The NYPD is still guarding monuments of Christopher Columbus 24/7 across New York City as a Republican council member has said they must be protected from ‘psychotic leftists’ wanting to tear them down over ‘a 400-year-old historical squabble’.
Police vehicles and barricades were still visible around at least five monuments in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens this week around nine months after officers first set up guard around monuments amid racial justice protests.
It is not clear how much the round the clock protection for the statues is costing the Big Apple but it comes as New York state is grappling with a $15 billion budget deficit.
Statues, flags and displays of Confederate or racist symbols and historical figures have been taken down or toppled across America in recent months, amid widespread protests calling for an end to systemic racism following the death of black man George Floyd.
An officer stands guard at the Christopher Columbus statue at Columbus Circle in Manhattan on Friday. Monuments across NYC have been guarded 24/7 for nine months
Some of the police vehicles in Central Park were snowed in after the recent cold weather in New York City
Police vehicles could be seen at the Columbus statue in D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in the Bronx
Republican City Councilmember Joe Borelli of Staten Island says the protection is necessary
While the removal of some historical figures has been more clear cut, commemorations of Columbus have divided America for years.
To Native Americans, he is seen as a symbol of violence with his arrival in continental US in 1492 unleashing centuries of European colonization and slavery.
But to the Italian American population, he is a hero providing an cultural icon for Italian immigrants to hold on to when they arrived on US soil in the late 1880s and faced xenophobia.
There are five Columbus in the city’s parks including one each in Central Park in Manhattan, Columbus Circle in Manhattan, Columbus Park in Downtown Brooklyn, D’Auria Murphy Park in the Bronx, and Columbus Square in Astoria, Queens.
The monuments often become the focal points for local Columbus Day parades and festivities.
Police vehicles and barricades were still visible around Columbus statues, including this one in Central Park
The Christopher Columbus statue in D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in the Bronx on Friday
Officers were on the scene protecting the bronze statue of Christopher Columbus inside Central Park on Friday
The D’Auria-Murphy Triangle in The Bronx was locked and under watch by a police van Friday, while a cop cruiser was seen standing guard next to the bronze statue in Astoria, Queens.
In Central Park, at least two cop cars as well as a metal barricades were seen erected around the statue on Friday.
Local residents slammed the ongoing police protection as ‘wasteful’ several months on from renewed calls to remove the likeness of the controversial figure.
‘I definitely find it odd and I find it wasteful,’ Eleanor Carey told The City.
‘My daughter asks me all the time, ‘The police is still there?’
Jeremy Wilcox, who used to lead tours past the Columbus statue in Central Park, told the outlet its ‘upsets’ him to see the monuments ‘locked up.’
‘You want to paint this narrative that New York is safe and it’s open, but when people see police protecting statues, they might say, ‘How safe can the city be?’ he said.
‘We’re cutting off access to public space. And it’s just another example of no one being willing to tell the NYPD, ‘No, you guys gotta get out of here.’
Wilcox has repeatedly posted about the police presence on social media blasting it as ‘truly astonishing’.
A police van on station in Columbus Circle amid the snow in Manhattan on Friday
In Central Park, at least two cop cars as well as a metal barricades were seen erected around the statue on Friday
Monuments to Columbus remain under constant NYPD protection and behind locked fences
But Republican City Councilmember Joe Borelli of Staten Island told The City the protection is necessary.
‘Protecting public monuments and art is part of the NYPD’s mission,’ Borelli said.
‘As long as there are psychotic leftists who want to make amends for a 400-year-old historical squabble by destroying a monument, then we have to protect them.’
Cops have been guarding the statues across the city since at least June.
At the time a police source told the New York Post the monument in Columbus Circle was ‘a known target’.
The NYPD did not respond to DailyMail.com’s questions Friday about how much the taxpayer-funded police protection is costing the city.
It was also unclear how many statues are under constant protection from police vehicles or barricades and whether any specific threats had been made recently against any of the statues.
A spokesperson said ‘police coverage at the locations is evaluated on an ongoing basis’.
Nationwide, several statues of the colonialist have been removed in recent months.
On Columbus Day in November a statue in Rhode Island was splashed with red paint amid calls to rename the day Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
In July, figured in Grant Park and Little Italy in Chicago were taken down by city officials after thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters called for their removal.
This came after California officials removed a monument of Columbus from the state capitol, ruling the presence of the ‘deeply polarizing historical figure’ was ‘completely out of place today’ while a statue in Boston was beheaded the same month.
The statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence, Rhode Island, was vandalized (pictured above) on Columbus Day in November
Chicago’s controversial statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from Grant Park in July
Some states including Michigan, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have renamed Columbus Day – the public holiday held on the second Monday in October each year – ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ in recent years to recognize the native populations that were colonized by the explorer.
Nationwide, Columbus Day continues to be a federal holiday, meaning it is recognized by the US government but individual states can choose not to observe a federal holiday and change the name and intent of the holiday.
The months-long taxpayer-funded round the clock protection for New York City’s statues comes as the Big Apple’s budget deficit has worsened amid the pandemic.
Cops have been guarding the statues across the city since at least June. NYPD cars around the Columbus Circle monument in June
The state has been left with a $15 billion budget deficit, 50 percent higher than its previous worst deficit of $10 billion.
Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to a combined level of 14.7 percent to help plug the gap.
This would generate $1.5 billion for the state but would mean the highest state-and-local tax rate across the whole of America.
The tax increase would raise $1.5 billion for the state, Cuomo said Tuesday in an address unveiling his 2022 budget proposal.
Who was Christopher Columbus and why is he so divisive?
Christopher Columbus, (1451 – 1506)
Christopher Columbus, (1451 – 1506) born in the Republic of Genoa (now Italy), was a 15th century navigator who began European incursions into the Americas. Native American activists believe the navigator was responsible for centuries of indigenous genocide.
Like Aristotle and others, Columbus believed that the world was round. He theorized that the distance between Spain’s Canary Islands and Japan was only around 2,300 miles (3,701 kilometers) and felt he could sail west to reach Asia for a new sought-out route for spices. It was really about 12,000 miles (19,321 kilometers). Columbus based his incorrect calculations on mystical texts, and ended up landing in the present-day Caribbean on Oct. 12, 1492.
Columbus convinced Spain’s Queen Isabella to fund his voyage by promising that the riches he’d collect would be used to finance a crusade to ‘reclaim’ Jerusalem for Christians. Instead, he found new foods, animals and indigenous people who, he wrote, were childlike and could be easily turned into slaves.
As indigenous populations revolted against brutal Spanish treatment, Columbus ordered a ruthless crackdown that included having dismembered bodies being paraded in public. Eventually, Columbus was arrested on mismanagement and brutality charges and died soon after.
Around 60 years after Columbus’ arrival, the Taino indigenous population of the Caribbean had been reduced from an estimated 250,000 people to a few hundred because of slavery and death from new diseases.
However for many Italian Americans the Italian explorer continues to be an important symbol in their heritage.
Millions of Italian immigrants traveled across the Atlantic to Ellis Island in New York to start a new life in America in the late 1880s to 1920s.
They faced xenophobia and prejudice, including one of the largest single mass lynchings in American history when 11 were murdered in 1891 in New Orleans.
The Italian explorer thereby became a cultural hero for Italian immigrants to hold on to during this time and Columbus Day parades began in the late 1800s.