MIDTOWN — Amid a furor over controversial monuments on city property, Mayor Bill de Blasio said "no one’s moving any statues" in the “short term” before marching in the Columbus Day Parade Monday.
Prior to marching, the mayor was asked about his views on monuments to Christopher Columbus, with some advocates having called for the removal of statues honoring the explorer because of his treatment of indigenous people.
“I think some of the critics, possibly for their own purposes, have tried to gin this up,” de Blasio said, adding that he would wait for the recommendations of a commission he formed to look at possible “symbols of hate” in the city.
“These issues have been coming up for years and years now. And it’s not about any one historical figure or any one background. It’s about everything in the history of our country that needs to be discussed more and looked at and made sense of. I think the commission is a way we move forward, is the right thing to do.”
De Blasio's Republican challenger in the mayoral race, Nicole Malliotakis, demanded that the mayor take a position on the statue in Columbus Circle before Election Day, saying "he obviously doesn't have the heart and soul of an Italian."
After taking questions Monday, the mayor marched with sanitation workers of Italian heritage while a few people in the rain-soaked crowd along Fifth Avenue booed him.
“He doesn’t stand up for nothing — nothing. We elect somebody who doesn’t stand up for the people of this city,” said Hell’s Kitchen resident Enza Santoro, 60, who held an Italian flag and yelled as the mayor walked by her.
“If we want to pick on statues or anything else, that’s wrong.”
Enza Santoro speaks with reporters after booing Mayor Bill de Blasio. (DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg)
Activists also planned an anti-Columbus Day tour at the American Museum of Natural History at 3:30 p.m. and launched a petition to rename the holiday “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
De Blasio said he hoped to hear all sides and the commission's recommendations, and that he was open to some sort of compromise.
“We’re going to have a real discussion about how we address issues from the past that should be surfaced and talked about in a responsible manner," he said.
"I’ve said there are a lot of different solutions, including something as simple as putting additional historical markers out to tell other elements of the history. That should be a conversation people are not afraid.”