Pol proposes law to preserve Columbus Day as NYC school holiday

Pol proposes law to preserve Columbus Day as NYC school holiday

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A state lawmaker — outraged by the de Blasio administration’s canceling of Columbus Day as a school holiday — is introducing a bill to restore the explorer to the New York City school calendar by rescinding the re-labeling to “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples Day.”

“It is being drafted. Hopefully ready for submission next week,” said state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).

He said the proposed law is “likely to read along the lines of: ‘Columbus Day required to be one of the days included with official school holidays and remembrance.’”

Italian-American elected officials are furious that the de Blasio administration blindsided them by removing Columbus Day from the school calendar. There was no input or consultation with the Italian American community.

De Blasio himself said Wednesday it was a botched rollout.

Columbus Day remains a federal, state and city holiday.

Sen. Andrew J. Lanza is among those who are furious about the removal of Columbus Day from the NYC schools calendar.
State Sen. Andrew J. Lanza is among those who are furious about the removal of Columbus Day from the NYC school calendar.
Hans Pennink

But the city Department of Education put out the new school calendar Tuesday, referring to Oct. 11 — Columbus Day — as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

An uproar from Italian-American politicians and activists ensued and the DOE, clearly in damage control, updated the calendar to say it would close schools on Oct. 11 for “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter sought to contain the public relations debacle Wednesday, by making personal calls to Italian-American legislators to apologize for the snub.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) said he received a call from Ross Porter Wednesday morning and expressed his displeasure.

“I blame the mayor. I told the mayor’s people and chancellor they have to put Columbus Day back in the school calendar,” said Addabbo, past chair of the state Italian-American Legislators group.

“There was no transparency at all. They tried to do this in a sneaky way. We want to undo what was bad government.”

Addabbo said he wants to give the mayor time to fix the slight — but left the door open to backing a state law to try to undo the name change if City Hall doesn’t put Columbus Day back in the school calendar.

“It was an administrative error they can correct administratively. If not, we’ll consider all options,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, de Blasio, who is of Italian descent through his mom, claimed neither he nor Chancellor Ross Porter knew in advance about plans by DOE officials to change the holiday.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter tried to assuage the anger held by certain lawmakers over the Columbus Day holiday issue.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter tried to assuage the anger held by certain lawmakers over the Columbus Day holiday issue.
Paul Martinka

But the mayor insisted the joint celebration of Italian and Native American heritage was “right and appropriate.”

“We spoke about it and we both agreed this was not the right way to handle things,” he said. “The original idea wasn’t sufficient and we addressed that.”

Meanwhile Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted de Blasio for slighting Italian-Americans.

“Why do you feel the need to diminish the Italian American contribution to recognize the indigenous peoples’ contribution?” Cuomo said during a subsequent press conference.

The governor called the decision to merge the two celebrations “destructive” and “unhealthy for the body politic.”

“You can have an Indigenous Peoples’ Day without intruding on Columbus Day, and that is the spirit of New York,” he said.

“Columbus Day is a state holiday and Columbus Day will stay a state holiday.”

It’s not the first time team de Blasio has offended Italian-Americans.

The Italian explorer’s legacy has been hotly-contested in the Big Apple since de Blasio launched a “Monuments Commission” in 2018 to reconsider statues of historical figures whose past included connections to slavery or oppression. Hizzoner specifically cited the Midtown statue of Columbus when announcing the commission, but the monument remains.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not pleased with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOE's decision to change the holiday on the school calendar.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOE’s decision to change the holiday on the school calendar.
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

The initiative eventually morphed into an effort to install statues honoring women overseen by first lady Chirlane McCray — further enraging Italian Americans when Mother Francis Cabrini was excluded despite having received the most support in a public straw poll.

Cuomo put up state money to erect a statue in Cabrini’s honor in Battery Park after the city failed to recognize her.

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