Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NY State's highest court denies appeal to stop removal of Columbus statue in Syracuse

A look at Columbus Circle in Syracuse at the end of July.
John Smith
The Columbus monument on a summer day.

New York’s highest court dealt a blow to efforts trying keep the Columbus monument in downtown Syracuse. The Court of Appeals Thursday denied the Columbus Monument Corporation’s appeal of a lower court decision that cleared the way for the city to remove the statue. Mayor Ben Walsh says the ruling is consistent with the city’s firm belief that removing the statue is within their legal right, while also recognizing Syracuse’s Italian American Community.

“A critical component of this project and one that we that we're moving forward on, is number one, finding an appropriate place to relocate the monument where people can go and still see it if they're interested," Walsh said. "And, finding a new way and a different way to celebrate Italian American heritage on that site where that monument is located. That's part of the plan that often gets overlooked.”

Monument supporters could still re-file their lawsuit on a technicality.

The city’s desire to move the statue has been playing out in the courts since 2020, though some have called attention to its offensive imagery for decades. The monument depicts Columbus standing atop disembodied indigenous heads. Mayor Walsh wants to replace the monument with a heritage and education site.

“We want to celebrate our Italian American heritage, but we want to do it in a way that values and respects all of the cultures in our Community.”

The Columbus monument is marking its 90th year downtown and was paid for mostly by Syracuse’s Italian immigrants who faced persecution in the early decades of the 20th century. The descendants of those families say they’re determined to keep the statue where it is, saying it’s a tribute to Italians and not Columbus.

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