Columbus statue at Penn’s Landing to remain uncovered after lawsuit settles
The 106-foot-tall Christopher Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing will remain in place, with coverings removed, for the foreseeable future, according to both parties involved in a lawsuit over the monument’s fate.
Earlier this week, the groups – the America 500 Anniversary Corporation and the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation – reached an agreement, with a waterfront spokesperson confirming that it had agreed to remove the signs placed around the base. of the monument after the turmoil caused by racial injustice last summer.
“While DRWC has agreed to remove the paintings and maintain our contractual obligation to keep the monument as it is, we remain committed to continuing public awareness and engagement, ensuring that all voices are heard. and that a variety of views can be expressed, ”Joe Forkin, president of the Waterfront Corporation, said in a statement, noting that another public engagement campaign would be unveiled soon.
The base of the Delaware River monument was covered in paintings last year “in an effort to give the public a voice during a time of civil unrest,” Forkin said. The move came amid the nationwide toll of the country’s history of racism, including its exploitation of Indigenous peoples, after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd.
Many historians say that Columbus led the slavery, abuse, and murder of Indigenous peoples, and many Indigenous people said that someone who brutalized their ancestors should not be honored. Yet the Italian explorer is lauded by many – some of whom in Philadelphia fiercely defended his image last summer – as a symbol of their heritage.
George Bochetto, an attorney with the America 500 Anniversary Corporation, the non-profit organization that built the monument in 1992, sued DRWC last year for breach of contract for covering the base of the Columbus monument. He said his team were “delighted” with this week’s settlement.
“The monument will remain in place in perpetuity and all facings and guy ropes will be removed,” said Bochetto, “so that the public will still have access and see it in the same way that they have done in the past decades. . “
Bochetto also represents the Friends of Marconi Plaza, a group fighting to conserve the statue of Christopher Columbus in South Philadelphia Park. Last month, a judge ruled the statue could stay there, ending the city’s plans to remove it. Mayor Jim Kenney said his administration will appeal the judge’s ruling.
The specific terms of the Penn’s Landing monument settlement are confidential, so no further details are available, the riparian company said.
A spokesperson said the company can do more public outreach and can “where appropriate provide or install additional contextual or interpretive material that expresses a variety of views.”