Police and Barricades Removed From Columbus Circle; Let the Skateboarding Begin


By Christopher Breslin

The daffodils are up in Columbus Circle and the metal barricades that were in place for nearly ten months have finally come down. Columbus Circle and the fountain area are free again for all to roam and enjoy.

Sometime in the night on the day before St. Patrick’s Day the police who had been guarding the statue of Christopher Columbus 24/7 since June of last year quietly departed without a whisper.

When the police first arrived in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, Columbus Circle was transformed from a place of bucolic beauty into a frozen zone that resembled a military blockade with police vehicles, lights on, stationed inside a perimeter of metal gating.

Through the next 10 months, the 76-foot-tall monument received a full-time security detail to ensure that no one damaged it.

Neighbors have debated Columbus and his place in history for the past few years. Some felt the statue should be taken down because of Columbus’ well-documented past atrocities, while others felt Columbus earned his right to be honored.

One question that no one could answer was how much this round-the-clock security was costing.

Back at their favorite stomping ground.

On a gusty afternoon with a slight chill in the air the fountain area below the statue was sparsely populated. One of the few people in the area was a construction worker named Greg, who was sitting on the steps below the statue eating a sandwich. Asked what he thought the operation cost, he said “A lot of money, I bet. We saw the police here for most of the winter, at least when we started back to work.”

Another passerby named Jennifer, who was walking across the fountain area carrying two bags from Whole Foods, said, “I couldn’t even begin to think about how much it cost. We have all been through a lot this year. We have to move on, and people must stop hating. History was and will never be perfect.”

Doug Turetsky, chief of staff of the Independent Budget Office, said, “Unfortunately there are no accurate breakdowns. We don’t know how much of this was regular time pay or how much of this was overtime pay. We just don’t have any accurate information on it.”

For now, Columbus Circle is back to being a place of happiness and tranquility. Three high school kids were riding their skateboards, doing tricks and jumps. They were laughing and talking with each other.

They said their names were Charlie, Gabe and Daniel. Charlie grew up on the Upper West Side, and Gabe and Daniel are from the East Side, but they like to meet up at Columbus Circle.

“It’s one of my favorite spots on all of the West Side to skateboard,” said Charlie. “I am happy it’s open.”

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. Bob says:

      Saying you can’t calculate the cost because you can’t tell how much is regular time versus overtime seems like a dodge. If the amount of time spent on this was less than the total overtime spent by the police this year (surely yes), then almost by definition this was all overtime. If it was not classified that way, it was only because the police then worked “overtime” to do their normal jobs. And if they didn’t — if there’s so little crime that cops are otherwise unoccupied and could be diverted to this with no impact on the community — then… well that’s a shock, but if that’s the case then we shouldn’t have any overtime anywhere.

    2. Peter says:

      They should replace Columbus with a statue honoring the Lenape tribes who inhabited the area before the Dutch. Columbus is a joke. He “discovered” a continent that was brimming with millions of people, confused it for India, then didn’t even get the naming rights. (That honor went to Amerigo Vespucci). I can’t think why we honor him except for the fact he had good PR.

      • LL says:

        Columbus figured out it was not India pretty quickly. And both what Columbus did to and what happened to the indigenous people of the Americas was horrible. But it was after Columbus that Europeans started coming here. Unless someone is of 100% indigenous descent, we are all either from somewhere else or descended from people who are not from this continent.

        Lets not forget. All of downtown Manhattan is based off the trails of the First Peoples. So there should be something honoring them downtown AND a statue of Columbus

        And we honor Columbus because Italian immigrants advocated for it. Which is shy Columbus should not be removed AND a monument should be added downtown.

      • PastramiBliss says:

        Those of us who don’t want to replace ANY statue are still in the majority. Your “woke” type may be all the rage now (no pun intended), but society will swing back sooner than you may expect it.

        • josh says:

          Those who agree with you are in the majority because they agree with you? Most polls seem to say otherwise. Do you have any data to back up your assertion?

