The historic Christopher Columbus statue in downtown Syracuse will stay where it is, a judge ruled Friday night.
The pivotal ruling, by New York Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri, blocks Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh from removing the statue.
The decision by Justice Neri comes months after the Columbus Monument Corp., and other supporters of the statue, filed a lawsuit arguing that Walsh lacked the legal authority to remove the 88-year-old monument.
The statue, which was built in 1934, was paid for by local Italian American immigrants and given to the city.
Countless Italian Americans at the time had been subjected to crushing discrimination—which included lynchings, marginalization, and suppression—and the statue was a point of pride and a symbol of anti-discrimination.
Neri’s decision relied in part on a pact the city made in 1990 with an Italian American group that preceded the Columbus Monument Corp., when a $505,000 renovation of the monument was undertaken. In accepting $167,500 in private donations to help pay for the work, the city agreed to maintain the statue for 23 years or for its “useful life.”
Justice Neri ruled the statue has plenty of useful life remaining.
In attempting to break this pact, Syracuse city attorneys resorted to “disingenuous” and “disheartening” tactics, according to the Court.
Indigenous Peoples’ groups have inaccurately positioned Columbus as a slaver, despite the well-documented fact that Columbus never owned a slave.
“With the Court’s resolution of this issue, it is time for everyone to come back together and work collectively on an additive approach to Syracuse public art, celebrating our city’s other rich ethnic heritages. This has been the approach taken in New York City. The Columbus Monument Corporation would be pleased to take a lead role in that initiative.” Read the full statement by the Columbus Monument Corporation here.
Meanwhile, other lawsuits raised by Italian American groups are being litigated in Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
This large-scale legal effort to save Columbus has, in part, been spearheaded by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Italian Sons and Daughters of America (both led by Basil M. Russo), the Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), the Italian American One Voice Coalition, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, the Italian American Alliance, and attorney George Bochetto.
Bochetto saved Philadelphia’s 146-year-old Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza this past August, after Philly Mayor James Kenney failed to prove the legality of his decision to remove it.
However, the fight continues. Please support and donate to your local Italian American groups.