Monuments to Christopher Columbus in the city park remain under the constant protection of the NYPD and behind barricades – 10 months after nationwide protests against the brutality of the police triggered a renewed reckoning of historical symbols of oppression.
While statues of the Italian explorer have been defaced or run down several cities Across the country, the five monuments in Columbus Circle and Central Park in Manhattan, as well as in downtown Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens are protected by the constant presence of police vehicles or barricades.
“I definitely find it strange and I find it wasteful,” said Eleanor Carey, 41, of Manhattan as she walked past the barricaded bronze sculpture of Columbus in Central Park on Wednesday morning. “My daughter keeps asking me: ‘The police are still there?'”
The statue at Columbus Circle is under the protection of the NYPD on February 9, 2021. Jose Martinez / THE CITY
The NYPD declined to answer how much the effort to secure the monuments has cost since then Protests broke out last spring when Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and other publicly known incidents of brutality.
An NYPD spokesman just said that police coverage at each location is “continuously assessed”.
The City Council, City Administrator’s Office, and the Independent Housekeeping Authority were also unable to provide precise information on the cost of converting the maritime monuments into permanent NYPD outposts.
“New Yorkers should know how their tax dollars are being used,” said Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office.
The monuments caught attention last year when protests resulted in dozens of statues of the explorer being removed or targeted during national-level protests, including the Beheading a Boston statueyou threw in Baltimore’s inner harbor and another demolished and set on fire Richmond, Va.
However, the NYPD also failed to answer questions from THE CITY about whether certain threats had been voiced to New York landmarks, including the barricaded 76-foot monument that towers over Columbus Circle and a marble bust of the explorer in the closed D’Auria-Murphy triangle in Belmont’s Little Italy in the Bronx.
An NYPD vehicle stood guard near a statue of Columbus in Astoria on February 11, 2021. Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY
“Shows where the priorities are”
“It annoys me to see these monuments locked up,” said Jeremy Wilcox, 41, who led tour groups past the Columbus Statue in Central Park before the pandemic. “You want to paint this narrative that New York is safe and open, but when people see the police protecting statues, they might say, ‘How safe can the city be?'”
Wilcox, who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, has tweeted several times since last summer about what he calls the “eyesore” police presence at the monuments in Columbus Circle and Central Park.
At Columbus Circle, the entire monument is surrounded by metal barricades, near which an NYPD vehicle is stationed. In Central Park, the bronze sculpture that has stood at the southern end of the mall since 1894 is surrounded by barricades.
“We’re blocking access to public space,” said Wilcox. “And it’s just another example of no one willing to tell the NYPD, ‘No, you have to get out of here.'”
In 2017 the Central Park statue was stained with red paint and its granite base with the message “Hate will not be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, Staten Island Republican Councilor Joe Borelli told THE CITY that he believed the monuments should remain under police surveillance.
“Protecting public monuments and art is part of the NYPD’s mission,” said Borelli. “As long as there are psychotic leftists who want to redress a 400 year old historical dispute by demolishing a monument, we must protect them.”
The D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in the Bronx, home to a Columbus memorial, will remain locked on February 11, 2021 and will be monitored by police. Jose Martinez / THE CITY
On Thursday, the D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in the Bronx remained locked while an NYPD van was parked outside the park. Next to Brooklyn Borough Hall, police were near a barricaded Columbus statue in the park that bears his name. In Astoria, Queens, there were no barricades around the seven-foot-tall bronze statue of Columbus, even though an NYPD vehicle was parked next to Columbus Square.
Felix Cepeda, a man from the Bronx who has requested To have the Columbus bust removed from the D’Auria-Murphy triangle, he said he went weekly to check the police presence at various monuments around the city.
“I think it just shows where the priorities are in this city,” said Cepeda. “It’s crazy that the city should have the money and pay so many police officers to protect these statues when there are so many needs in our communities.”