Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a Democrat, ordered the removal of the statue after reaching an agreement with the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York.
“The Federation has asked the mayor to relocate the Columbus monument in Columbus Park in order to prevent damage to its cultural landmark,” Don Alessi, an official with the federation, said at a press conference explaining the move.
In a press release, the federation called the removal “a proactive measure.”
Brown told reporters, “No country’s heritage is either wholly bad or wholly good but a mix of both. Removing this statue to a location where the legacy of Columbus, his historical narrative, and the meaning of this statue to all of the different people who live in our City can be interpreted and explored is the right and proper decision.”
Columbus, an Italian explorer, is credited by some with discovering the Americas. He sailed from Europe in the 1490s.
Activists have targeted Columbus in recent years for his treatment of Native Americans and pushed to have statues of him removed.
“While Christopher Columbus has long been associated with a celebration of Italian-American heritage not associated with his actions as a colonial administrator and fortune seeker, in recent decades there has been a growing movement to remove statues in his honor because of the oppression, enslavement, and murder of countless numbers of indigenous peoples he engaged in,” the city of Buffalo said in a press release.
The Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York said the group originally erected the monument to recognize and honor the struggles faced by Italian immigrants in the United States.
The federation now wants to erect a new monument “that reflects the positive history of the Italian immigrant experience.”
The Columbus statue will be stored until a suitable location is determined for its display, the group said.
Along with the removal from Columbus Park, city officials said the park will be renamed.
The new name will honor the contributions of Italian-Americans to Buffalo’s history, officials said.
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, an independent, created an action group to help decide what to do with the Columbus statue there.
“The state quo in Columbus Circle is not acceptable. Changes need to be made, but we want to be sure that everyone who wants to have a voice in that process gets an opportunity to be heard,” he told reporters on Friday.