An effort is ongoing in the borough’s Italian-American enclaves to save a beloved statue of Christopher Columbus.
Locals are participating in at least two petition efforts to implore a public art review commission established by Mayor de Blasio to keep a statue of Christopher Columbus in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.
The Sons of Italy placed petitions concerning the 18-member commission’s review of all city monuments on each table at the 41st Annual Bronx Columbus Parade’s dinner dance on Friday, September 29, said the parade’s coordinator Tony Signorile.
An ongoing effort began the day of parade itself, with elected officials including Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj sponsoring a petition that the senator said netted about 1,000 signatures.
Local Italian-American civic leaders are imploring the mayor, who was not invited to the Bronx Columbus Parade on Sunday, October 8 because of the controversy, to leave the statue at Columbus Circle alone.
“The statue should be left where it is for the simple reason that Italian immigrants made contributions so that the statue could be erected,” said Signorile, who added that he believes his grandfather contributed to the effort to build the statue’s pedestal in the 1890s.
The parade coordinator and past Morris Park Community Association president said that he felt insulted that the mayor included the statue in the review.
Signorile said at the time it was erected, Italian-Americans were singled out for discrimination, and Sicilian immigrants were even lynched in New Orleans in that same decade.
“(The statue was) a way to say thank you to Columbus for opening the gates to a new world, not just for the Italians but for all the immigrants,” said Signorile.
Al D’Angelo, MPCA president, said that for Italian-Americans it is a matter of pride.
“The statue was built by donations from immigrants who had very little,” said D’Angelo. “They put their nickels and dimes together.”
Klein’s staff gathered petition signatures opposing the 75-foot-tall statue’s removal from three stations along the parade route called the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, after the explorer’s initial ships.
“It is offensive to tear down an important part of Italian-American history in New York City and we will not stand for it,” said the senator.
Gjonaj said that the statue is a celebration of Italian-American heritage and their contribution to the nation, representing a “spirit of hope, aspiration and discovery that is uniquely American.”
Benedetto said that sanity and reason must return, and that what was going on was a clear example of a ‘sky is falling mentality.’
“Everyone is rushing around trying to topple all statutes in sight,” said Benedetto. “We need to accept the good and bad part of our heritage without trying to sugarcoat anything.”
A Klein spokesman said that the senator’s staff members are taking the petition to community meetings, and anyone interested in signing it can call the senator’s office for more information at (718) 822-2049.