NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Could Christopher Columbus and Ulysses S. Grant be purged from the streets of New York?
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer said those questions are now being asked as Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks to remove ‘symbols of hate’ in a quest for political correctness.
The city’s 76 foot tall monument to explorer Christopher Columbus which sits in Columbus Circle could be considered for the chopping block, removed as part of the mayor’s new purge.
“He is a controversial figure, and I know that many people take offense to that, but for many of us who come from the Caribbean Islands we see him as a controversial figure,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito said. “We have to look at history. We have to look at it thoroughly and clearly.”
The council speaker said Columbus is just one of several things New York City should consider for the dust heap of history as part of the mayor’s 90 day review of monuments, statues, and other icons in the wake of the demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A spokesperson said Viverito also thinks that Grant’s Tomb should be on the review list. Grant has been regarded by some as anti-Semitic.
“In 1862, he signed general order 11, expelling Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. I wonder if you think that given the large number of Jewish, he should be buried in New York City,” CBS2’s Kramer asked the mayor.
“Marcia, I’m not familiar with that history. Obviously I take it very seriously, but I’m not familiar with it. We don’t tolerate anti-Semitism in New York City,” the mayor said. “We have to look at each one of these cases. We’ll have a commission. They’ll come up with some universal rules.”
The real question for the mayor as he hunts for political correctness is how far to go.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind put the bee in de Blasio’s bonnet in May when he asked him to remove plaques to Nazi sympathizers in the Canyon of Heroes.
“You can probably find something wrong with everyone in public life. That doesn’t mean they should be purged,” he said, “This is going to be fun to watch.”
So how far will the mayor go?
“We have not looked at this in a consistent basis. Let’s be clear about that Marcia, we are starting from scratch. I think a lot of history that needs to be re-evaluated went unspoken for a long time,” the mayor said, “And we’ve got to come up with some kind of standard for dealing with it.”
De Blasio was also asked about removing paintings from city hall, changing the names of schools and public buildings.
CBS2’s Kramer asked if the name New York City would be changed since it was named for the Duke of York; a slave trader.
His press secretary said he doubts the commission will put that idea on the table.
The commission will be named next week. They will make recommendations, with the mayor making the final decision.