Mayor Marty Walsh announced on Monday evening to the North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) that the fragile condition of the Columbus statue after its recent beheading by vandals means that it will not be returning to its pedestal in Christopher Columbus Park. Instead, the Boston Arts Commission will begin a process to design and construct a new statue recognizing Italian immigrants to be placed on the pedestal. The existing statue will be repaired and placed at the North End chapter of the Knights of Columbus where it will be publicly displayed as part of their in-progress affordable housing development on N. Margin Street in the North End. The controversial decision comes just days before Columbus Day.
“The Columbus statue, I know it means an awful lot to residents of the North End and obviously it’s a very passionate, emotional issue,” stated Mayor Walsh.
Following the statue’s vandalism in June, the sculpture was removed from the North End park to assess the damage and the statue’s ‘historial meaning’ according to city officials. Curators found the statue could be repaired but not without visible marks upon repair.
North End’s Knights of Columbus offered to display the statue in their new affordable housing development at 41 N. Margin Street. The City will be repairing the statue as best as possible so that it can be publicly displayed by the Knights of Columbus in their new facility.
Over the years at the waterfront park, the statue has experienced its fair share of vandalism from being doused in red paint with the words “Black Lives Matter” written on it in 2015 to it’s most recent (but not first) beheading. Officials expressed concerns that the statue would continue to be vulnerable to vandalism, prompting the decision to remove and replace it.
As for the empty pedestal in Christopher Columbus Park, Mayor Walsh stated that there will be a ‘robust community process’ in deciding what will replace the statue with a focus on ‘highlighting the Italian immigrants of the North End.’ The Boston Art Commission (BAC) will create a North End community advisory group to advise future decisions.
At this time, there are no discussions about changing the name of Christopher Columbus Park although it was questioned whether the name still makes sense without the statue.
At the meeting, residents expressed mixed reactions. NEWNC council member Damien DiPaola thanked the mayor for acknowledging the contributions of North End Italian immigrants and suggested the new statue’s design include a family with a suitcase. North End resident Bernie Sapienza expressed frustration over allowing vandalism to dictate the statue’s future and “erasing history.” Mayor Walsh responded that “vandalism and destruction in our neighborhood is never okay” and noted the difficulty of making a decision that would appease every perspective.
“I think this is a good solution, although not perfect for everyone. I don’t think we’ll ever get to unanimous 100% support of what should happen there,” responded Mayor Walsh.
There will be a BAC meeting on Tuesday, October 13th at 4pm to further discuss the future of the statue and it’s replacement.