SF Gate, May 19, 2014
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.
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.'”
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.