Christopher Columbus received some powerful Old World backing in Manhattan on Tuesday as New York City pols weigh whether to yank statues of him and other now-controversial historial figures.
Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni pointedly visited the borough’s famed Columbus Circle to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony honoring Columbus — just hours after the City Council held a hearing on proposed legislation targeting monuments and other artwork featuring the explorer, as well people such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
“Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, placed a wreath of flowers on the statue located at the center of Columbus Circle, one of the most famous in the US depicting Christopher Columbus,” said a statement from the office of Meloni, who is in the city for the United Nations’ annual General Assembly.
“Through this important reaffirmation of identity, the President celebrated a symbol of the cultural and moral history of the American people.”
The Italian leader stood by the statue for a moment of silence — to honor Columbus ahead of the US’s Oct. 12 holiday in honor of him — before being swarmed by Italian media.
“A Bronx Tale” actor Chazz Palminteri, an Italian-American activist and defender of Columbus’s legacy, said Meloni’s presence speaks volumes.
“The prime minister is making a statement: We’re not getting rid of Columbus! That holiday is our day. Canceling Columbus is not going to happen,” said Palminteri, also known for his role in “Bullets Over Broadway,” to The Post in a telephone interview.
“We Italians stick together — whether here or in Italy,” the actor said.
“I say to the prime minister, `Thank you for showing up. Thank you for backing Italian-Americans.’ “
Meloni’s visit came on the day of a council hearing on a series of bills, including one that could allow the city Public Design Commission to remove monuments of historical figures such as Washington, Jefferson and Peter Stuyvesant, who were slaveholders, and Columbus, who has been criticized for abusing indigenous peoples during his discoveries of the New World.
“Meloni showed the Italian-Americans that we have her support and the support of the Italian people — we’re not forgotten,” said Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian-American Museum, who attended the wreath-laying event.
Still, even with the bill, it would be difficult to take down the monument honoring Columbus in Columbus Circle.
The National Park Service in 2018 added the 129-year-old, 76-foot statue near Central Park to its list of protected landmarks.
But other Columbus statues across the city could be on the chopping block.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, the author of the bill, Brooklyn Councilwoman Sandy Nurse, insisted she is attempting to correct history, not cancel it.
Under the proposal, the city’s Public Design Commission could eliminate statues from the public square because of their controversial legacies with slavery or mistreating indigenous peoples.
The PDC also could install plaques next to the statutes explaining the honoree’s misdeeds.
“It’s a reckoning with the historical injustices that continue to haunt our cities. This bill allows New York City to confront the deep-seated legacies of slavery, colonization and systemic crimes against humanity,” Nurse said.
“By contextualizing or mandating the removal of works of art depicting individuals who profited from the slavery of black people or committed heinous acts against indigenous people, we challenge the celebrations of those who have perpetuated oppression,” she said.
Nurse said the city’s public spaces are “not neutral” space and influence public opinon.
“This bill is not an erasure of history — far from it. It is actually an action of remembrance and truth to tell the entire story rather than a convenient one,” Nurse said.
“It asserts that the stories we tell and the art we display must reflect the values of equity, inclusivity and recognition of the struggles endured by marginalized communities.”
During testimony, Sideya Sherman, commissioner of Mayor Eric Adams’ Office of Equity, raised objections to how the legislation for statute removal of historical figures was constituted, with the decision put in the hands of the independent 11-member Public Design Commission.
“We have concerns regarding the appropriateness of the agencies identified in alignment with existing efforts and requirements,” Sherman said.
Under the law, the mayor has only one representative on the 11-member PDC.
Seven others are nominated by the Fine Arts Federation, and the remaining three are representatives from the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and the NY Public Library.
Palminteri said it is unfair to to judge people by comparing today’s morality to events from more than 500 years ago.
“People who come out of prison get second chances,” he said.
“It’s gotten crazy. This is just about power and wanting to get re-elected. Go get a job. See what the real people deal with,” Palminteri said of critics.