The iconic Christopher Columbus monument at Columbus Circle in New York City has stood for 126 years as a symbol of pride for all Italian Americans. In recent years, fringe groups have protested against the famous statue of the great navigator. It seems that each October, the flood gates open and ignorance gains a voice in the form of biased opposition against the extraordinarily important historical figure. Those days have finally be put to rest, at least in the case of the statue that overlooks New York City.
The National Park Service has now added the statue of Columbus to its list of protected landmarks, meaning that it cannot be moved or changed. The statue was placed upon its tall pedestal in 1892, rising 76 feet above the streets below. As the traffic in that part of Manhattan changed from horse-drawn to horseless carriage, the inspiring vision of Columbus never wavered. Originally created through the efforts of the Italian-American community, the statue has long been symbol of pride to the community.
In January of this year, some voices rose up against the monument, erroneously claiming and blaming Columbus for all of the later crimes against the indigenous peoples of the New World. In short, Columbus has become the punching bag for the ill-informed. They liberally attacked Columbus, often incorrectly citing events, while compiling the later atrocities of others and placing them at the feet of Columbus. City leaders such as the pandering former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito led a campaign to have the statue removed. After Mark-Viverito said the Columbus statue should be removed, a commission was formed to review the statue.
The commission decided not to remove the statue and now it has been declared a National Landmark. Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said, “Listing on the State and National Registers helps to preserve, protect and improve New York’s incredible heritage. I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing this history, and leading one of the strongest historic preservation programs in the nation.”
Congressman Thomas R. Suozzi said, “At a time when the Italian-American community faced discrimination and hostility, the Columbus Monument served as a unifying symbol that helped immigrants overcome these hardships. Now, the statue stands as a reminder to all immigrants in our nation that New York will always recognize and celebrate your unique cultures and history. I applaud Governor Cuomo for always standing with our nation’s immigrants, and for recognizing the importance of this monument.”
Angelo Vivolo, President of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, said, “The Italian American community takes great pride in the Columbus Monument and the positive history it represents. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo and New York State for being a partner in its preservation.”
Although this is but one step to stem the tide of misinformation that has emerged in recent years, it is an important one. All we can say in response to the critics of Columbus is to take this latest victory and put it into your (peace) pipe and smoke it.