

“The mayor has launched his borough town hall project to engage everyday New Yorkers on the local issues that matter to them and bring agency leaders directly into our city’s diverse communities,” Aja Worthy-Davis, the mayor’s press secretary, confirmed via email. “This administration has focused on improving the lives of residents across economic lines and zip codes.”

And to maintain this engagment de Blasio promised his first meeting on “The Forgotten Island” wouldn’t be his last.

“I’m looking at the cameras. This is my first town hall meeting. This will not be my last town hall meeting on Staten Island. I look forward to more,” he said.