ATLANTIC CITY — The Christopher Columbus monument, in the resort since 1958, will be taken down from its location on Arctic Avenue at the base of the Atlantic City Expressway.
The statue, which is on city property but funded by the Casino Redevelopment Investment Authority for upkeep and relocations, will be moved to avert potential vandalism.
But the statue’s moving date and future home remain uncertain. There has been talk of relocating it to Hammonton, or storing it for safe-keeping.
The move is the latest in a series of regional and nationwide conflicts over Columbus statues resulting from the social justice protest movement.
In South Philadelphia, one statue was covered by city workers after clashes between armed groups and protesters. Mayor Jim Kenney recently announced the city intends to remove the statue in July.
Columbus statues in Newark, Trenton, West Orange, Camden and Hammonton all have either been covered or dismounted.
In Garfield, Bergen County, the statue was vandalized.
Philadelphia city officials on Wednesday announced they intend to remove the statue of Chris…
Vandalism is the concern among those who want to keep the statue preserved, including the Columbus Day Committee of Atlantic City, which requested it be moved this month.
“Why are we at the point where we have to turn against one another? The city has always been a melting pot. I don’t want to get political over this. Just why are we erasing history?” said Giulietta Consalvo, vice chair of the Columbus Day Committee in Atlantic City. Her father, Gennaro Consalvo, is chairman emeritus of the committee.
The recent plan for removal of the statue in the city comes after Moisse “Mo” Delgado, Atlantic City at-large councilman, introduced an ordinance to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Atlantic City during the June 17 meeting. It was discussed but was tabled.
George Tibbitt, Atlantic City Council president, said he is concerned that future planned protests on racial injustice may lead to vandalizing of the monument.
“I’ve heard of multiple protests on July 4,” Tibbitt said.
The committee, ideally, would like the statue to remain in its current place but also wants to ensure it is not vandalized.
The statue was unveiled Columbus Day 1958 and cost $7,000 at the time (about $64,000 in 2020 dollars). It has been on the move throughout its time in the resort, starting first in Columbus Plaza in the historically Italian Ducktown neighborhood. It had a two-year stay at the All Wars Memorial Park on Albany Avenue before moving to the former Columbus Park. It was then moved from the park to make way for the Bass Pro Shops complex. Since then, it has resided in a plaza off Arctic Avenue at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway.
“It’s a matter of preservation in my opinion because of the grandeur and uniqueness,” said Christopher Simonetti, executive vice chair of the Columbus Day Committee of Atlantic City.
The moves come as debates about Christopher Columbus intensify. Columbus is known as an Italian explorer who flew under the Spanish flag and opened up the Americas to European trade but has been increasingly criticized for bringing Native Americans into slavery. In the United States, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been celebrated on the same date as Columbus Day, Oct. 12 this year, to commemorate the history and culture of Native Americans.
In Newark and Princeton, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is officially observed.
Frank Formica, Atlantic County Freeholder chairman and a longtime staple of Atlantic City, asked the City Council to celebrate both commemorations.
“There are few cities with deeper roots in Italian heritage then Atlantic City. We all recognize the atrocities that many famous men in history have perpetrated on the indigenous native Americans. I humbly request that the Atlantic City City Council consider a plan that honors the indigenous Americans, without squashing the celebration of the Italian heritage by eliminating the official recognition of Columbus Day,” Formica said.
Formica added that the statue will be stored indoors, at either Boardwalk Hall or the Special Improvement District’s Equipment Building.
On the western end of Atlantic County, the Sons of Italy of Hammonton relocated its Columbus statue on June 19. Done as a “proactive” measure, according to the group’s statement, it moved the monument from its location at South Egg Harbor Road to the organization’s building on North Third Street.
“Throughout time, cultures have preserved their legacy with monuments, plaques, memorials and statues. Today, where the determination of what is a socially acceptable method of recognizing historical significance is swayed by public opinion, it’s imperative that these cultures continue to preserve their unique heritage. As a result of the current social environment, the Italian-American service organizations of Hammonton mobilized to conserve our tribute honoring Christopher Columbus. The monument will be protected by relocating it to a place where it’ll be appreciated without fear of vandalism,” said Nicholas LaGuardia, president of the Sons of Italy of Hammonton.