Buffalo, NY—Mayor Byron Brown was joined by Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera, Delaware District Councilmember Joel Feroleto and the President of the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York, Peter LoJacono to announce the removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus from Columbus Park and a process to rename the park so that it continues to honor the contributions of Italian- Americans to Buffalo’s history but does so in a spirit of unity and solidarity with peoples who have been oppressed and treated unjustly.
The Federation’s decision comes at a time when many public monuments and statues are being reevaluated and removed as communities across the country confront the history and legacy of those who were honored and how that memorializing was accomplished. While Christopher Columbus has long been associated with a celebration of Italian-American heritage not associated with his actions as a colonial administrator and fortune seeker, in recent decades there has been a growing movement to remove statues in his honor because of the oppression, enslavement and murder of countless numbers of indigenous peoples he engaged in.
The removal of this statue will create an opening for a dialogue that will ensure a new statue and name for the park can be selected that preserves the legacy of service and contributions made by the Italian-American community in Buffalo while also honoring the diverse communities that makeup Buffalo’s population. A new location for the statue will be determined by the Federation and a process for renaming the park will shortly be announced.
Don Alessi of the Federation said, “The Federation has asked the mayor to relocate the Columbus monument in Columbus Park in order to prevent damage to its cultural landmark.”
Councilmember David Rivera said, “I am grateful to the Italian Federation for taking the concerns of the community into consideration and making the request to have the statue of Christopher Columbus removed. I look forward to working with them on replacing the monument.”
Councilmember Joel Feroleto said, “Since the time Italians first began arriving in this country they faced discrimination and hostility. The statues of Columbus became a way for this community to demonstrate civic pride as they found ways to make America their new home. I am glad that this space will continue to honor the many contributions Italian-Americans have made once a new statue has been placed here and a new name selected and will work with my partners in local government to advance that process.”
Mayor Brown said, “I want to applaud the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York’s decision to remove this statue and help us rename this park. It was an act of courage and community spirit that has long been associated with the first Italians who came to America as immigrants yearning for a better life as well as their descendants. America’s mixed history of freedom, human bondage, discovery and
conquest must be told in its wholeness, with due measure for both the uplifting and the shameful aspects. No country’s heritage is either wholly bad or wholly good but a mix of both. Removing this statue to a location where the legacy of Columbus, his historical narrative and the meaning of this statue to all of the different people who live in our City can be interpreted and explored is the right and proper decision.”