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City of Syracuse to Remove Columbus Statue in Larger Effort to Reimagine Columbus Circle

WAER file photo

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh says the city will move forward to remove the Columbus statue and other parts of the monument in Columbus Circle to a private site. The decision comes 3 days before Columbus Day after decades of controversy and calls to remove the statue.

Walsh met with stakeholders on all sides of the issue, including the Italian American community, the Columbus monument corporation, and leaders of the Onondaga nation.  All had representation on the Columbus Circle Action Committee that Walsh created this summer as calls grew to remove statues here and nationwide. 


Back then, he promised the status quo at the circle would not continue, and is following through on his proposal to create a year-round education and learning site.  Walsh says the circle will continue the nearly 90-year tradition of honoring Italian Americans, but will also recognize the Onondaga Nation on whose ancestral land the city sits.  

“I want Italian Americans to be able to come to that monument and never have to worry about feeling threatened or feeling like they’re being disrespected. I also don’t want people that view that statue as a symbol of oppression to feel not welcome in this city. This is a significant public space in the heart of our city and I think it’s critically important." 

Credit WAER file photo
The Columbus Statue was erected in 1934 in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and across from the Onondaga County Courthouse.


The space will also highlight the contributions of others who’ve experienced oppression, including Black and Brown Americans, other immigrants, and New Americans.  Walsh acknowledges the decision to remove the statue will anger some, but feels its presence will continue to divide the community.  He’ll appoint a commission to begin the process of designing specific changes to Columbus Circle, including the name, in accordance with numerous local and state laws. 


Plans must be reviewed and approved by city entities as well as the state because the circle is in part of an historic district listed in the national register of historic places.  He expects the process to unfold in the coming months.  The city will use a combination of public and private dollars for improvements and maintenance.  


The Colubus Circle Action Committee was facilitated by Interfaith Works, which issued its final report Friday. Walsh says the committee did not recommend to keep or remove the statue.


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