Ahead of the observation of Columbus Day Monday, Italian-American community leaders paid tribute Sunday to perhaps the most famous statue of Christopher Columbus. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
It was all about Italia Sunday as the Columbus Citizens Foundation paid homage not just to Christopher Columbus but to Italian-American immigrants, particularly those who are civil servants.
"We sleep at night because they don't," said Frank Fusaro, the president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. "This is the cleanest and safest city major city in the country and it's because of police, fire and santitation and the job that they do."
Each year, the group honors those men and women in uniform by placing a red, white and green wreath at the base of the 75-foot statue. This year, however, they embarked on a slightly different voyage, landing instead in front of a silhouette of the man of the hour.
The reason for the change of scenery is a massive art installation that surrounds the sculpture, taking the explorer out of the elements and into a living room-type setting.
"Cristoforo really embodies the spirit of entreprenurialism, the spirit of adventure and the spirit that we all like about America and about New York City," said Mario Gabelli, who will be the grand marshal of Monday's Columbus Day Parade.
While there were some complaints about having the statue covered during Columbus Day Weekend, none of them were heard up here. In fact, parade organizers felt nothing but awe as the came eye-to-eye with their icon for the first time.
"I think it's amazing," said Ron Cohen, the president of the Sanitation Columbia Association. "I think it's the most beautiful thing I've seen in quite a long time."
"It's iconic," Fusaro said. "It's absolutely amazing to see the statue up front and close. It's just beautiful, the symbolism."
"You must go up there and spend some time with Chris," said Joseph Guagliardo, the president of the National Council of Columbia Associations. "He's an awesome guy. He doesn't serve. He doesn't talk a lot, which may be very therapeutic."
As part of the Public Art Fund Exhibit, the 120-year-old statue will receive a $1 million restoration, its first facelift in decades. The exhibit remains open through Nov. 18.
The Columbus Day festivities continue Monday with the annual Manhattan Columbus Day parade up Fifth Avenue. It steps off at 11:30 a.m.
The parade begins on 47th Street and heads up to 72nd Street. It lasts until about 3 p.m.
The Columbus Day holiday also means closures and service changes Monday.
Government offices, courts and public schools are closed. There is also no mail delivery or garbage or recycling collection.
Alternate-side parking rules are suspended but you still have to feed the meters.
Subways, buses, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains will be running on a regular weekday schedule, as will the Staten Island Ferry.