To the Editor:Stefani Ianno, Donna Inglima, Natalie LoRusso, on behalf of WISH CNY
On March 11, 2022, Justice Gerard J. Neri ruled in favor of the Columbus Monument Corporation (CMC) and the petitioners’ legal suit and against the city of Syracuse and Mayor Ben Walsh through the Onondaga County Court (“Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh can’t remove downtown Christopher Columbus statue, judge rules”). As advocates for the replacement of the Columbus Monument, we lament this decision.
WISH CNY supports positive changes for the Syracuse community. From the beginning of the deliberative process to move the Columbus monument from Syracuse’s city center, Walsh included a diversity of community members and leaders to learn together and provide guidance. The Columbus Circle Action Committee met from July through October 2020. Led by InterFaith Works, Syracuse residents shared the arduous work of presenting feelings, opinions and histories to create common recommendations for the ongoing process.
We commend InterFaith Works and all participants, including but not limited to: Haji Adan, Bernard Alex, Joe Driscoll, Mohammed El Fiki, Dan Fellman, Joie Hill, Ocesa Keaton, Greg Loh, Betty Lyons, Rex Lyons, David McCallum, Cassandra Minerd, Rita Paniagua, Richard Pietrafesa, Nick Pirro, Joe Romano, John Rose, Clifford Ryan, Lisa Sacco, Isaura Severino, Danielle Smith, Cindy Squillace, Ralph Rorrillo, Gregg Tripoli, Michael Vavonese, Beth Broadway, Andrea Jacobs and J. Colby Ward.
Contrary to the CMC’s assertions, the decision to move the monument was not made in a vacuum. Nick Pirro, a leading voice in the lawsuit against the city, was part of the Columbus Circle Action Committee, and his views were considered along with many others. The outcome: a community-led decision to move the monument to a more appropriate location and to continue honoring Italian-American heritage at the circle.
Taking the committee’s recommendations, the mayor established two groups, introduced in a May 13, 2021, press release; the Italian American Task Force, to “… ensure representatives of the local Italian American community can provide guidance … regarding the relocation of the Columbus statue and related symbols and provide guidance on the permanent recognition of Italian Americans at the circle,” and the Heritage Park Commission to help gather community’s input to develop, “a place of healing that is welcoming to all …, that will ensure that history is protected, and that we celebrate and learn from our shared experiences as a community and a nation.”
We are dissatisfied that the court does not see the legal complaint’s frivolity. No final decisions have been made regarding the disposition of the statue nor Heritage Park’s design features. The groups continue to work on a shared space that the general Syracuse community of all generations, cultures and traditions can enjoy. Replacing this controversial statue to create a space that welcomes and respects all does not create harm against any group of people, but instead is a tangible means to establish intent together as a community. WISH CNY remains committed to supporting the efforts to create a Heritage Park and city center circle that all of us will be proud of.