A statue of Christopher Columbus has been removed from its longtime perch at Porter Avenue and Niagara Street in Columbus Park.
The city of Buffalo took down the statue at the request of the Federation of Italian-American Societies of WNY, which said it did not want to see the vandalism or destruction seen against similar statues in other cities in recent weeks.
“We want to relocate the statue to a location that we the Federation would decide upon,” said Don Alessi, past president of the Federation, speaking at the park Friday morning. “We wanted to preserve this space for a future memorial to the Italian immigrant.”
The city will restore ownership of the statue to the Federation, which originally paid for and erected the statue in the 1930s. The statue will be stored at a location determined by the Federation and the city, until a future display location is chosen by the Federation.
The Federation is looking to replace the Columbus statue in the park with a monument honoring Italian immigrants, to be commissioned by the Federation and approved by the city. Columbus Park, if the Federation's request is approved by Common Councilmembers, would also be renamed in dedication to Italian-American heritage.
Buffalo Council Member David Rivera stressed that the Federation of Italian-American Societies of WNY made the decision to remove the statue, unlike in other cities where statues have been vandalized.
“What is so interesting about this particular case is that the decision was made by Italian Americans to recognize what it represents to other people as well,” he said.
Buffalo’s Columbus statue was controversial even before the recent scrutiny of monuments amid racial equity protests across the country. For years on Columbus Day protesters have gathered at the statue and asked for its removal. The statue was vandalized with spray paint on Columbus Day 2018.
Some argue Columbus statues glorify the colonization and deaths of Native Americans. Columbus’ 15th century expedition to the Americas resulted in the enslavement and rape of Indegenous people, according to historians.
Alessi said the Federation has reached out to leaders of the Indigenous community to discuss how both may be able to celebrate their respective heritages.