STATEN ISLAND — Mayor Bill de Blasio spent his first day on Staten Island announcing new initiatives for the 123 Precinct, chowing down on cannoli with his pal Borough President James Oddo and riding the ferry to work, but said it's not an effort to win over borough voters.
De Blasio doesn't expect the borough's Republicans to support him just because he made a sojourn to the forgotten borough and said working here for the week wasn't a ploy to get their votes in his upcoming re-election.
"I’m not out here to try to win over folks who philosophically disagree with me," de Blasio said Monday. "There are folks who just look at what I believe in and just disagree with it, they shouldn't vote for me.
I don't feel bad about that, I think it's normal," he added.
The mayor kicked off his "City Hall in Your Borough" initiative in Staten Island where he and senior staff will spend a week working out of Borough Hall with Oddo. They'll also host a town hall meeting in West Brighton and a City Resource Fair.
Republican candidate for mayor, Paul Massey, blasted de Blasio's Staten Island-trek as a "taxpayer-funded campaign stunt" and called him out for excluding the borough the other weeks of the year.
"Mayor Bill de Blasio is on Staten Island this week trying to make up for lost time and effort in a taxpayer-funded campaign stunt," Massey said in a statement.
"But his lack of attention to Staten Island over the course of his mayoralty can’t be fixed by showing up for a few days for a 'Listening Tour.' In just one example of how he excludes Staten Islanders, Mayor de Blasio has been touting the launch of a new 'Citywide' ferry service, but his definition of 'Citywide' does not include Staten Island."
At an unrelated press conference Monday, de Blasio said he's been planning this initiative, which will come to the other four boroughs, since he took office but didn't have time to implement it before.
"We got a lot of our major policy issues underway and it was a good time to start going out," he said. "It's a model that will prove to be one that should be repeated in the future, if the people retain me."
Staten Island has traditionally been a Republican stronghold and was the only borough in the city where President Donald Trump won. The borough also voted for de Blasio's Republican opponent Joe Lhota in the 2013 election.
Since de Blasio took office, he has not enjoyed much love from Staten Islanders and has had low approval ratings there. A recent Quinnipiac University poll has his challenger Massey leading 59 to 23 percent in November's election in Staten Island.
De Blasio was also met with protesters at Borough Hall and at the 123rd Precinct on his first day.
The mayor said he wasn't bothered by the opposition and felt it was important to visit the borough for a week to help residents with their problems.
"What would be bothersome would be if I started ignoring this borough because of political differences," he said. "I think I owe it to the people here."
Not every Republican in the borough hates de Blasio. The mayor shares a longtime friendship with Oddo dating back from their City Council days. The mayor even said he has a better working relationship with Oddo than Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with whom he has repeatedly and publicly feuded.
"My experience with Jimmy Oddo has been one of absolute, total consistency. What you see is what you get, man of his word," said de Blasio. "That's been this experience, the other experience has obviously been very different."