By ANNA SPIVAK
While Staten Islanders sometimes say they live in the “forgotten borough,” their political scene is noteworthy because of lively local races between Republicans and Democrats.
Council member Vincent Ignizio, 39, is defending his seat in the Island’s Republican-friendly southern half against a challenge from Democrat Chris Walsh, 51, former president of International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1730. In interviews with the Staten Island Advance, Walsh has campaigned against prescription drug abuse, deteriorating roads, and “uncontrolled over-development.”
Ignizio served as chief of staff to Council members Stephen Fiala and Andrew Lanza before being elected to the Council as a Republican in 2007. While on the Council staff, Ignizio took part in five downzonings on Staten Island’s South Shore, an effort to reduce housing density. He also credits himself with helping to bring more parkland and amusement facilities to the South Shore, and with the addition of park-and-ride parking spots.
In a recent meeting with the Advance editorial board, Walsh and Ignizio sat down to discuss their positions on the borough’s drug problem, traffic issues, and the upcoming mayoral race.
“The biggest issue for this area is likely infrastructure,” Mark Stein, reporter for the Staten Island Advance, said in an interview. “There are a lot of traffic and road issues that need to be finalized to allow for proper vehicular flow in some portions of the South Shore.”
The candidates addressed this particular issue during their meeting with the editorial board, with Walsh supporting construction of truck lanes on the West Shore Expressway to alleviate congestion and Ignizio calling for synchronized traffic lights and continued intersection improvements, and HOV lanes on the Expressway.
Additionally, the consensus throughout Staten Island, according to The Advance, is that Democratic politicians have begun to pay “more attention to the borough than they have in years past” and that “Democrats are looking to retake City Hall for the first time since 2004.”
Chris Bauer, former president of the Staten Island Democratic Association and editor of its newsletter, said Walsh, a Tottenville resident, “has a strong labor background,” with 30 years as a longshoreman and current work in sanitation. He “understands the role unions play in creating a strong middle class and thereby a strong economy,” Bauer said.
Still, experts see his campaign as a long shot. “It’s always an uphill race against an incumbent,” Bauer said in response. “But if people hear his message, he stands a chance.”
Ignizio, a well-liked Republican in a mostly Republican borough, is an Annadale resident who has served six years as a city councilman. He is a member of the Finance, Ethics, Education, Transportation, and Land Use committees.
Expanding express bus service, supporting the establishment of a K-12 complex in the Charleston area of Staten Island, and awarding the borough’s Eden II school—a school for autistic children—a $10,000 grant, are some of the strides Ignizio has made throughout his campaign.
Thomas Brady, a graduate student at the College of Staten Island, said that Ignizio’s success at a young age had sparked his own interest in politics. Like Ignizio, Brady is an alumnus of St. Joseph by the Sea High School in Huguenot. He said he admired how “well-spoken” and “approachable” he was.
Retiree Frank De Santis, a Staten Island resident for 27 years, commended Ignizio on his ability to “make strides on the forgotten side of the city.”