Columbus Monument Under Landmark Status Scrutiny

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The White Plains Christopher Columbus statue stands at North Broadway and Lake Street in Tibbits Park

By Silas White – A public forum in White Plains on the potential landmark status of a Christopher Columbus statue sparked controversy over whether or not Columbus is a figure worth celebrating.

The forum, held by the Historic Preservation Committee in the Common Council Chambers on July 9, gave citizens of White Plains the chance to voice their approval or disapproval of the statue located in Tibbits Park on North Broadway at Lake Street.

Many Italian Americans voiced their approval of the statue and its potential chance for landmark status.

“Columbus made one of the most significant contributions to all history for all time,” said one speaker, from the Antonio Meucci Lodge. “Let’s make sure that this monument… one that has stood for over 100 years, remains untouched.”

Mario Cermele, president of the Antonio Meucci Lodge, which was founded in the 20th century to help Italian Americans, said the statue was a “beautiful masterpiece,” and that the statue is a part of the legacy of Italian Americans.

“For all the members of the Antonio Meucci Lodge, we just hope that your recommendation is a positive one, because it will be so well received, respected, and honored,” Cermele said, addressing the White Plains Historic Preservation Committee.

The statue had been recommended for landmark status by a resident and the request was put before the committee to ensure it would remain where it is despite future development in White Plains.

However, one White Plains resident expressed concern.

“I am somewhat troubled by this,” he said. “Columbus was a slave owner and a slave trader. He killed the natives… and I think about that every time I see (the statue).”

The statue itself was erected on October 12, 1915, by Italian Citizens in White Plains, whose signatures are carved into the back of the statue’s base.

According to White Plains Historic Preservation Law section 9-6-3, a building or monument may be worthy of landmark status if it possesses special character or value as part of the cultural, political, economic, or social history of the city, region, state, or nation. It may also meet landmark status if it identifies with persons or events significant in local, state, or national history. Ultimately, it is up to the Historic Preservation Committee to decide if the monument meets or does not meet this criteria.

The decision has been tabled for now.

During the next meeting, which will be on September 13, the Historic Preservation Committee will hold a public forum for the potential landmark status of the White Plains Presbyterian Church Cemetery and the landmark status of the Good Counsel Complex on 52 North Broadway.

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