Chi Ossé, a Democrat for New York City’s 36th District representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights, has been the subject of bipartisan scrutiny for an anti-Italian statement made earlier this week against a Brooklyn-based company recently convicted of insurance fraud known as Dragonetti Brothers Landscaping.
“I just want to say on Dragonetti. That name alone should have been the first red flag in terms of contracting with the city,” said Ossé, insinuating that the company’s Italian namesake should have been an indicator of foul play based on the stereotypical belief that Italian Americans are in the mafia.
Following this disgusting remark during a budget council hearing, the New York City Council’s Italian-American Caucus took action, filing an ethics complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat with the Chair of Council’s Ethnics Committee. City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) filed the complaint, stating that members of the caucus felt “harassed and discriminated” against over Ossé’s words.
“The members of the Italian Caucus categorically condemn the comments Council Member Chi Ossé made on the record during a budget hearing this week, in which he suggested that an Italian surname that branded a company should have led to its disqualification from ever getting a contract with the City of New York,” said a written statement from the caucus.
“There is absolutely no excuse for any Council member, let alone the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, to make remarks that disparage an entire ethnic group and advance hurtful stereotypes.”
Other Italian American groups have also joined in to express their displeasure with Ossé’s remarks such as the Queensboro Chapter of UNICO and the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation, whose president even requested that Ossé be stripped of his role in the cultural affairs committee “due to his defamatory remarks about Italian Americans.”
Meanwhile, Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat, said that when it comes to anti-Italian racism, “we must stand together as a city and unequivocally reject hate and bigotry in all its forms” and that “comparing Italians with organized crime is reprehensible and disgusting and has no place in our society.”
As for Ossé’s response to these complaints, his scholarly reply on Twitter was “Y’all what” before categorically denying the accusations in a later post.
Regardless of the outcome of the ethics complaint, the Brooklyn councilman needs to understand that these types of comments that disparage Americans of Italian descent will not be tolerated.
- Brooklyn Councilman Chi Ossé accused of anti-Italian bias: ‘Reprehensible and disgusting’ [NY Daily News]
- NYC Council’s Italian-American caucus files ethics complaint against Dem Councilman Chi Ossé over contractor remark [NY Post]
- Brooklyn Democrat faces bipartisan accusations of anti-Italian bias after comments about landscaping company [Fox News]