The fight over the Christopher Columbus statue in downtown Syracuse continues. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, who decided last year to remove the statue, expects designs for a reimagined Columbus Circle will be done by the end of the year. A lawsuit to stop the city from taking down the statue is pending.
Walsh wants to present plans to the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board and Public Art Commission on what changes will be made to the circle. He said most of the monument will remain, but he’s committed to taking down the statue and the heads of Native Americans and plaques underneath it, which he said do not reflect and represent the values of the community.
“Part of the process that we’re going through is determining what additional modifications we make to that monument that will ensure that we continue to celebrate our local Italian American heritage,” Walsh said. “And beyond that, what are the changes we are going to make beyond the circle.”
The new site will be called Heritage Park, which includes space next to the current monument. Walsh is asking the public for input on the park’s website. An advisory commission is working with the Onondaga Historical Association to come up with ideas. The commission wants the park to acknowledge the Onondaga people and celebrate many different cultures. The statue will be relocated to a private site.
The process continues despite a lawsuit from the Columbus Monument Corporation, which will be heard towards the end of October. The Corporation blasted a recent editorial by Walsh, calling his actions a complete disregard for local history. Walsh said he wants a safe and welcoming space for everyone.
“And for those Italian Americans who are concerned about their history, I want to reassure them that the focus of that monument will always be on honoring the Italian American history, specifically, our local history,” Walsh said.
In an email to supporters, the Corporation said it’s in favor of celebrating other heritages in a space next to Columbus Circle, but called for leaving the monument alone.