Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oddo Calls Benepe Disgraceful And Says Rudy Would Have Fired Him

"I'll tell ya, I can't wait for the 650 days to be up. I can't wait till we get someone in there who treats all five boroughs equally." - James Oddo to Adrain Benepe

West Shore Photos -- February 15, 2012
When Hurricane Irene hit six months ago, Willowbrook Park pond overflowed, flooding nearby streets, cars and dozens of basements in homes. During a City Council budget hearing today SI Council member James Oddo tried to get Adrian Benepe to accept responsibility for the clogged drains due to what he said was a lack of basic maintenance which lead to the flooding. Benepe said it was instead an "Act Of God." (Photo: Bill Lyons/Staten island Advance)

Staten Island

Staten Island City Council member James Oddo and Parks Commissioner Adrain Benepe provided some fireworks during a Council Parks and Recreation budget hearing this afternoon.

Oddo said it was no 'Act of God' that lead to flooding dozens of people's homes six months ago when Hurricane Irene hit - it was a lack of maintenance from the Parks Department.

 Oddo, Benepe
Staten Island City Councilman James Oddo, left, called NYC Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe arrogant, cavalier and disgraceful. Benepe told Oddo to have a nice day.

The pond in Willowbrook Park overflowed, flooding nearby streets, cars and dozens of homes.

The cause, according to the angry council member, was a culvert that was blocked by plastic bottles and errand softballs from nearby fields that had not been properly maintained by the Parks Department.

Adrain Benepe did not agree. He repeatedly said the flooding was caused by Hurricane Irene, not an "Act of God" and refused to acknowledge or take any role or responsibility for the damage.

Many people in the Willow Brook/Bulls Head section of Staten Island suffered huge loses in property damage and personal belongings due to the damage. The four streets that were flooded are adjacent to Willowbrook Park.

Oddo said some residents had eight feet of water in their basements.

If Rudy Giuliani were mayor, Benepe "would have been canned a long time ago, " the councilmember said.

Oddo said he couldn't wait until the remaining days of this administration were over and Benepe was gone.

"I'll tell ya, I can't wait for the 650 days to be up," he said. "I can't wait till we get someone in there who treats all five boroughs equally."

"I appreciate your passion," Benepe said condescendingly to the visibly upset Oddo.

Since the storm Mr. Oddo has been raising the issue with the administration.

After the hearing Oddo called Benepe arrogant and said he has gone above him to address this issue.

"I think he (Oddo) is positing a problem that may not be a problem," Benepe said after the hearing.

The heated exchange between Parks Commissioner Adrain Benepe came during a City Council budget hearing today where the Bloomberg Administration is proposing allocating only $ 234 million of a $ 68 billion city budget for the Parks Department. That's just 0.34% for an agency responsible for 14% of the city's land.

This was certainly not the first time Mr. Oddo has publicly expressed his displeasure with Park issues under Benepe. Since 2009 he has been battling the agency over its lack of attention over repairing the Oakwood Beach Berm.

“I simply do not have a great deal of confidence in the Parks Department’s ability to see this project through to completion in a timely and cost-effective manner,” Oddo wrote to Benepe last June regarding another project, the stalled $70 million Ocean Breeze indoor track.

"This is not agency that I trust with the tax payer money anymore," Oddo said in August after a dispute with Benepe over Benjamin Soto Skate Park.

In October he said the Parks Department is "insular, unresponsive and arrogant,” from Commissioner Adrian Benepe on down and that they believe “Parks property is their property. But it’s the people’s property.”

“Benepe has been there too long,” Oddo said. “It’s never the people’s agenda. It’s always their agenda.”

- Geoffrey Croft

The Parks Department's budget is shrinking, as is its ability to keep New York City parks in states of good repair. That can lead to discontent, which boiled over in dramatic fashion this morning during a City Council hearing on the Parks Department budget.

Following Commissioner Adrian Benepe's testimony in a tightly packed hearing room at 250 Broadway, Parks Committee chair Melissa Mark-Viverito turned the floor over to her colleagues on the panel.

When it was Staten Island councilman Jimmy Oddo's turn to speak, he quickly turned the discussion to the issue ofWillowbrook Park Pond, which overflowed during Hurricane Irene and flooded nearby homes, and which, like the hurricane-damaged boardwalk in Rockaway, have yet to be repaired.

Here's some of the exchange:

Oddo: I hope you're familiar with the situation at Willowbrook Park. Your pond on your park gets backed up, overflows to the tune of eight feet in people's basements. Was that an act of God?

Benepe: Yes.

Oddo: It was an act of God?

Benepe: Yes.

