ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo says the statue honoring Italian explorer Christopher Columbus won’t be sailing out of New York any time soon.
“As long as I am Governor of the great State of New York, there will be a statue of Christopher Columbus standing tall and proud in the city of New York,” Cuomo said at the Columbus Citizens Foundation gala Saturday night.
The Italian-American governor said he understands people have differences over the issue and that “in this great country by our Constitution people can disagree. But it is also true that by the Constitution you cannot censor, you cannot control, and government cannot seek to impose its own political ideology on the people.”
He argued that if people disagree with what Columbus symbolizes, they can skip the parade or protest with signs.
“But…no one has the right to attack or deny our celebration or our pride of our great heritage,” he said in quotes first posted by the State of Politics political blog. “The Italian-American community is not going backwards, my friends. The Italian-American community is going forward.”
While Cuomo has stood up for keeping the statue of Columbus on 59th Street in place, he has asked the U.S. Army to rename two streets on a Brooklyn military base currently honoring two to Confederate Army generals.
Cuomo argued that those attacking the Columbus statue are actually attacking “our Italian-American heritage and the fundamental principles that make America, America. Many, many of our statues in this country of men and women are memorialized not as a statement of their individual perfection, but for the cause, the ideals, the heritage they represent.”
On Monday as he prepared to march in the city’s Columbus Day Parade, Cuomo reiterated his support for the statue when asked about the top to bottom review of the fate of statues like that of Columbus ordered by de Blasio.
“I reject the negativity of a lot of the current day political tactics across the country,” Cuomo said. “The mood of the people is angry, so it’s almost definition by opposition. ‘I’m against this. I’m against this. I’m against this.'”
Cuomo on Monday said it shouldn’t be a choice of honoring the Italian explorer or Native Americans.
“It’s not an either/or – it’s both,” Cuomo told reporters . “Of course we should honor the indigenous people. They were abused by many leaders.”
New Yorkers celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day on Randall’s Island
He said more than Columbus, the Native Americans suffered most at the hands of the federal government.
“The number 1 abuser of the indigenous people in this country was our federal government,” he said. “You want to talk about Columbus, 1492? How about our federal government? How about the Trail of Tears 1830s to the ’60s? How about massacring the Native Americans in this country because we wanted the land and then sticking them on reservations, which was the left over residential that land no one else wanted?”
“So celebrate the indigenous people, but that is also the story of Columbus Day. Because once you establish the celebration of the indigenous people, now the nonindigenous people-we’re all immigrants. And Italians came. And Irish came and Jewish people came and Polish people came, and Puerto Rican people and God bless America. That’s the New York story.
“So it’s both. it doesn’t have to be about differentiation and I’m against this and I’m against this. Forget the opposition. Let’s talk about affirmation. It’s not either or, it’s both.”
Cuomo also reiterated his belief that Columbus Day is about a celebration of Italian Americans.
“Today we are all Italian Americans…and we’re celebrating our Italian American heritage and the contributions that the Italian American people brought to this country and still do today.”
Expressing pride to march in the parade, Cuomo said “I march in all parades because I honor the immigrant experience all across the board, making the mosaic of New York. But being from Italian American ancestry, today is special for me.”
Cuomo received praise from Angelo Vivolo, head of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, who took a not-so-subtle shot at Mayor de Blasio.
“Andrew Cuomo, our great governor, has been a tremendous supporter of our community, his Italian heritage and culture, someone who stands up for us. And we can’t thank him enough for being a true patriot and be doing what he believes in his heart is correct, unlike some other people who are marching in today’s parade (who) do not have the conviction to stand up for Italians and the culture and our heritage and the things that we have done for the fabric of this country.”