BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
A member of Community Board 4 was called upon to step down after she made statements during a recent board meeting that were deemed by some to be racist and xenophobic.
Ann Pfoser Darby, who has been a member of CB4—which covers Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst— for 30 years and is up for reappointment this month, was lambasted by community leaders following a comment she made during the board’s Transportation Committee meeting on Feb. 28.
“Once Trump removes all the illegals from Corona, there won’t be anybody to ride bike lanes,” Pfoser Darby said during a meeting to discuss a proposal that would make changes to 111st Street to add bike lanes.
A spokeswoman for Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Elmhurst) was also in attendance at the meeting. The councilwoman released a statement immediately after learning of Pfoser Darby’s comment.
“This is a shockingly racist and xenophobic statement from a public servant,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “Such comments, which are unambiguously racist and morally repugnant, will not be ignored nor met with silence or indifference.”
But Darby told the Queens Tribune that her statement was not racist and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had deported illegal immigrants from Elmhurst during the past few weeks. She said she wasn’t insinuating that immigrants are the only ones using the bike lanes. However, she believes the community should hold off on the bike lane proposal, considering that Elmhurst and Corona have large immigrant populations and that it was unclear whether ICE would return to the neighborhood.
“Since all this ICE fear, I see fewer and fewer people using bike lanes,” Darby said. “From what I hear, there was $6 billion of taxpayer money to be used on New York City bike lanes. That’s why I cautioned [the Transportation Alternatives committee] to wait and see what’s going to happen first. I don’t think taxpayer money of the city of New York should be used for something that has shown itself to be obsolete.”
Ferreras-Copeland said that CB4 has “obstructed” the addition of bike lanes on 111th for the past three years and comments such as Darby’s may be the reason behind the delay.
“They put the bike lanes in Elmhurst last year, and very few people use them,” Darby said. “Queens Boulevard is a congested area and the bike lanes only make it worse. If the bike lanes don’t work in Elmhurst, odds are they aren’t going to work in Corona.”
CB4 Chairman Damian Vargas released a statement on the board’s Facebook page.
“It was brought to my attention that at Community Board 4’s Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, a board member made an insensitive and hurtful comment about members of our immigrant community,” the post read. “This board member’s comment is solely her opinion and does not reflect the opinion or the values of Community Board 4….
Community Board 4 welcomes the free expression of diverse viewpoints as it is essential to effectively represent communities as diverse as Corona and Elmhurst. However, we will not tolerate disrespectful or disparaging comments about any member of any community.”
The post concluded by stating that the board would work with elected officials to determine the proper action.
“I am demanding the immediate removal of this board member for promoting hatred and ignorance,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “It is time she is removed and is replaced with someone who is serious about restoring the people’s trust in their government.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said that he would not reappoint Darby when her term is up. However, Darby was originally appointed by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Katz told the Tribune that “these types of comments by public servants are never acceptable.”
Katz said that she would announce her decisions on all community board appointments and reappointments for the new term on April 1.
Vargas said that the board would address the situation at its next monthly meeting on March 14.
Darby said, “After 30 years of free service to this community, I’m being harassed with people saying this is a racist thing.
It’s not a racist thing; it’s a fact. I’m just trying to save the money of the people. I’m an 82-year-old woman, lived in this house for 77 years and taught at Newtown High School as an English teacher for students learning a second language.
My godchildren are Chinese. I am not racist.”