Statement by Louis Tallarini, President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, on Discriminatory Practices by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York

Oct 02, 2009, 10:58 ET from Columbus Citizens Foundation

NEW YORK, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In response to a published report that details allegations of discrimination against an Italian-American businessman by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York, Louis Tallarini, President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, issued a statement that follows below.

The Columbus Citizens Foundation deplores any form of discriminatory practices based on race, religion or ethnicity.

We are outraged that a representative of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has apparently discriminated against an Italian-American vendor.

The vendor, Alfred Catalanotto, has operated Central Market in Grand Central Terminal for 33 years. For 10 years, he has run Central Market Grill on the Lower Concourse and Central Market Chill on the Upper Level. In March of 2009, Central Market Chill's lease was lost because he was not the highest bidder. Subsequently, in April of 2009, Mr. Catalanotto answered two additional offers for tenancy. His bid for one of the spaces exceeded that of the bid that was chosen by $158,000, but he was not awarded the space. At the other location, he put in an extremely aggressive bid that he strongly believes was the highest submitted. The MTA retracted that offer for no apparent reason and with no explanation.

Mr. Catalanotto has reported that the MTA employee who rejected his superior bid had previously characterized him by using a highly offensive and derogatory ethnic slur and a profanity. The MTA employee identified by Mr. Catalanotto is Nancy Marshall, director of retail leasing and management of Grand Central Terminal.

Mr. Catalanotto filed a letter of protest on September 22, 2009 with the Office of the Controller of the State of New York, which has authority over MTA contracts. The allegation in the complaint relating to the ethnic slur is substantiated by an affidavit executed by former Grand Central Terminal superintendent Leonard Maglione, who was present when Ms. Marshall gave repulsive expression to her feelings.

We are singularly outraged that the scandalous remarks were made in connection with a man we know to be of exceptional character and generosity. Mr. Catalanotto is Chairman of the Columbus Day Parade Committee, which organizes New York City's Columbus Day Parade on behalf of our organization, the Columbus Citizens Foundation. Mr. Catalanotto volunteers hundreds of hours of his personal time to the effort, which results in the largest celebration of Italian heritage in the world and helps raise scholarship funds for industrious, successful, and deserving students. Mr. Catalanotto's efforts are heroic and selfless.

We applaud Mr. Catalanotto's courage and willingness to come forth with information that reveals prejudice and bigotry that cannot be countenanced in this day and age. We believe that Ms. Marshall's responsibilities as a representative of the MTA and New York State should be subject to a full and open review and that her remarks must be condemned. Any failure to do so would be an endorsement of discrimination against someone for being Italian American, which is as offensive and unacceptable as discrimination based on the color of someone's skin or their religious beliefs.

We call on Governor David Paterson to conduct a full, fair and just investigation of this deplorable matter.

    Press Contact: David Iommarini

SOURCE Columbus Citizens Foundation