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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.

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.

black girl July 26, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Does not sound like discrimination to me. How p.c. you all try to be.lol! sarcasm!
Sweetpea July 26, 2012 at 12:25 PM
How ridiculous that we need to spend time, and eventually taxpayers dollars, arguing about this. As an "American-Italian," as I prefer to refer to myself, the term Mafia Block does not insult me. The term mafia is not solely attributed to those of Italian descent. There are the Russian and Asian Mafia as well. Let's all stop taking things so personally. If Mr. Murray said, "All Italian-Americans are members of the mafia," then I would take offense. Life is too short to waste time on this. Why can't we just work towards the greater good of the Village.
maire July 26, 2012 at 03:43 PM
If these people were the average citizen of Buchanan, maybe I could understand the anger at the Mafia Block discussion. The individuals complaining are angry their side is not in power and that Mr. Donahue was not elected again. By their letters before and during the last campaign, full of untruths and innuendo, you can understand why they are using this against the current administration. Do we taxpayers in the village have to spend money to answer ridiculous charges by people who want to undermine the board and the mayor.
Sweetpea July 26, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Well, of course everyone is entitled to their believes, but my belief is that I'd rather spend Villiage officials' time and taxpayers money on things beneficial to the Village, not on one person's perception of what was intended.
mmgd July 27, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Doesn't pass the smell test. I don't get the term as an industry term. In Buchanan??? Only in Buchanan??? The word mafia may be used with other ethnic groups, but always in its pejorative sense. In Buchanan this casual usage of mafia reminds me of other terms that take on a everyday tone but not without causing an uneasiness. In my youth, you could make outrageous comments about your own group, but were careful not to offend others not of your group.
maire July 27, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Just Google the term - you will see that there construction supply companies offering "mafia blocks". They are used in things like retaining walls, which is what was being discussed at the meeting.
mmgd July 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
To Maire: Did Google the term. Do understand the context. I'm definitely from an older generation.
Walden Macnair July 27, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I don't think that the fact that the term is in common use makes it acceptable. If one is to research the origin of this term, one would find that it was originally used as a manner to dispose of a body. These same people that used this term so casually without regard to its deeper meaning would never use pejorative terms to describe other nationalities or races, but for some reason this term is defensible in their minds because others use it too. I believe any term that is hurtful should be avoided and that the council needs to formally apologize for using it. If Politically Correct means having compassion for the feelings of others than I suppose I'm being politically correct.
Fly on the Wall July 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I think Mr. Macnair makes a very valid point! Based on the article I think if the engineer and planning board responded with an immediate apology this thing would have been forgotten by know. Instead it now appears the Mayor is trying to defend his engineers actions and is unwilling to offer a simple apology.
mmgd July 28, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Mr. Macnair and Fly on the Wall: Good points...totally agree
Angel125 July 30, 2012 at 01:38 PM
They are not really offended but the $$$$ looks good
Sick of the Lies May 10, 2013 at 10:18 AM
Oh, as an update....Mr. Cerchia's hard fought attempts to continue his legacy of insanity continues....but the complaint has been dismissed. Maybe the next time he will find himself the subject of a nice lawsuit. That would give him something to spend his valuable time on.
Teleman May 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM
Well he'd be the first one to you he's a law expert- just a miserable blow hard without a cause
Wayne Mallen November 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM
I use Mafia Blocks all the time in my excavating biz.If and when one feels lighter to me,maybe there's a body in it since concrete is much heavier in displacement than the'' normal'' sized human body. Until this happens,get a life Mr.Cerchia!!! They will ALWAYS be called Mafia Blocks.

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