STATEN ISLAND N.Y. — News of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s monuments commission’s recommendations for what to do with controversial statues and monuments on New York City property is being cautiously celebrated by many Staten Island politicians.
On Thursday, De Blasio’s commission recommended that most controversial monuments and statues be kept where they are with historical markers added to give additional context.
The Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers was put together by de Blasio following nationwide protests over Confederate statues.
The commission has recommended that the Christopher Columbus statue located in Columbus Circle remain, but it plans to add historical markers around the circle to provide context.
The only statue that will be moved is the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who operated on slave women to develop advances in gynecological surgery. It will be relocated from Central Park to Green-Wood Cemetery, where Sims is buried.
Some Staten Island politicians celebrated the news, while others lamented over the commission, which they believe was a waste of taxpayer money.
Borough President James Oddo
“It is now time to focus all our energies on the real issues impacting the lives of New Yorkers. As you will recall, at the Nov. 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.”
Councilman Steven Matteo
“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. As I said in my testimony in November, we cannot change or sanitize history. Removing these statues or monuments does not erase any wrongs of the past. Our history can be messy. It is certainly not easy. But it is also instructive. I believe it is important that we let these statues stand so they may educate those who pass by about our history – the good and the bad.”
Councilwoman Debi Rose
“The recommendation to add historical markers to many of our city’s statues in most cases strikes an appropriate balance, preserving art that is meaningful to many New Yorkers while explaining the context, that these historic figures have not always acted in a way that deserves veneration. I also support the recommendation to move the statue of Dr J Marion Simms, who conducted experiments on slaves, away from a place of prominence to Greenwood Cemetery. I also fully support Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to commission a statue to honor the contributions of indigenous people, placed prominently near Columbus Circle. In addition, this is excellent time for us to revisit the monument to Native Americans overlooking the Narrows at Fort Wadsworth, first proposed more than a century ago.”
Councilman Joe Borelli
“I am happy to hear Columbus is saved, but it seems we are just right back where we started before this commission was ever formed. I question why it was needed in the first place.”
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis
“While, as I’ve said numerous times before, I don’t believe a statue commission was a good use of taxpayer money and government time, I am pleased to learn that the committee has decided that the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle should remain. This is a victory for Italian-Americans and those who appreciate his contributions and recognize the explorer represents the immigrant experience. Additionally, I thank Mayor de Blasio for casting the deciding vote against removing the Theodore Roosevelt statue outside the Museum of Natural History. The former assemblyman, police commissioner, governor and president is one of the most honorable public servants in New York’s history and I’m delighted that the tribute to his legacy will remain.”
Assemblyman Ron Castorina
“I was proud to be at the tip of the spear in this fight against revisionist history, political correctness, and the denigration of an icon chosen by an immigrant group that gave so much to this city, state, and nation. In solidarity with my fellow elected colleagues, we sent a strong message to the mayor that Italian Americans would not waiver or falter on this issue. This is a great victory for Italian Americans, as well as for the entire City of New York. As absurd as this sounds, I would also like to thank the mayor for breaking the tie, and allowing Teddy Roosevelt to make the cut. What a ridiculous waste of your tax dollars!”
Assemblyman Matthew Titone
“I think it’s a fantastic solution, however, the devil’s always in the details.”
State Sen. Diane Savino
“From the perspective of the Italian-American community, the decision to keep the Columbus statue is a victory. But, I think at the end of the day, we should look at this in terms of what this really was. This was a monumental waste of time and effort on the part of the administration and the taxpayer to examine these things.”
Rep. Dan Donovan
“I’m glad the Columbus statue is staying where it is. Sanitizing history is no way to handle questions about our shared past. I don’t think this commission was particularly worthwhile, but hopefully now we can all move on with our lives.”
Andre’ DiMino, communications director of Italian One Voice Coalition
“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. The historical information, it depends who the writer is, how it’s written and so forth. Are they going to be applying today’s standards to something that happened 500 years ago?”