NEW YORK - A group of Italian-Americans, sponsoring Monday's Columbus Day Parade, boycotted a reception Thursday night at Gracie Mansion honoring Italian-Americans in New York City.
They're angry the mayor hasn't defended statues of Christopher Columbus.
Instead, Mayor de Blasio has appointed an Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, to study the issue of all statues and public art and whether some should be removed. The Commission was created in light of the controversy over Confederate statues.
Thursday, Angelo Vivolo, President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation said, "I'm in total disagreement with the mayor's position on statues around the city and Columbus Circle. I feel it would be hypocritical of me to show up at the mayor's affair tonight."
Also Thursday, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of the New York Archdiocese weighed in telling us, "I'm proud of our Italian people sticking up for Columbus. He's a great hero. Is he flawless? No. But I don't know of too many flawless people around. I don't now who we'd be able to name our churches after if we're looking for perfection."
To many Columbus, an Italian who sailed for Spain, is considered a great discoverer, but to others he is seen as a conqueror who began the enslavement and genocide of Native Americans.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has called for removing statues honoring Columbus.
Earlier this week, the mayor urged everyone to wait until his commission makes recommendations.
As for Thursday night's reception, Mayor de Blasio said, "Look, it's a free country. If they choose not to come to an event honoring our heritage that's their choice."
This controversy will be with us for a while, the annual Columbus Day parade is Monday. The group has not invited the mayor to the parade.
Also, the Mayor's Advisory Commission on City Art will meet next Tuesday.