New York City to Keep Columbus Statue, Build Monument Honoring Indigenous People

Angelo Anderson
January 13, 2018

Other contentious monuments will receive additional context through signage or other interventions that touch on their historical complexities.

Critics of Columbus and the statue honoring him said the Italian explorer was a murderous colonizer who exploited Native Americans and others, while those defending Columbus accused critics of attempting to hastily whitewash history.

In a statement announcing the decision, de Blasio appeared to strike a balance, saying "reckoning with our collective histories is a complicated undertaking with no easy solution".

In all, the commission made recommendations on specific actions for four monuments and markers on city property but only recommended moving one of them.

The statue of physician J. Marion Sims, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, will be relocated to Green-Wood Cemetery, where Sims is buried. The commission suggested taking steps to explain the legacy of Sims, who is considered the father of modern gynecology but who has been condemned for experimenting on enslaved black women without anesthesia.

"Good move and now the mayor's administration can focus on real issues", said state Sen. "As you will recall, at the November 28, 2017 Commission meeting, I noted numerous other important issues that actually affect the day-to-day lives of Staten Islanders that are not the subject of a commission, but are certainly deserving; issues such as Fast Ferry service, our hellish commutes, delays in city capital projects, street cuts, the lack of civics education in our schools, and Sandy recovery".

"And we'll be taking a hard look at who has been left out and seeing where we can add new work to ensure our public spaces reflect the diversity and values of our great city", he continued.

"I am glad the Commission heard the concerns expressed by my elected colleagues and I, as well as by many New Yorkers, about removing public statues or monuments". "You can't change history. I question why it was needed in the first place".

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn, ) who unsuccessfully challenged de Blasio past year, called the city's decision "a victory for Italian-Americans and those who appreciate his contributions and recognize the explorer represents the immigrant experience".

The MAC said it will work with the museum to provide on-site signage and educational programming that will give interpretations of the sculptor's intentions and also "explore commissioning a new artwork in the vicinity to further those dialogues".

The panel's suggestions must be approved by the Public Design Commission under the law. Notably, the commission includes in its recommendations that the city create an Indigenous Peoples Day, although sentiment was divided on whether it should replace Columbus Day, as many activists have long demanded - and an alternative many other cities have already chosen.

"We are pleased that the statue is going to remain, but we're absolutely not pleased about the idea of putting up a plaque in order to put historical information".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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