- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - A Long Island county legislator is rejecting calls from her fellow Democrats to resign after making comments about a predominantly black neighborhood that critics say were racially derogatory.

Former state party Chairman Jay Jacobs, and Kevan Abrahams, the leader of the Democratic minority in the Nassau County Legislature, were among those attending a rally Monday calling for the resignation of first-term legislator Ellen Birnbaum, of Great Neck.

Critics took issue with comments Birnbaum made last month during a meeting to discuss a community center in the predominantly black neighborhood of New Cassel.

Newsday reported that former legislator Robert Troiano, also a Democrat, read an account of Birnbaum’s remarks that he said came from a “collective recollection” of those at the meeting.

“She said, ‘Why would anyone want to go there?’ Then … she added, ‘It’s a bad neighborhood,’ and ‘It’s a ghetto’ and … ‘It’s full of those black people,’” Troiano said.

He added: “She then … whispered, ‘Come on, who from the rest of the town is going to go there? After all, mostly black people live there.’”

“She later added, ‘All they want to do is play basketball.’”

Birnbaum disputed the account of her remarks, saying, “Those are not my words” and then clarifying, “I did not use ‘ghetto.’”

She said Monday in a statement read to The Associated Press that she was “heartsick” about the pain her insensitive remarks had caused but would not resign.

“I will work every day for the remainder of my term to gain the trust and confidence of the African-American community in New Cassel and throughout Nassau County.”


Information from: Newsday, https://www.newsday.com

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