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OpinionColumnistsRachel Figueroa-Levin

Quit dumping on Staten Island

You'd think that someone who supports spying by the National Security Agency would understand the concept of being on camera.

But that didn't matter to Michael Grimm, the Staten Island Republican congressman who also represents a small chunk of Brooklyn. He was caught on video threatening to break a cable TV reporter in half and throw him off a balcony in the Capitol.

Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, behaved poorly. In doing so, he confirmed the worst stereotypes about Staten Island.

His threat led to an eruption on social media, with discussions about his conduct quickly turning into a make-fun-of-Staten-Island party. People compared Grimm with a character in "The Sopranos," the HBO series about a mob family in New Jersey. Staten Islanders, others wrote, were aggressive and brutish. At least one person said borough residents shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I took the attacks on Staten Island personally, mainly because I'm from there. Also, because most insults lobbed at the borough were really just a cover for stereotypes and biases against Italian-Americans. Staten Island has a large Italian population.

Grimm's behavior -- he has since apologized, saying his Italian mother would be disappointed -- isn't an excuse to disparage an entire community. Next time you consider blurting a Staten Island-Mafia joke, think about what you're really saying. Does the situation you're making fun of have anything to do with the Mafia? If you were so much smarter than Staten Islanders, you'd be able to think of a better joke, right?

Staten Island is a collection of neighborhoods with nice, hardworking people, just like the other boroughs. I'm not saying it's the best borough (there are many reasons why it is), but it's at least as good a borough as any other. Yes, we had a garbage dump, but we didn't ask to be dumped on. Still, we dealt with the city's trash. You're welcome.

So, quit bashing Staten Island. Quit saying it should be a part of New Jersey. Quit pretending that it isn't a real part of New York City. And quit forgetting to plow Staten Island during a snowstorm.

And if I hear you knocking my native borough again, I'll break you in half and throw you off a balcony.


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