21 Aug 2014
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‘Mafia Block’ Term Leads to Discrimination Accusation in Buchanan

A Buchanan resident filed a complaint against the village attorey and engineer, stating they have made defamatory remarks about Italian Americans.

‘Mafia Block’ Term Leads to Discrimination Accusation in Buchanan

Buchanan resident Sam Cerchia has filed an official complaint with the New York State Human Rights Commission claiming that the village attorney and engineer have used discriminatory language against Italian-Americans.

Cerchia complains that they used the term “mafia bock,” and that they allegedly made other derogatory comments towards Italian-Americans. Murray says the term was used as a commonly used industry term for a type of concrete block used in construction and there was no intent to discriminate against anyone.

The term “mafia block” was used at the village’s April 19 Planning Board meeting, when Village Engineer George Palmer was suggesting an applicant that violated the steep slopes law utilize “mafia blocks” to help mediate the situation, Murray said.

Cerchia’s complaint claims that the engineer’s remark was discriminatory and that the attorney worked with the engineer to discriminate, Murray said.

“Mafia blocks was the start of it,” said Cerchia, who is a 78-year-old Italian American, retired lawyer and 26-year resident of Buchanan. He was not at the meeting so is not sure of what else was said but claims further derogatory comments regarding “disposing of dead bodies” were made at the April meeting. Cerchia says that a tape of the meeting he requested is corrupt and he is unable to view it to see exactly what was said.

“The meeting was recorded…minutes were taken…it clearly shows no intent to discriminate against anyone,” Murray said. “This is being done to intentionally to harm reputations and defame people.”

The village engineer, attorney and acting planning board chair responded to Cerchia’s complaint at a June meeting, explaining the term was used as an industry term, Murray said.

On June 28, Murray responded to the Human Rights Commission and supplied it with several pieces of documentation that he says prove the term is commonly used in the industry.

Cerchia’s complaint is shared by former Buchanan mayor Al Donahue, who in the last two elections. Donahue’s letter to the editor regarding the issue was published on Patch Tuesday. You can read it .

What do you think of the term "mafia block"? Tell us in the comments.

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