UPPER WEST SIDE — A Staten Island politician said "revisionist history" is behind the City Council Speaker’s suggestion to remove a prominent statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle under an ongoing review of city monuments.
On Tuesday morning, Assemblyman Ron Castorina held a press conference near the statue of Columbus, who Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called a "controversial figure" that should be considered for removal.
“It’s quite difficult to adjudicate Christopher Columbus, the man who lived in the 1400s, and to use today's constructs for the purposes of adjudicating what type of man he was,” said Castorina, who was joined by members of the Order Sons of Italy in America. “Frankly, there’s quite a bit of revisionist history regarding the loss of life with respect to Native Americans and others.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate” throughout the city, following the removal of several monuments to controversial historical figures like Confederate General Robert E. Lee across the country. He noted the review would be undertaken by a commission, whose members will be announced in a few days.
On Monday — as Mark-Viverito and other politicians stood with protestors to demand the removal of a monument in Harlem to doctor who performed experiments on slaves — the speaker discussed the "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 means or signifies.”
Mark-Viverito confirmed Tuesday that she wants the review to include the towering Columbus statue, which was gifted to the city by Italian American immigrants in 1892.
"Christopher Columbus is a controversial figure for many of us, particularly those that come from the Caribbean," Mark-Viverito said, adding she will wait for the commission to weigh in. "We have to look at history, we have to look at it thoroughly and clearly, and he is a controversial figure."
Castorina argued that many of the deaths attributed to Columbus stemmed from diseases accompanying his arrival that the native population was not immune to, rather than at the hands of the explorer himself.
“What it suggests is the memory of the Italian-Americans that contributed to building this city, the very buildings that we engage in commerce in, that government sits in,” the assemblyman said. “Those Italian immigrants built this city, and that statue is a gift from them to the city.”