Last year, Democrat Ellen Birnbaum, 60, in her first term as a Nassau County legislator, was overheard making racially derogatory remarks about New Cassel's Yes We Can Community Center. People she was speaking to and others who overheard said she said, "Why would anyone want to go there? It's a bad neighborhood . . . It's a ghetto and it's full of those black people." And there was more.
Newsday's editorial board called for her to resign after she confirmed the gist of the comments, although she said she is not a racist and did not intend to hurt anyone.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams wanted Birnbaum to step down, as did the Nassau Democratic chairman. She didn't, and has returned to the Democratic caucus after being shunned for a time. Birnbaum, of Great Neck, says she's changed and become more conscious of the diversity in her district. But when asked what she learned from the debacle, she talked about her own tenacity rather than any insights about the challenges in some communities she represents.
Republican Lisa Benjamin, 44, of Great Neck, did not meet with the editorial board.
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