NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some Italian-Americans are calling it a statue snub.
A city program to commission statues honoring influential women asked for public input, but, still, New Yorkers’ top pick, a female saint, didn’t make the cut.
A statue of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini stands tall inside a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn church, and there’s even a park honoring the patron saint of immigrants in Carroll Gardens.
“She was an Italian nun that came here to the United States because the pope told her that the Italian immigrants in this country needed help,” Monsignor David Cassato, of the Diocese of Brooklyn, told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Monday.
“She helped a lot of people all over the world,” added Angelo Asencio of Carroll Gardens.
Mother Cabrini, as she’s known, was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. So when the city asked the public to nominate historical women to become the city’s next statues, Cabrini was the top pick, with 219 nominations. However, a committee organized by first lady Chirlane McCray ultimately didn’t choose her.
“I feel that the Christian Catholic community is always put on the side and if she had the most votes then what’s to question it? Let’s go with what the people want,” said Ginger Bivona of Bensonhurst.
The process was also overseen by the city’s Cultural Affairs commissioner, Tom Finkelpearl.
When asked why the public given an opportunity to nominate statues if some of those nominations, particularly the most popular ones, weren’t going to make the list, Finkelpearl said, “We looked around the city. We need to be borough diversity. We’re commissioning works of art from each borough and, again, it was never meant to be a vote. It was meant to look for good ideas.”
Asked what his message is to an Italian-American community that appears upset with this decision, Finkelpearl said, “I want to listen to what people have to say. I’m happy to meet in person with folks and it’s not over.”
Among the six women chosen were jazz great Billie Holiday, desegregation activist and Latina doctor Helen Rodriguez Trias and LGBTQ advocate Sylvia Rivera. The Diocese of Brooklyn isn’t giving up, though. On Sunday, 1,000 people attended a march in support of a Mother Cabrini statue.
“That’s no good. It should’ve been Mother Cabrini and that’s it,” said Joe Messina of Carroll Gardens.
The diocese said it has already raised $17,000 for a Mother Cabrini statue, and it plans to move forward with or without the city’s support.
The public’s second choice was journalist Jane Jacobs, who also didn’t make the cut. The city said right now there are only five women statues and that this initiative will double that number.