Republican Councilman Eric Ulrich announced Monday plans to file legislation that would require a majority of the City Council’s 51 members to sign off on the removal of statues from city property.
Speaking at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Ulrich (R-Queens) said the measure, which he plans on introducing at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, comes in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s formation of a special commission last month tasked with reviewing the city’s controversial statues and monuments.
De Blasio convened the panel to study possible “symbols of hate,” following the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, that centered on a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“The City Council needs to be a check on Mayor de Blasio and not a rubber stamp,” said Ulrich, one of three Republicans in the Democratic controlled chamber.
Ulrich has joined several Republican lawmakers and Italian-American civic leaders in denouncing de Blasio’s blue-ribbon panel in response to suggestions from some Democratic lawmakers and activists that the panel weigh the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue that towers over Columbus Circle.
Activists have said the Italian explorer should not be honored, citing his treatment of the indigenous people he encountered in his journeys. But Italian-American groups have countered that the statute embodies both the struggles and accomplishments of Italian immigrants in the city.
The City Council would have to vote to put the measure before voters during the city’s 2021 general election, Ulrich said. If that happens and voters approve it, it would take effect that year, he said.
“I believe that the voters and the people of this city want the city council to have a role in the process,” Ulrich said. “They don’t want the mayor deciding unilaterally what statues stay and what statues go.”
Asked about Ulrich’s proposal, de Blasio spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas, said in an email: “There’s a comprehensive, thoughtful process going on. This proposal is unlikely to play any role in that.”