Less than a week after Mayor de Blasio called for the review and removal of potential "hate symbols" across New York City, the namesake statue of one of Manhattan's busiest intersections has been called into question. On Monday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito questioned the merits of the Christopher Columbus statue that overlooks Columbus Circle. In her remarks, the speaker acknowledged that, for many, Columbus is seen as a murderous colonizer responsible for the prolonged oppression and killing of Native Americans.
"There are still to this day conversations happening because of the monuments, other Columbus statues, being talked about," Mark-Viverito said yesterday, according to ABC. "I would want the commission to look at that statue as well," referring to a panel of community leaders and relevant experts that City Hall plans to amass during its hate symbol review.
Mark-Viverito voiced her concern over Columbus while denouncing another statue—that of Dr. J. Marion Sims, which sits near the intersection of 103rd Street and 5th Avenue at an entrance to Central Park. Community groups have called for the removal of the Sims statue, noting his history of conducting gruesome medical experiments on slaves without anesthesia.
The Columbus Circle statue was gifted to the city by Italian-Americans in 1892. City officials, including Mayor de Blasio, regularly march in the annual Columbus Day parade, in which the colonizer/explorer is lauded as an icon of Italian-American culture.
Mark-Viverito called that view of history into question Monday. "There obviously has been ongoing dialogue and debate in the Caribbean—particularly in Puerto Rico where I'm from—about this same conversation that there should be no monument or statue of Christopher Columbus based on what he signifies to the native population...[the]oppression and everything that he brought with him," the speaker said.
Last week, Governor Cuomo announced plans to remove monuments to Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee after a Gothamist report on both statues' presence in the Bronx Community College's "Hall of Fame for Great Americans."
In the case of both the Sims and Columbus statue, any potential removal isn't likely to take place soon. De Blasio's initial announcement of the hate symbol removal plan stipulated a 90-day review period. "I'm not going to get into the business of speaking to each specific situation because I want there to be an objective process," the mayor said at a press conference Monday, according to the Post.
In a statement to Gothamist, de Balsio's Deputy Press Secretary reasserted that the hate symbol review plan is still in its early stages, and that a task force "which will develop concrete guidelines for review and removal" is being formed.
Now, who's going to break the news to Geraldo?
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) August 16, 2017