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Mayor Walsh Ramps Up Discussions Over Future of Columbus Circle

WAER file photo

The City of Syracuse is ramping up its efforts to reimagine Columbus Circle downtown after increasing pressure from many in the community over the weekend to remove the statue there.  Mayor Ben Walsh has formed the Columbus Circle Action Group to make recommendations for a comprehensive education and learning site at the circle. 

Walsh says the group will continue the hard work of Columbus Dialogue Circles which he convened with Interfaith Works in 2018.

"From the moment we walked in, we started a process that has been moving forward.  It has never stopped moving forward.  The moment we are in as a city and as a country has given us an opportunity to accelerate that progress.  That's a good thing."

Statues and monuments in honor of the Confederacy have been coming down across the south.  But in the northeast, where large numbers of Italian immigrants settled decades ago, the attention has been mostly on Christopher Columbus and his legacy.  Members of the Onondaga Nation and others have spoken out about his oppression, slavery, and slaughter of indigenous peoples in the Americas.  Mayor Walsh says it’s time to educate and heal.

"I've already come to the conclusion that the status quo in Columbus Circle today is not acceptable.  There are many people that do.  I'm sure I've already upset some people.  It's the nature of this business.  My job is not necessarily to make everyone happy.  It's to do the right thing."

That could mean removing the statue.  But Walsh is quick to add that while he feels the sense of urgency, he wants to hear from all stakeholders in the action group before deciding on an appropriate resolution.  He says complicating matters is that Columbus Circle is a part of a federally designated historic district, and that there may be some conditions that came with the statue when it was donated in 1934. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at