By Bernadette Hogan and Emily Crane
May 26, 2023 5:06pm Updated
The New York City Council’s Italian-American Caucus have filed an ethics complaint against Councilman Chi Ossé, accusing him of making a bigoted remark about the name of a Big Apple contractor.
The saga engulfing Ossé erupted during a budget council hearing earlier this week after he made a comment about Brooklyn-based Dragonetti Brothers Landscaping — a city contractor convicted of insurance fraud.
“I just want to say on Dragonetti. That name alone should have been the first red flag in terms of contracting with the city,” Ossé, a Democrat who chairs the council’s cultural affairs committee, told the hearing.
Ossé, who reps Bed-Stuy and parts of Crown Heights, later clarified he was referring to the Dragonetti firm’s criminal baggage and insisted he wasn’t making an anti-Italian slight.
Still, City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told The Post on Friday he had filed a complaint with the Chair of Council’s Ethics Committee, saying caucus members felt “harassed and discriminated” against over Ossé’s remarks.
“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,” a statement from the caucus said.
Councilman Chi Ossé erupted during a budget council hearing after he made a comment about Brooklyn-based Dragonetti Brothers Landscaping, a city contractor convicted of insurance fraud.
They added there was no excuse for an councilmember — let alone the head of the cultural affairs committee — to “make remarks that disparage an entire ethnic group and advance hurtful stereotypes.”
“The Council Member’s feeble defense of his defamatory statement – that it was made in reference to a reputation that the company gained long after it had received city contracts – does not stand up to reason,” they said.
Ossé made the remark as he probed Parks Department officials as to why Dragonetti Brothers continued to be considered for city contracts — despite pleading guilty last year to evading more than $1.1 million in insurance premiums between 2017 and 2019.
City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli told The Post on Friday he had filed a complaint with the Chair of Council’s Ethics Committee, saying caucus members felt “harassed and discriminated” against over Ossé’s remarks.
The firm currently has 10 contracts for tree pruning, stump removal, planting and other services throughout the five boroughs and has secured a total of 97 contracts since 2010, data compiled by Comptroller Brad Lander’s Office shows.
Ossé, a freshman Councilman, hit back on Friday, telling The Post that GOP lawmakers were trying to manufacture outrage.
“The truth is that the Dragonetti Brothers are notorious for fraud,” he said.
A spokesman for Speaker Adams did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether she will censor Ossé.
“In the question of who to give city contracts, of course they should be a red flag. The assertion that the business’s ethnic heritage, rather than criminal history and propensity for fraud, was the issue is an intentional lie and its propagation is dangerous.”
Meanwhile, two local Italian American groups waged their own separate complaints over Ossé’s comments in letter addressed to City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams — including one requesting his immediate resignation.
“The name is an Italian name. Why is the councilmember — who fancies himself a “progressive” — engaging in this type of bigoted remark? This is highly unacceptable,” wrote Anthony Nunziato, the head of the Queensboro Chapter of UNICO — a member of the largest Italian American Service Organization in the country.
“Italian Americans living in New York City cannot be assured that he will serve them in a fair and impartial manner, and he needs to resign. If he refuses to do that, he should be censured and stripped of his committee assignments.”
Mario Faulisi, President of the Howard Beach Columbus Day Foundation Inc, requested Ossé be stripped of his position on the culture affairs committee.
“We are asking for his immediate removal from chairmanship due to his defamatory remarks about Italian Americans,” Faulisi’s letter read.
A spokesman for Speaker Adams did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether she will censor Ossé, though she has sanctioned council members in the past.
She booted Queens Republican Councilwoman Vicki Paladino from several committee assignments in March after the freshman pol criticized a city-funded program in public schools featuring drag queens reading stories to kids.
Ossé, meanwhile, has previously come under fire for posting offensive tweets about women ahead of his election, which he promptly deleted in 2021 when The Post inquired about them.
“Bro…your girl smells like a halal cart,” he wrote in one tweet.