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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-James S. Oddo, Rep 18,313 - 66 percent
Libby N. Hikind, Dem 9,127 - 33 percent
Carl Mahler, Gre 147 - 1 percent
Libby Hikind 2,976
Joseph Funicella Wein 2,651
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: James S. Oddo
General Election Update
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Libby Hikind
Carl Mahler has not filed
to James Oddo
Joseph F. Wein has not filed
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
50 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
Will Overdevelopment Produce A Democrat?
Richmond County as a whole is the fastest growing county in the
state, and the Mid-Island section of Staten Island suffers in
particular from suburban sprawl. Contractors have been tearing
down old single-family homes and putting in multiple-family townhouses,
creating as many as six homes where there used to be one. Developers
are building on the island's wetlands, which reduces natural floodplains,
causing sewers to overflow when it rains. Sandy beaches are being
closed because of pollution, and strip malls extend up to the
edges of landfills.
"We are a victim of our own success," incumbent Republican Councilman
James Oddo admits.
Oddo thinks the district might be growing too fast for its own
good. Both his Democratic challengers agree -- Libby Hikind, a
third grade teacher from Willowbrook, and ex-marine Joseph Wein,
a former aide to Democratic Councilman Jerome O'Donovan (from
district 49). All three candidates say that overdevelopment is
the greatest threat to the district.
The major disagreement is whether the problem merits a change
in leadership. Oddo thinks not. His challengers see it differently.
Residents have elected a Republican representative to the Council
ever since the seat was created in 1991, even though voter registration
in the district is three to two Democratic. District 50 includes
such Staten Island neighborhoods as Manor Heights, Willowbrook,
and Bloomfield, and a small piece of Brooklyn across the Verrazano-Narrows
While their specific ideas on development differ slightly, all
three candidates believe that a complete overhaul of the island's
zoning laws is needed to preserve the kind of surroundings people
in Staten Island expect.
"Housing stock in Staten Island is less expensive than it is
in the rest of the city, and it's a beautiful place to live. But
if this continues, it won't be so beautiful," says Hikind.
"There is nothing wrong with development as long as it is done
responsibly," says Wein, who proposes a possible moratorium on
large developments and on building on wetlands, as well as the
crafting of a zoning master plan for the whole of Staten Island.
Oddo also believes that a "top-to-bottom re-zoning of Staten
Island" is necessary to stop future problems before they arise.
However he says he has already overseen some successful "spot
down-zoning" in which laws in specific communities are targeted
to prevent further development.
Over-development has also led to some of the other problems facing
the district, such as school overcrowding and traffic congestion.
Critics also say that the infrastructure has not been expanded
or improved to meet the growing population.
"When six new families come in where there used to be just one,
you have six more cars on the road, and six more students at the
local school," says Hikind. "It takes years to build a new school
here, but only nine months to build a new stadium," she adds,
referring to the minor league stadium recently built for the Staten
Oddo, however, maintains that he has worked hard during his term
to get funding for schools in the district. "If you look at the
inside and the outside of my schools, you will see that they have
received money." Oddo says he has also worked closely with principals
to improve facilities and to increase safety.
Bad roads and poor public transportation (the borough has only
one rail line along the eastern shore) result in traffic on the
roads, no matter how many people are driving.
According to Wein, the offices and agencies responsible for the
current transportation problems miscalculated when they drew up
their plans. "They estimated half a car per household. That's
With so much agreement on the issues and how to deal with them,
the outcome of the election may hinge more on personality or on
Neither of the Democratic hopefuls were able to offer a definite
reason for why Republicans have won recent elections by a close
margin in what is a Democratic-majority district. Speculations
included low voter turnout for Democrats, or ineffective campaigning.
Both Democratic challengers hope the time is ripe for a change.
Democrats usually win the Brooklyn portion of the district, which
includes the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, where
residents might not necessarily share the suburban concerns of
fellow constituents across the Verrazano Bridge. However, all
of the candidates in the race live in Staten Island and are expected
to spend much of their time campaigning near home.
Oddo plans on running his campaign on his record of constituent
services which include fixing potholes and imposing a curfew on
young people, as well as his role in shutting down the Fresh Kills
Landfill. "If you show people results," he says, "they don't care
which party you're from."
The Fresh Kills landfill, the problem that many in Staten Island thought was
solved, has come back as a campaign issue.
After the landfill was closed in March, the City Council approved a new plan
to shift responsibility for waste management to each individual borough. In
November, Staten Island will be the first to begin building a new waste
transfer station to hold its garbage, until it can be shipped elsewhere. The
facility will cost $30 million and the planned site near the town of Travis
on the Island's western shore was chosen because nearby rail lines provide
easy access to and from the station.
"I am not opposed to the transfer station itself," says Democratic Libby
Hikind. "I am opposed to its size, and its proximity to residential
communities." Hikind is upset with incumbent City Councilmember James Oddo
for approving it, especially since Community Board 2 voted against it. Hikind
also wonders if some of the trash may come from Manhattan.
Oddo calls Hikind's fears unfounded and incorrect "scare tactics." He also
says he has worked hard to make sure that the town of Travis is not affected.
"We all wanted to see Fresh Kills closed, but part of the deal is that we
have to have a transfer station," says Oddo.
As the campaign has progressed, Oddo has been backed by dozens of unions on
Staten Island, such as the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, as well as by
many New York politicians, including Congressman Vito Fossella, Borough
President Guy Molinari, Mayor Giuliani, and Governor Pataki. He has the
backing of the Republican, Conservative, and Right-To-Life parties.
