Katie Anne Basler was coming out of a children’s clothing store at the Palisades Center with her six-year-old son when she saw a kiosk selling St. Patrick’s Day-themed t-shirts using profanity.
Basler of Pearl River returned to the mall with Linda Sheridan and George Leahy, where they found more St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts and hats that either contained expletives or perpetuated negative Irish stereotypes.
“As an Irish-American and a Catholic, I was insulted, but as a mother I was horrified,” Basler said. “I tried to instill in my children from day one not only a pride in their heritage but respect for the culture and traditions of others. This merchandise severely undermines those valuable teachings.”
They reached out to Rockland County Legislator Patrick Moroney of Orangetown and on Tuesday night the legislature unanimously passed a resolution expressing its outrage and disgust over the merchandise at the mall. Moroney .
Legislator Alden Wolfe proposed an amendment to the resolution, stating that they should include the Palisades Center’s name in it and send a copy to the mall’s general manager, as well as the president of Pyramid Management Group, the company which owns the mall.
“That might help send the message to an entity that may have better ability to exert some control over the situation,” Wolfe said. “So perhaps maybe they can control their tenant.”
During the meeting, Moroney read the mall’s clothing policy, which states wearing apparel that is likely to produce a disturbance or upset groups of the general public is prohibited.
“Yet they can tolerate this merchandise under their roof,” Moroney said. “It’s absolutely horrendous and I appreciate your time and everyone coming out here this evening.”
Congressman Eliot Engel sent a representative with a letter showing his support for the resolution. The letter, which was signed by nine others in Congress, was also sent to the CEO of Urban Outfitters, the company that produced some of the clothing items.
“These items represent a step too far, crossing the line into stereotype and denigration,” the letter said.
Elected officials weren’t the only ones looking to discuss the issues, however, as 12 of the 20 people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting talked about the issue with the clothing items. Basler, Sheridan and Leahy were three of them. They said when they brought the issue of the clothing items up to management at the mall they were met by very dismissive attitudes.
“We were totally underestimated as to what we were going to do, who we were going to contact and what was going to happen,” Leahy said.
Sheridan said she thought so many people came out to speak on the topic because it’s not just an Irish issue.
“This is something nobody wants to see happen to any ethnic group or any religion,” she said.
The three said they’re not sure yet what the next step is. One of the legislators brought up going to store owners in the mall to try and get support from them, so they said that’s a possibility.
But even if they don’t know what the next step is yet, Basler said she knows what she hopes the outcome of the whole situation is.
“I don’t want to have to be back here next year,” she said. “I hope next year they’ll sell shirts that celebrate Irish culture.”