Christopher Columbus Statue to be Removed in San Jose
(by Melissa Hartman) – The San Jose City Council on Tuesday decided on a six-week deadline to remove the 9-foot-tall statue of Christopher Columbus in City Hall and find a new location for it.
The statue has been subjected to security issues since 2001 when a member of the public entered the building and proceeded to vandalize the 2,000-pound marble statue with a sledgehammer, city officials said.
After that vandalism shattered portions of the statue’s legs, right arm, left hand and torso, another member of the public entered the City Hall lobby and smeared red and black ink on the front side of the statue on
Sept. 21, 2017.
A curtain was installed behind the statue on Oct. 5 in an effort to block the exterior window view of the statue and minimize potential acts of vandalism to the statue or the building’s infrastructure, city officials said.
On Oct. 12, a handful of protesters entered City Hall and confronted visitors and city staff with their opposition to the statue.
Security staff and police dispersed the protesters.
Councilmember Raul Peralez recommended in a September memo that the statue be moved “to a more appropriate location, with input from the community.”
The Council’s rules committee accepted Peralez’s memo with direction for the item to return to the committee in November, following a San Jose State University forum in October at which the speakers all favored
removing the statue from City Hall, city officials said.
In late November, San Jose public works officials said in a memo that complexities and sensitivities surrounding relocation options, as well as the upcoming holidays, would delay further action on the issue until this month.
The public works memo provided to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting listed four proposed new locations.
The first option that the Council considered was storing the statue at the History San Jose Collection Center located at the city’s Central Service Yard and then donating and relocating the statue when an accepted recipient is identified.
City officials said the statue would be protected from further vandalism, but acknowledged it could likely be in storage for a long time, possibly years.
The second option is to relocate the statue to the Mineta San Jose International Airport at Terminal A beyond the security checkpoint.
City officials said that location would be heavily secured and would highlight the exploration of Columbus, but it would also be in a public place where some visitors may have a negative reaction to it, similar to the reaction at its current location in City Hall.
The third location proposed for the relocation was the Bank of Italy at History Park on the south end of Kelley Park.
City officials said the statue would be in a locked and “somewhat secured location” in an Italian-themed facility.
However, they said this location comes with the most negatives since History Park can be easily broken into during non-operational hours because of the secluded location, large perimeter and adjacent location to Coyote Creek, city officials said.
The Bank of Italy building is also not routinely open to the public, and the executive director of History San Jose, which oversees the park, does not want the statue displayed at the Bank of Italy because it does not fit in with “the historic nature of the bank,” city officials said.
Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco wrote a memo in support for this option, noting that both the San Jose City Hall and the international airport serve as places to welcome travelers.
“I do not believe we should welcome our family, friends, and strangers with a statue of a man who lost his way and never stepped foot on our soil,” Carrasco said in the memo.
Carrasco did note the contributions Italian-Americans have made to San Jose and how San Jose continues to try to honor those accomplishments. Therefore, she thinks that moving the statue to the Little Italy area would be most fitting.
The final option proposed was keeping the statue in its current location, with the acknowledgement of continued security concerns and community protests resulting in permanent damage to the statue and distraction from official city business.
All options but the last require at least $12,000 of funding to crate, transport, store, dismantle or reassemble the statue, public works officials said.
The City Council voted to eliminate the last option, meaning that the $12,000 will be spent.
Mayor Sam Liccardo advised the Council to connect with the Italian-American community about the statue’s new home. However, if no compromise is found, the statue will be put in storage.
The city was originally given the statue on Oct. 12, 1958, by the San Jose Civic Club and the Italo-American Societies of San Jose. The Milani Marble Company commissioned the statue in Italy. It originally sat in the old City Hall but was moved to the current location after construction was finished.