Hikind has the endorsements of Assemblymembers John Lavelle, Clarence Norman,
Elizabeth Connelly, and Adele Cohen. She is running on the Democratic,
Liberal, Independence, and Working Families tickets. Democrat Joe Wein has
been endorsed by Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Staten Island Councilmember
Jerome O'Donovan, and unions such as the Communication Workers of America,
Local 1108. Green candidate, Carl Mahler, could not be reached for an
Libby Hikind is a third grade teacher at PS 29 in Willowbrook,
Staten Island. She is also a professional grant writer and president
of the Professional Grant Writers & Health Consultants. She has
secured funding for drug prevention programs, literacy development,
and education about the Holocaust. Hikind also created New York
City Grant Watch, a publication for non-profit community organizations
that identifies federal, state, city, and private funding. Hikind
is a mother of eight and grandmother of seven and is also the
sister-in-law of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Carl Mahler is a native Staten Islander who has served in the U.S. Navy. He
has worked as a chef in restaurants here and abroad. After graduating from
the College of Staten Island, he has been pursuing a career in information
systems technology, and is currently working as an I.T. Specialist for a
James S. Oddo was elected to the City Council in February
1999 in a special election to fill the seat of John Fusco. Prior
to serving on the Council, Oddo was Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel
to Councilman Fusco. He also served as lawyer for the Republican
Council members during that time. Oddo is well known for his successful
effort to close the Fresh Kills Landfill, in which he worked with
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Borough President Guy Molinari and other
local politicians. He received his degree from New York Law School
Joseph Wein is an ex-Marine who received an Honorable
Discharge in 1993 after four years of service, including time
served in Desert Storm. Prior to running for City Council, he
was the executive assistant to Councilman Jerome O'Donovan of
Staten Island, for which he served as a liaison to federal, state
and city agency heads. He has worked on various political campaigns
over the years. Wein is currently a union worker in Local 79,
the Mason Tenders and Laborers Union. He is a member of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League, and the Rosebank Boys, a
The finance records of Libby Hikind and Joe Wein are still being
reviewed by the Campaign Finance Board to determine their eligibility
for matching funds, reports the Staten Island Advance. (Staten
Residents, politicians, and candidates are sounding off against
a new strip club in the Midland Beach area, set to open this week.
Both Wein and Oddo oppose the club, even though they may not be
able to prevent it. If they can't, Oddo says, the city will monitor
the sex bar "like a hawk." (Staten Island Advance)
New York City Deputy Mayor Joseph Lhota writes a letter to the Advance
questioning Hikind's facts on the transfer station, such as its size, the
purpose of its location, and the work done by Oddo to ensure the communities
safety. "Where has Ms. Hikind been?" he asks. (Staten Island Advance)
Libby Hikind is accusing incumbent James Oddo of accepting large
contributions from developers. The Campaign Finance Board's records
show that Oddo has raised $64,735 total, $10,000 of which has
come from builder Sal Calcagno and family, and another $2,500
from developer Richard Nicotra. In a district where overdevelopment
is one of the biggest problems, Hikind is questioning the wisdom
of Oddo's campaign contributions. Oddo says it does not mean he
is in developers' pockets, and that his record shows that he is
actively working to prevent overdevelopment. Hikind's tactic,
reports the Staten Island Advance, mirrors that of Jerome O'Donovan's
in the race for Borough President. O'Donovan has accused opponent
Jim Molinaro of the same wrongdoing. Other campaign contributions
are revealed in the article. (Staten Island Advance)
Hikind holds a rally to protest the new waste transfer station
and rails against Oddo. (Staten Island Advance)
Councilman James Oddo cosponsors a bill to ban metal bats from
Little League baseball. (NY Times)
The Staten Island Independence Party endorsed Libby Hikind for
council today. (Daily News)
Councilman James Oddo of Staten Island's Mid-Island District officially
announced that he is seeking re-election. Promising to build on
his record of constituent service, Oddo was confident that no
matter who wins the Democratic primary, they will not unseat him.
He was joined by Borough President Guy Molinari and Rep. Vito
Fossella of Staten Island. (Staten
The race is on in District 50, and the three candidates for Council
continue to collect money for their campaigns. Incumbent James
Oddo has already raised $137,000, while Libby Hikind has amassed
$100,000. Joe Wein has raised between $15,000 and $20,000. Said
Oddo of fund-raising, "No one likes to do it." (Staten
This year's City Council elections are unique in that many new
candidates have familiar names. At least six candidates are vying
for the seat vacated by their parent. And the family ties don't
just cross generations. The race for district 50 is being contested
by Libby Hikind, the sister-in-law of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov
Hikind. Name recognition may help those who need it. Libby Hikind
is challenging Republican incumbent James Oddo. (NY
Council District 50 candidate Joe Wein picked up the endorsement
of State Senator Vincent Gentile yesterday. His opponent, Libby
Hikind, however, got the support of Democratic Party Chairman
John Lavelle. Both candidates are confident that they will receive
the party's support in the primaries and get the nod to go on
to challenge Republican incumbent James Oddo. (Staten
For candidates in the various Staten Island election races, ethnic
identity is shaping up to be a factor in their campaigns. Among
others, Council District 50 candidate Joe Wein announced that
he would run under the name Joseph Funicella Wein (Funicella is
his mother's maiden name) in order to highlight both his Italian
and Jewish roots. (Staten
Joe Wein announced today that he will run for the Mid-Island City
Council seat, now occupied by James Oddo. He will be facing Libby
Hikind in the Democratic primary. He recently moved from his native
Rosebank to Grasmere in Staten Island to meet the residency requirements.
Libby Hikind threw her hat into the ring in front of elected officials,
political activists and friends at a dessert reception at Young
Israel of Staten Island, Willowbrook. In fact, the public school
teacher from Willowbrook literally tossed her United Federation
of Teachers cap into the air as she made her announcement. (Staten