Bronx resident starts petition to remove Columbus statue in Belmont

Castle Hill resident and activist, Felix Cepeda, 39, launched a petition calling for the Christopher Columbus statue on Arthur Avenue in Belmont to be taken down. (Alex Mitchell)

One Bronxite wants a statue taken down in the borough, following a slew of historical statues that have been vandalized or toppled due to racial tensions.

Recently, Castle Hill resident and activist, Felix Cepeda, 39, launched a petition calling for the Christopher Columbus statue on Arthur Avenue in Belmont to be taken down.

“All the Columbus statues need to be removed in NYC,” the petition states. “There are many Italian Americans that I admire like Mother Cabrini or Vito Marco Antonio that the Italian community can choose to honor. They can visit the Mother Cabrini Shrine in NYC. For many Indigenous and Black people Columbus only represents oppression.”

With a cousin that lives in Belmont, Cepeda frequents D’Auria-Murphy Triangle Park often, where the park’s centerpiece is a statue of Christopher Columbus.

Cepeda told the Bronx Times a friend of his found the park closed last week and Cepeda has returned twice since and found it open, but with a police presence in the front. A parks department spokesman said this was an NYPD matter.

“It’s very sad that because of a Columbus statue this park has become militarized to the point that the cops can shut down the park whenever they want without the permission of the Parks Department,” Cepeda said.

He hopes the statue is taken down, but doesn’t want another to replace it. He stressed if putting a new statue there is a must for the Italian community, then maybe a one of Mother Cabrini or Vito Marco Antonio. He said that these individuals are Italian Americans that did a lot of good for the poor.

The Christopher Columbus statue in D’Auria-Murphy Triangle Park. (Alex Mitchell)

“I think there are so many people we can honor from our cultures,” he said. “Why choose people like Columbus that for many people was mostly a horrible person?”

Cepeda said he has spoken to people Belmont who support removing the statue, but elected officials have not said anything yet. He believes the pols do not want problems with members of the Italian American community.

Peter Madonia, chairman of the Belmont BID, supports the statue and wants it to stay in the park.

“The Christopher Columbus statue has been in our neighborhood park for decades and has been a source of pride for our Italian-American community for generations,” Madonia said. “While Christopher Columbus indeed has a complicated history, we encourage the opportunity to better understand his legacy on all sides.”

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