Photo Courtesy of CUNY
“We are proud to stand up in support of the Columbus Monument and we will do all in our power to preserve its continued presence,” the Columbus Citizens Foundation said.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Mayor Bill de Blasio this week vowed to march in this year’s Christopher Columbus Day Parade, even though he has indicated that city statues dedicated to the controversial pioneer, including the world-famous monument in Columbus Circle, may be removed.
In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, Va., and other parts of the country, de Blasio pledged to appoint a commission to review all city monuments over a 90-day period, and insisted that Columbus tributes would not be spared scrutiny.
This has not sat well with Italian-American advocacy groups.
“We are proud to stand up in support of the Columbus Monument and we will do all in our power to preserve its continued presence in our great city of New York,” said Columbus Citizens Foundation President Angelo Vivolo.
As Vivolo noted, the statue at the center of the circle was created by renowned Italian sculptor Gaetano Rosso in 1892 and funded by Italian-American immigrants. At the request of the City, the foundation played a significant role in the statue’s restoration, which was completed in 1992.
“Every year we are asked the question, ‘Why is the celebration of Columbus important to the Italian- American community?’ The legacy of Columbus was essential in truly legitimizing our transition from Italians to Americans. Our Italian-American ancestors, facing bigotry and discrimination, identified Columbus as an Italian celebrated greatly across America for establishing a lasting bridge between the Old and New World,” Vivolo said. “Columbus was an explorer, a renowned sailor, and later governor who certainly partook in actions over the course of his career that were deemed unjust. The foundation believes that these actions and their long-term consequences deserve serious reflection and acknowledgement, but we cannot and will not deny the role this seafarer from Genoa had in the eventual shaping of the United States of America.”
Vivolo added, “As all nations do, we must continue to reevaluate our history as Americans, and whom we choose to honor. That being said, we will state for the record that we will not allow that reflection to come at the expense of a monument that has come to represent the many achievements that Italian-Americans have accomplished.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a letter calling on Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy to remove the names of Confederate generals from New York City streets.
“Given the events of this week, including the violence and terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and the resulting emboldening of the voices of Nazis and white supremacists, I now strongly urge…them to rename these streets,” Cuomo wrote.