The future of the Christopher Columbus statue will play out in a public hearing, followed by a meeting of the Miscellaneous Matters Committee Thursday night. At issue two driving forces: those condemning the fallout of the Italian’s colonization of Caribbean islands flying the flag of Spain and Italian American stalwarts arguing for a community dialogue to place the statue into historical context.
Mayor Joe Ganim had the statue removed citing public safety concerns following protests around the country and in Connecticut, some that turned violent. The Board of Park Commissioners, following a request from Ganim to decide the statue’s future location, voted for its return to Breezy Point at Seaside Park overlooking Long island Sound.
In 1962 leaders in Bridgeport’s Italian American community formed a committee to honor civic and ethnic pride. The outgrowth of that included a statue dedicated to Columbus, backed by Samuel Tedesco, the city’s first mayor of Italian heritage. Tedesco also served in the dual roles of mayor and Connecticut’s lieutenant governor.
The committee that included industrialist Francis “Hi-Ho” D’Addario raised $15,000 for the statue’s sculpting and dedication.
In July 1964, as covered by the Bridgeport Post, the Board of Park Commissioners gave the committee permission for erecting a statue of Columbus in Seaside Park while also suggesting another site at what was then grounds of City Hall at Main and State Streets known today as McLevy Green which plays host to cultural events such as the Bridgeport Arts Fest, Downtown Thursdays and the holiday tree lighting. The board made the recommendation under the proviso it became a city park. The green is named for Jasper McLevy, the long-term socialist mayor Tedesco defeated in in 1957.
In November 1967 City Hall was relocated to Lyon Terrace.
McLevy Green was eventually dedicated a city park.
The Columbus committee, with the blessing of the park board, settled on Seaside Park.
In October 1965, the statue was unveiled with Tedesco, D’Addario, former Connecticut Governor and ambassador to Spain John Lodge and sculptor Clemente Spampinato among the attendees.
Former State Rep. Chris Caruso and ex Mayor Lenny Paoletta want to keep the statue at its original location. Could it end up somewhere else? Depends on how the next several weeks play out. Columbus weekend festivities that includes a parade down Madison Avenue are just six weeks away.
The City Council’s Miscellaneous Matters Committee meeting will take place by Zoom/Teleconference to consider a resolution calling for the “Restoration of the Christopher Columbus statue to its original location in Seaside Park; Resolving to working together to unite the community in reaching an amicable resolution regarding this sensitive issue.”
The public may listen into this meeting by calling the following conference line and then entering the conference code:
Dial In Number: (929) 436-2866
Meeting ID: 961 7777 9984
Prior to the meeting a public hearing will take place at 6 p.m. by Zoom/Teleconference. The public may dial in by calling the following conference line and then entering the conference code:
Dial In Number: (929) 436-2866
Meeting ID: 995 7447 5047