          • PastramiBliss says:

            Polls? You mean like ALL the polls in 2016 that said Hillary Clinton had a 95% chance or higher to be president? Those polls?

            • Josh says:

              I mean something other than your own opinion to back up your assertion of what the majority of people think. Your own thoughts do not constitute a majority. So, what evidence do you have that more people wish it to stay than see it replaced?

    3. Good lead / opening sentence, Mr. Breslin.

    4. Josh says:

      Hopefully the NYPD will stop parking their private cars all over Central Park West from 59th to 62nd now. If not, they could at least root out the corrupt cops who intentionally scuff up their license plate numbers to avoid speed cameras and bridge tolls. Premeditated theft is a crime whether you’re a cop or not.

      • Mark L says:

        Came here to call out the situation on CPW just north of the circle as well. It’s brazen theft of public space. The next mayoral administration needs to reign in this behavior as it hurts everyone (people crossing the street who can’t see around parked cars, bikers who can’t get through bike lanes) and benefits a tiny handful of cops who feel entitle to a parking spot wherever they want, whenever they want it.

      • Other Josh says:

        Wait, you want the police to follow the rules? Or to police themselves? What world do you live in?

      • Nicole Wilder says:

        Let’s also mention the bridle path in Central Park just north of the 86th transverse that is just packed with officers’ private vehicles. The officers speed as they enter, don’t yield to pedestrians, drive unsafely in the park, and cause wear and tear to the pathway there where they park. It’s riddled with deep potholes that make it essentially impassable and unsafe. Personal vehicles have no place in Central Park!

    5. Vincent Bonamassa says:

      Great read Chris. Your a very talented man and a great friend. Love you pal

    6. Felice says:

      Wonder why the city decided to stop protecting the statue. Now the mafia can keep it safe. 😉

      • Great! Nice to see rioters or statue attackers mess with the mafia.

        By the way, during the nightly protests Columbus Circle was a gathering point and a neighborhood disruption. The NYPD were not only guarding the statue, they were keeping the neighborhood safe.

    7. Ron Gilbert says:

      Happy NYC skateboard days are back👍

    8. Lisa says:

      The studied cool of that skateboard photo 🙂

    9. Craig says:

      Glad to see the Circle is open again. Wonderfully written piece. Paints a beautiful picture of Spring in the air and better days ahead!

    10. Kirsty Nahm says:

      Beautifully written Mr. Breslin
      From the heart and authentic to the nth degree

    11. Josh says:

      There are still at least two cops cars guarding the Columbus Statue on the Mall in Central Park, 24/7. There are real life Asian Americans being attacked every day and the NYPD is spending its resources guarding a 400 year old Italian American made of stone. The politicization of the NYPD over the last few years is starting to impact their ability to protect this city. They made their first ever endorsement of a presidential candidate in 2020 (guess who). Focus on the job and forget the politics.

    12. Jeb says:

      The statue can be replaced after the next war is finished I am assuming the fly over states will win the war as they have all the guns and sons in the military. New York will only last a couple days as the liberals will surrender. Maybe a statue of Trump can be the replacement.

    13. Wijmlet says:

      “the police who had been guarding the statue of Christopher Columbus 24/7” !!!

    14. Tom says:

      Before the Floyd George verdict?! Mistake.

      • Brandon says:

        Really, the absolute least you could do is get his name right: George Floyd.

        And there will be no “verdict” for him because he’s not on trial. It’s his murderer, Derek Chauvin, who is.

      • Will says:

        Derek Chauvin is the one on trial not George.

    15. Jeannine says:

      It is great that Columbus Circle is open again, but please do not encourage skateboarders. There is a sign that skateboarding is not allowed. They ruin the stone work and make it dangerous to walk for pedestrians . It is not a playground . Taxpayers and Central Park conservancy will have to pay for the broken stonework. Make it public that skateboarding is not allowed.