ASTORIA — The statue of explorer Christopher Columbus that looms over Astoria Boulevard was vandalized with the words "Don't Honor Genocide" — the latest in a public debate over whether the city should remove or alter monuments of controversial historical figures.
A vandal or vandals stenciled the message in what appears to be blue spray paint on the base of the statue, which stands in the small Columbus Triangle park located next to the Astoria Boulevard subway station on 31st Street. The words "Take It Down" were also tagged on the monument.
The graffiti was spotted Thursday morning, and the Parks Department was already sending crews out to remove it, according to an agency spokeswoman. The NYPD said it had not yet received any formal complaint about the vandalism.
The incident comes two weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to conduct a 90-day review of all "symbols of hate" located on city property, specifically mentioning a marker in Lower Manhattan commemorating Nazi collaborator Henri Philippe Petain as among those that he wants taken down.
Others have called for the removal of a statue in East Harlem depicting Dr. J. Marion Sims, who experts say performed gynecological experiments on slaves. That monument was also vandalized earlier this week.
A statue of Christopher Columbus on Astoria Boulevard and 31st Street. (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)
Critics have also called for the city to take down the Christopher Columbus monument in Manhattan's Columbus Circle, though Italian-American advocacy groups have defended the statue and demanded it remain in place.
A spokeswoman for the mayor's office said last week that it is not currently commenting on specific statues and that no items have been considered for removal yet.
"For this 90-day review, we are convening experts and community leaders to create evaluation guidelines for the removal or amendment of controversial public art and structures and offer recommendations on specific items," spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas said.
"It's the beginning framework of what will ideally be a long-term approach to the evaluation of public structures and controversial pieces of public art."
The Christopher Columbus statue in Astoria was erected there in 1941, and the site has been used for decades as a gathering spot for Italian-Americans during celebrations, according to the Parks Departments' website.
Some residents have taken to Twitter to call for the removal of the monument, though others told DNAinfo they think it should stay.
Others have defended its placement in the small park.
"I don't want the statue to leave," said George Kolvani, 27, when asked about the monument last week, before it was vandalized, as he was waiting at a bus stop nearby
"I wouldn't like it taken down," he said. "He's an important figure for this country."