MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he's eager to work with Bucks president Peter Feigin to improve the city's race relations after the NBA executive last week called the city the "most segregated, racist place" he has seen.

However, Feigin said Tuesday in a statement that he didn't intend to characterize the city as "overtly racist," that it's "a terrific community with wonderful people" and he is "proud to be a part of it." according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( ).

Barrett and Feigin, who is from New York City, had a "good conversation" on Monday, the mayor said.

"I hope we can change his feelings, but to do that, we've got a lot of work to do," Barrett said.

Last week, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Feigin called Milwaukee the "most segregated, racist place I've ever experienced in my life" during a speech in Madison.

"It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example," Feigin was quoted as saying.

In his statement Tuesday, Feigin said the comment came as he was "addressing a question about the social, economic and geographic divides that exist and how we can help address them."

Barrett said that Feigin and the Bucks' ownership team "seem to be a willing partner" to address the racial disparities in the city of 600,000 along Lake Michigan, which a 2012 Manhattan Institute analysis of census data found is the country's most segregated metropolitan area, surpassing Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.

Feigin has said the team is committed to helping Milwaukee. In May, the Bucks' owners agreed to pay workers at the new $500 million downtown arena at least $12 per hour by next year, and at least $15 per hour by 2023. The agreement also includes provisions to protect workers' ability to unionize and ensure that the team hires workers from Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods.

The deal is expected to apply to about 1,000 employees, including full- and part-time workers at the arena and the team's practice facility and parking garage.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed bipartisan legislation in August 2015 that committed taxpayers to paying half the cost of the arena over the next 20 years in exchange for the team remaining in Milwaukee. The new arena is expected to open in 2018.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,