Italian PM, actors fight to preserve New York City Christopher Columbus statue
The famous statue of the explorer standing proudly in Columbus Circle by Central Park West is only one of many statues of historical figures the city is considering removing, including those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
September 20, 2023 9:20am
Updated: September 20, 2023 9:21am
Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and members of the Italian community rushed to the aid of a Manhattan midtown statue of Iberian explorer Christopher Columbus on Tuesday as New York City Democrats fight to knock it down.
The famous statue of the explorer standing proudly in Columbus Circle by Central Park West is only one of many statues of historical figures the city is considering removing, including those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The prime minister’s visit came hours after the New York City Council had a hearing on legislation that would remove monuments and other artwork featuring the explorer and other historical figures.
“Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, placed a wreath of flowers on the statue located at the center of Columbus Circle, one of the most famous in the US depicting Christopher Columbus,” said a statement from the office of Meloni, who was in Manhattan for the United Nations’ annual General Assembly.
“Through this important reaffirmation of identity, the president celebrated a symbol of the cultural and moral history of the American people.”
The Italian PM stood by the statue of Columbus to honor the famous explorer just before America’s upcoming Oct. 12 holiday honors him and his discovery of the Western world.
He was joined by “A Bronx Tale” actor Chazz Palminteri, an Italian-American activist and defender of Columbus’s legacy.
“The prime minister is making a statement: We’re not getting rid of Columbus! That holiday is our day. Canceling Columbus is not going to happen,” said Palminteri in a telephone interview to the New York Post.
The council hearing is focused on a package of legislation, one bill which would allow the city Public Design Commission to extract monuments of historical figures such as Jefferson, Washington, and Peter Stuyvesant, because they were slaveholders.
The bills also include Columbus, who has long been targeted since his exploration had an adverse impact on indigenous peoples during his New World discoveries.
“Meloni showed the Italian-Americans that we have her support and the support of the Italian people — we’re not forgotten,” said Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian-American Museum, who attended the wreath-laying event.
Under the new controversial legislation, the city’s Public Design Commission could remove statues from the public square because of their associations with slavery or abuse of indigenous peoples.
As an alternative, the city could also add plaques next to the statutes explaining the full history so visitors and onlookers can make their own decision.
But even with the NYC bill, it will still be a challenge to remove the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle.
In 2018, the National Park Service added the 76-foot, 129-year-old statue near Central Park to its list of protected landmarks. Still, other Columbus statues across the city could be at risk.
Brooklyn Councilwoman Sandy Nurse said during the public hearing, she is only attempting to correct history, not cancel it.
Palminteri however, said it is unfair to compare historical figures from hundreds of years ago with today’s morality.
“People who come out of prison get second chances,” he said. “It’s gotten crazy. This is just about power and wanting to get re-elected. Go get a job. See what the real people deal with,” Palminteri said of critics.
Another Italian-American activist said the bill stands to erase history, which serves no one’s purposes.
“The radical left will stop at nothing to erase our history and heritage, and destroy monuments that honor the nation’s Founding Fathers and those who worked to establish our great country,” said Mike Sapraicone, co-Chair of the National Columbus Day Parade in New York City.
“These liberal Democrats in the City Council, who have already done so much damage across the five boroughs, are the epitome of anti-American.”