Home / Top Story / Parks worker who cleaned poop off shoe says boss knew of ‘racism’

Parks worker who cleaned poop off shoe says boss knew of ‘racism’

Tasheema Chatman, 40, claims she was made to scrape dog poop off the soles of Baltimore artist Christos Palios’ fancy European shoes during an art show near Gracie Mansion Oct. 2.

Tasheema Chatman, 40, claims she was made to scrape dog poop off the soles of Baltimore artist Christos Palios’ fancy European shoes during an art show near Gracie Mansion Oct. 2.

(Geoffrey Croft / NYC Park Advocates/Geoffrey Croft)

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, October 14, 2016, 2:59 PM

The city Parks worker who says she was forced to clean dog feces from the shoe of an artist during a Manhattan exhibition said a supervisor told her after the incident to develop “a thick skin” about the unfortunate reality of racism, the Daily News has learned.

Tasheema Chatman, 40, claims she was made to scrape dog poop off the soles of Baltimore artist Christos Palios’ fancy European shoes during an art show near Gracie Mansion Oct. 2.

Chatman, an African-American, says she was surprised and humiliated when her two male supervisors instructed her to help Palios clean up.

When she ran into a regional Parks manager, Mark Vaccaro, the next day, she called him over to talk to him about the incident, she said.

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“He was walking toward Gracie Mansion and I said, ‘can I talk to you?’” the mother of two said.

According to Chatman, the manager didn’t break stride.

“He said he’d already heard about it (from my supervisor),” she said.

Then Vaccaro, who is white, told her that he’d “encountered racism before” and it does happen in “these agencies,” she said.

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“He told me that I have to have ‘thick skin,’” Chatman said.

An email to Vaccaro and the Parks Department press office wasn’t immediately returned.

But Chatman had told her union officer about the remark when it happened, her rep confirmed to The News.

Palios insisted in an email Friday the had never expected Chatman to manually clean off his shoes — and didn’t ask her to do it.

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The artist, a fine art photographer who was a vendor in an art show at Carl Schurz Park, said Parks workers had been sent over once before to clean up a urine stain in front of his booth.

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The artist, who was a vendor in an art show in Carl Schurz Park, said Parks workers had been sent over once before to clean up a urine stain in front of his booth.

(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)

When dog feces later appeared, he called for help again — and also noticed it was on his shoes, he said.

“When Ms. Chatman arrived, I thanked her for coming and apologized for the inconvenience. I politely pointed out those spots and asked if it would be possible for me to also use the brush to quickly remove the matter from my shoe,” he told The News in an email.

“Never would I have conceived of requesting someone else to do it for me,” he added.

Palios said when he asked Chatman if he could use her brush to scrape his own shoes, she said no.

“When she declined to allow me to use the brush, we cleaned it together with the shoe off while holding it steady on the ground,” he said.

But Chatman said it didn’t happen that way.

“If he had asked me for the brush so he could do it himself, we would not be having this conversation,” she said. “I would have handed it to him.”

Chatman said supervisors John Heimerle and Steven Digiovanni were standing a few feet from her while she knelt down to scrub Palios soiled shoe. He then removed the other one to smell it for possible feces and held it out to her to clean, she said.

When she later told her supervisors, who are white, that she felt humiliated by the incident, they told her they were sorry she felt that way.

“That’s it,” she said.

The Parks Dept. has said it’s investigating the incident, but union president Dilcy Benn said its office that conducts such probes is notoriously lax.

“The Parks Advocates office needs to be completely overhauled, there needs to be new people and there should be independent oversight over its investigations,” said Benn. “Otherwise, nothing is going to get done with this.”

Tags:
racial injustice

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