Syracuse, NY – A group of people who refuse to remove the statue from Christoph Columbus from downtown have filed legal documents stating their intention to block the city’s plans.
According to Nicholas Pirro, a former Onondaga County executive who is also part of Columbus Monument Corporation, which is fighting change on Columbus Circle, the “letter of intent” was filed with the city on Friday.
“We are ready to take legal action,” said Pirro on Wednesday.
The five-page document is not a lawsuit. Rather, it makes the city aware that legal action could be initiated.
The group believes the mayor has no authority to move the statue, Pirro said. Instead, the city should seek approval from local and state heritage protection agencies and the city’s art commission for the future of the space, he said.
“It’s a mistake,” said Pirro of Walsh’s decision to remove the 1934 statue. “We’re really asking the mayor to reconsider his decision. I think it was done for political reasons back then.”
After summer protests against police reforms and racial injustice, Walsh announced plans in October to remove the statue and redesign Columbus Circle. The space is owned by the city, and Walsh said there are plans to turn it into a place that explains the effects of colonialism and highlights the contributions of many ethnicities and races.
The decision was made after two months Meetings with community members, including some who are now threatening to block the distance. Announcing the decision, Walsh said he would appoint a commission to draft the changes to the circle and propose a new name. He also said all plans must be reviewed and approved by the Syracuse Public Art Commission and the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board.
“Mayor Walsh has consistently said that the Italian-American community will continue to be at the center of the fountain of honor and monument at the center of Columbus Circle,” said spokesman Greg Loh in a statement this week. “He has offered and continues to hope to involve Columbus Monument Corporation in making that vision a reality.”
Those who oppose the distance support an expanded exhibition that would include more races and ethnicities, Pirro said. However, they oppose the removal of a statue that many in the Italian-American community collected nearly a century ago.
The notice sent to City Hall on Friday lists Pirro and Monument Corporation as claimants. It is also co-signed by 25 Syracuse residents including former MP Joan Christensen and Onondaga County Legislature Bill Kinne.
Six lawyers are working for free to help the group, Pirro said. They are Anthony Aloi, John DeFrancisco, Anthony Pietrafesa, Anthony Rivizzigno, Frank Vavonese and Michael Vavonese.
The statue was that Subject of controversy for years. Community activists and many Native Americans argue that it celebrates a man who was barbaric to indigenous peoples and who was responsible for enslavement and genocide.
However, supporters of the Italian-American community say the statue is a point of pride for a people who were the victims of persecution of immigrants in the early 20th century.
Joe Health, an Onondaga Nation attorney, said he found opponents’ legal arguments so far to be weak.
The “Mayor came to a conclusion,” Heath said, noting that about 175 other cities across the country have decided to dismantle similar monuments from Columbus. “These people, who are used to making decisions in this community, don’t agree with that decision. That doesn’t mean they have a lawsuit that is on trial. “
Pirro said the group’s next move – like a lawsuit precluding removal – is likely to come when the city takes its next step toward changing the Columbus Circle.