STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island) has spent more than a decade in public service, and now he wants to be Staten Island’s next borough president.
Matteo is one of two candidates, along with former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), with experience as an elected official in the race to replace Borough President James Oddo, who Matteo started his career with 17 years ago.
Since 2014, Matteo has served as councilman for the Mid-Island, and has developed a reputation as a pragmatist capable of working with the city’s Democratic majority to deliver what’s important to his constituents.
“I want to continue making a positive difference. I think over the last 7 plus years, my team and I have done a really good job of putting Staten Island priorities first,” Matteo said. “I want to expand that borough-wide.”
The current resident of the Richmond neighborhood started his career in government as director of constituent services for then-Councilman Oddo (R-Mid-Island) eventually working his way up to be his chief of staff in 2006.
One of the Advance’s earliest mentions of Matteo’s work in government came in April of that year when a reader wrote in to thank Matteo for his work as Oddo’s “assistant,” informing commuters about changes to the former X-17 express bus route.
“I’m proud to say these officials have helped, and really care about Staten Island!” Diane Creazzo, of Bulls Head, wrote at the time.
Before his time in government, Matteo made the paper repeatedly in the 1990s for his time on the Port Richmond High School baseball team, including as team captain.
His progress toward elected office faced several speed bumps.
Matteo first looked to run for his current seat in 2009, but Oddo secured a third term due to the 2008 term-limit-extension deal struck between former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Oddo, like the two other Staten Island council members at the time, voted against the extension.
When he finally did run in in 2013, Matteo faced a contentious primary that led to local Republican Party infighting, but he ultimately prevailed, easily defeating his Democratic opponent — Republicans have held the Mid-Island seat since its creation in the early 1990s.
Matteo hit the ground running after taking office. An article from early January 2014 was titled “Matteo introduces bevy of bills.”
The bills sought reforms to limit abuse of the city’s 311 system, increased penalties for vandalism to religious buildings, and changes to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) that would limit exploitation of the city’s zoning regulations.
According to the City Council website, those didn’t become law, but Matteo has been able to get meaningful legislation passed during his time in office despite the opposing party being completely in control of the city.
For example, legislation Matteo introduced in 2015 — the year he became minority leader — built on the city’s distribution of life-saving defibrillators bringing them, by law, to Little League teams around the city.
Another piece of legislation, brought in 2017, provided for increased property tax relief to local veterans of the military.
Additionally, during his time in office, Matteo has secured funding for a number of Staten Island projects, like the West Shore Business Improvement District and local hospitals, and spurred the city’s eWaste collection efforts.
In 2017, the city piloted a curbside eWaste collection program on the Island that allowed residents to efficiently dispose of electronic waste like old televisions.
The program, on which Matteo worked closely with former Sanitation Commissioner and current mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia, was later expanded to every borough except Manhattan.
Matteo’s latest push is against the city’s siting of a homeless shelter in his district.
According to the city, the site in Grasmere would bring 50 homeless women over the age of 50, but, like elected officials in other districts around the city where officials have sited homeless shelters, Matteo has expressed outrage at the lack of community involvement.
Going forward, the councilman said that if elected his focus will be on COVID recovery, pushing through the completion of the East Shore Seawall, improving transportation for Staten Islanders, and addressing other quality of life concerns.
“You have to take the small issues with the big issues and work on both every single day,” he said. “And that’s what helps Staten Island.”