A statue of Christopher Columbus near the southeast corner of Central Park was spray painted with the message "HATE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED," and the statue's hands were painted blood red. A message sprayed on the statue's base bears the hashtag #somethingscoming.
The NYPD was alerted to the spray paint at 6 a.m., a spokesman said. An investigation is ongoing. The statue is currently cordoned off with caution tape and metal fences.
So far it appears no one has taken responsibility for the vandalism. Neither the Parks Department nor the Central Park Conservancy immediately responded to a request for comment.
A conservancy employee told The Resurgent that the paint was still sticky at 7:00 a.m. By 10 a.m., parks workers had already scrubbed off the spray painted message. They began removing the red paint around 10:15.
"I think it's a good look, honestly," said Christen Clifford, 45, of Jackson Heights. She came across the statue after dropping her child off at school near the park Tuesday, before the lettering was scrubbed. "I think that with Christopher Columbus and colonialism, we have a lot of blood on our hands in this country."
The incident comes in the midst of a heated debate about statues and monuments locally and nationally, in the wake of a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, participants rallied around a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a committee of historians, artists, activists and philanthropists tasked with reviewing all "symbols of hate" in New York City over the next three months. In the meantime, he has refused to take a side on Gaetano Russo's Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has called for the Columbus Circle statue to be removed, citing Columbus's legacy as a colonizer, while mayoral challengers Nicole Malliotakis, the GOP frontrunner, and Democratic challenger Sal Albanese have come out in the statue's defense. Last week, Malliotakis charged that de Blasio "obviously doesn't have the heart and soul of an Italian," and this morning, as voters head to the polls for the primary, Malliotakis had this to say:
Sadly, I just learned Columbus statue in Central Park was spray painted overnight. Viverito & de Blasio are divisive https://t.co/ehsaJbKViL
— Nicole Malliotakis (@NMalliotakis) September 12, 2017
A City Hall spokesperson initially declined to comment, referring our inquiries to the NYPD.
Mayoral spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas issued a statement a few hours after her initial response. "The mayor thinks vandalism is wrong and never the right approach to these conversations or monuments," she said.
"Vandalizing and defacing public property is unacceptable and does nothing to facilitate necessary conversations about New York City’s historical monuments," echoed Council Speaker spokeswoman Robin Levine.
Check back for updates.