Queens Italians Weigh In on Columbus Statue

Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, Manhattan (Photo by Selbe Lynn, Creative Commons license)

Italian Americans in Queens interviewed by Anthony O’Reilly of Queens Chronicle rejected the thought of taking down the statue of explorer Christopher Columbus, which was erected in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle in 1892 to mark the 400th anniversary of his expedition to the Americas.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced after the events in Charlottesville that a task force will examine which “symbols of hate” should be removed. During a primary debate on Aug. 23 with Democratic opponent Sal Albanese, the mayor said, in regards to the Columbus Circle statue, that “we have to look at everything here.”

Rosemary Ciulla-Frisone of Howard Beach told Queens Chronicle “‘it’s disgraceful’ anyone is thinking of removing the Columbus statue.” She continued:

“My grandparents came to this country without a dime in their pocket and it’s because of Columbus,” said Ciulla-Frisone, who represents Italy in the Queens General Assembly. “He made it happen and now they’re trying to take it away.”

Tony Di Piazza, chairman of the Ridgewood-based Associazione Culturale Italiana di New York, opposes removing any statue.

“Today, everybody is getting carried away and they’re judging people or events from hundreds of years ago on today’s moral values,” Di Piazza said. “That statue was to honor the Italian-American immigration experience, it represents the whole community. We helped build this country … We had nothing to do with what happened 600 years ago.”

The day after the Democratic mayoral debate, community leaders joined Council members Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) at City Hall in condemning the prospect of taking down the statue, with Ulrich saying that “the mayor of all people should be defending Columbus Circle.”

For more on what the Queens council member said, and one organization that has yet to state their position, go to Queens Chronicle.

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