Oddo: Actually, commissioner, it was an act of man. Actually, more precisely, it was the inaction of man. And 'man' in this case is colloquial for 'your agency.' Your agency didn't keep the drain and the culvert in good repair. It got backed up. It got backed up by softballs and plastic bottles.


Benepe: Hurricane Irene did untold damage across the northeast, billions of dollars of damage. It did millions and millions of dollars of damage across the city. It was an act of God. We are very conscious of all of the different places where infrastructure needs to be adapted to the fact that sea levels are rising, storms are becoming more frequent and more unpredictable.


Oddo: Wait a second, wait a second. An act of God would be some of your trees getting blown down. Water backing up to the tune of eight feet in people's basement because your culvert...

Benepe: That's your view of things.

Oddo: That's not my view of things! That's my view of things? You deny that your culvert was, you're saying it was in good repair? You're saying that wasn't the reason for the flooding?

Benepe: You know, there was a hurricane that caused hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions of damage across the northeast.

Oddo: Wait a second, if the culvert was working right and you had a good system, you wouldn't have had eight feet in people's basement. That wasn't an act of God!

Benepe: Hindsight is 50/50.

Oddo: Oh, commissioner. Wow. Wow. That's what you think? That's your attitude for my district? And for these people in Saybrook?

Benepe: The Culvert was covered with trees blown down by the hurricane.

Oddo: No it was not! I was out there! I was out there in the rain! I was out there. It was certainly not. It was blocked up by softballs and plastic bottles ... It's an embarrassment! It's an embarrassment! And the fact that you're giving me such a cavalier attitude is consistent with your history, but it still blows my mind.

Benepe: Thank you very much, councilmember.

Oddo: You know, commissioner, these are people who are part of the City of New York. And the fact that you have such a cavalier attitude about what they've endured for the last four months is really a disgrace. It's really a disgrace. I've come to accept the cost overruns, and the time delays as Councilmember Lander has alluded to. But this attitude is unacceptable, it really is. It's disgraceful. And this is the same attitude from the man who made a comment about Staten Island, about who has class and who doesn't have class. That is absolutely outrageous. If Rudy Giuliani were the mayor, you would have been canned a long time ago. You realize that?

Mark-Viverito: Councilmember.

Benepe: Have a nice day, councilmember.

Oddo: Disgraceful that you don't care. You can hate me all you want. But the fact that you don't think it's a priority to address, to find $700,000 so that these people don't have to go through that again, so that every time that there's a forecast of heavy rain, their lives aren't turned upside down, the fact that you don't care about that, is really an absolute, it's an amazing thing.

Benepe: That's simply inaccurate. It was our staff who were out there in the hurricane.

Oddo: No, no, no, it was D.E.P. It was D.E.P. out there.

Benepe: It was our staff.

Oddo: Oh please, it was D.E.P. who we called up to fix after the hurricane. Please. You weren't there, sir. I was.

Benepe: Our staff was there, and I have pictures of it.

Mark-Viverito intervened to say she thought Oddo had made his point and asked him if he had any specific questions on the budget. He didn't, but he did have one last thing to say.

"I'll tell ya, I can't wait for the 650 days to be up," he said. "I can't wait till we get someone in there who treats all five boroughs equally."

Benepe went on to field questions about tree-stump removal, and the lack of money for such things.

According to the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, the Parks Department's staff has been reduced by nearly 40 percent since 2008, primarily in the maintenance and operations department. This year's proposed budget for the department, which controls some 29,000 acres of parkland in New York City, would eliminate funding for up to 800 Job Training Program participants, who do a lot of parks maintenance.

Benepe indicated in his written testimony, delivered at the beginning of the hearing, that the department's financial circumstances were dire:

"Without the Council's restorations, staff promoted to supervise pool and beach operations will not be replaced, and coverage for seasonal operations such as tennis courts, ballfields, spray showers, picnic and barbeque areas and grass cutting will be curtailed. In addition, we will once again be forced to close four pools and shorten the pool season for all the pools by two weeks citywide."

Read More:

Capital - March 22, 2012 - By Dana Rubinstein

Staten Island Advance - March 23, 2012 - By Judy L. Randall

Staten Island Advance - September 07, 2011 - Mark D. Stein

Staten Island Advance - February 15, 2012 - Mark D. Stein

The Office Of James S. Oddo - November 3, 2011

Staten Island Advance - June 15, 2011 - By Tom Wrobleski

August 4, 2011 - By Aaron Dickens


  1. It's about time somebody called Benepe on his garbage. He's just an errand boy for the mayor.

  2. punk, gone soon, to work for a corporation or a school, sadly....