UPDATE- 5:55 pm: Senator Marty Golden just released this statement:
“To anyone who was offended by my choice of words regarding the heroin and opioid crisis facing our state, I sincerely apologize. While my words were not articulated clearly or properly, the point I was trying to make was that this crisis is affecting virtually every community throughout New York State, where it is tearing apart families and leaving devastated mothers and fathers to mourn the loss of their beautiful and innocent children. We can not continue to allow that to happen. In the weeks and months ahead, it is more important than ever that we work together to root out the heroin and opioid epidemic wherever it exists. Every region, every city, every neighborhood. I am committed to working with everyone and anyone to do just that.”
BAY RIDGE – Senator Marty Golden, a man no stranger to controversy, has just created another by saying the opioid epidemic is serious because the painkillers are no longer a “ghetto drug.”
“It’s happening to doctor’s kids,” he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Tuesday.
The same day, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the City had filed a lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.
“More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years. Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” de Blasio said. “It’s time for [us to] hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our City, and help save more lives.”
Brooklyn politicians were quick to respond to Golden’s offensive comment.
“Addiction is not isolated to any one group, and we cannot allow our political response to be either. We must expect and demand equitable care and treatment in the criminal justice system,” Borough President Eric Adams said. “Every lawmaker has a duty to help those in need get treatment, period. Furthermore, it is more apparent than ever that legislative bodies like the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction must reflect the diversity of our communities and the challenges they face. There is no state senator of color on this committee, and that should not remain the case going forward.”
Golden’s opponent this year in the elections, Andrew Gounardes called for Golden to apologize and relinquish his role on the Senate’s Opioid Addiction task force: “I am appalled by Marty Golden’s shameful, insulting, degrading, and wildly inaccurate comments regarding the opioid epidemic. If Golden really cares about ending this scourge, he would work to pass the New York Health Act, which he has consistently opposed, so that everyone can get the treatment they need regardless of their color or income”.
Ross Barkan, who is also running against Golden, said the Senator’s comment used “racist language. “This racist language disgusts me. It speaks to how Golden views the world: something is a problem only if it impacts people like him. Everyone else gets written off,” he said. “Opioids, like crack, are destroying communities now. Southern Brooklyn is suffering. But so are other neighborhoods that Golden probably doesn’t think about too much.”
Council Member Mark Treyger (D47) also did not hold back:
“State Sen. Martin Golden’s statement about the opioid epidemic is indicative of antiquated racist and unjust attitudes towards the heroin and crack epidemics, when similar rhetoric led to policies that criminalized addiction and led to mass incarceration, primarily of people of color. Many policymakers understand that a holistic approach is the most effective way to tackle addiction crises and that communities impacted by substance misuse benefit most when interventions are treatment-centered, rather than punitive.”
“Our city’s current policies reflect this understanding, but this should have been the approach in the 1980s and 1990s, as well. Addiction and substance misuse impact all communities; racially and economically divisive attitudes have done great harm to our communities in the past. Based on Sen. Golden’s comments, it’s not just addiction we have to defeat, but it is racist and dehumanizing attitudes that must end along with it.”
Council Members Jumaane Williams and Justin Brannan took to Twitter to respond to Golden:
Former Republican candidate for the 43rd District and Golden’s spokesperson John Quaglione defended the Senator on Twitter: