Gov. Cuomo Sides With NYC Italian Catholics – Regarding Mother Cabrini Statue Controversy

October 14, 2019

New York, NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo came out on the side of New York City Italian Catholics, who want a statue of Mother Cabrini, a Catholic Saint and Italian immigrant and humanitarian, as a city council in the New York City area, wanted to prevent a Mother Cabrini statue from going up.

From Governor Cuomo:

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on Fox 5 Good Day New York with Rosanna Scotto and Lori Stokes to discuss the Mother Cabrini statue in New York City. A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Rosanna Scotto: Governor Andrew Cuomo on the phone from Albany this morning. Hi Governor.

Governor Cuomo: Good morning to you Rosanna and Lori.

Rosanna Scotto: Good morning. Over the weekend you were talking a lot about Mother Cabrini.

Governor Cuomo: Yeah. First of all, happy Columbus Day. I’m going to be headed down soon to march and congratulations to you, Rosanna for being honored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation over the weekend.

Rosanna Scotto: Thank you.

Governor Cuomo: You deserve it. You’re a great representative of the Italian American community and you’re a great New Yorker and I was pleased to be there. The room loved you. They really loved you.

Rosanna Scotto: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Lori Stokes: That’s so nice.

Rosanna Scotto: And I was happy you were there. You said some nice things about me, I think. I think it was nice.

Lori Stokes: But he also had some very strong words about Mother Cabrini and your stance on her having a statue.

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, look. New York works with all our diversity and differences because everyone feels like they have a seat at the table. You know the key is inclusion to make New York work. And when a group feels excluded that’s a problem. We want everyone to be supportive of one another and the issue with Roman Catholics, the Bishop of Brooklyn, the Diocese of Brooklyn, they feel that Mother Cabrini should have a memorial that’s fitting.

The poll said that New Yorkers support that and I want to help. I want to let the Catholic community know – I’m a Catholic, former altar boy – that they are respected and Mother Cabrini was a great New Yorker, literally a saint, did tremendous work for the immigrant community which is totally appropriate now when we have this discussion on immigration. So we are going to work with the Diocese of Brooklyn with the Columbus Citizens Foundation and other interested groups and we will build the statue to Mother Cabrini, she deserves it.

And I just want to make sure everyone feels included, right? It’s Columbus Day. A big part for the Italian American community is about family. And New York is a family and everyone has to have a seat at the table and everyone has to feel included.

Rosanna Scotto: I agree with you, Governor. Now I’m wondering, you know, if you had any conversations with the Mayor about the statue. Last week on Good Day we brought the Cultural Affairs Department commissioner here along with Monsignor Cossato from the Brooklyn Diocese to try to kind of broker a deal with them, you know. And I was wondering if you reached out to the Mayor and whether you can broker a deal with him?

Governor Cuomo: No, I didn’t on this issue. Obviously we talk about a lot of issues, I didn’t talk about this one. But I understand what happened. I’m less interested, Rosanna, in what happened I’m more interested in how to make it better and it’s clear that the Bishop of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens feel strongly. The Columbus Club feels strongly. You have a Catholic community that feels disenfranchised. Let’s fix it. And the way to fix it is simple: Mother Cabrini is great. And she’s a great representative of support for immigration and the Italian American community and the Catholic community. And let’s honor Mother Cabrini. I think this was exacerbated because there was a controversy about the Columbus Statue

Rosanna Scotto: Absolutely. Yes, which you – thank goodness – stepped in and protected the statue from being removed so.

Governor Cuomo: Right.

Rosanna Scotto: Italian Americans thank you because, as you know Governor, that statue represents basically Italian American bias. When it was put up in the late 1800s Italian Americans were felt discriminated against. They were being lynched. They were having a hard time with assimilating in this country, so it really stands for a lot more than Columbus.

Governor Cuomo: That is exactly right. You are 100 percent right and people forget, you know, the Italian community, the Italian American community, had a long and hard road also. They were discriminated against. They still are stereotyped and I still deal with it. I’m sure you still deal with it. People have these ugly stereotypes of Italian Americans.
So we’re part of New York. We’re proud of it but the Columbus statue was, you’re right, more than about Christopher Columbus. It was a recognition of the heritage and contribution of the Italian American community. And that’s why it rankled people and I think this, Mother Cabrini brought that back again. And it’s destructive to the fabric of New York. You know, what makes us work is we celebrate Israel and we celebrate the African-American culture and we celebrate the Asian culture and we’re all in it together and we’re mutually supportive. Where you get into trouble is if a group feels disenfranchised or that they were unfairly treated or they’re not respected. Now you have a problem. And look, the Italian community and the Catholic community is a major part of New York and they shouldn’t feel that they are in any way excluded and this statue became symbolic of that so it’s simple. Let’s build the statue, and we will.

Lori Stokes: So, Governor, I know this has all come up in such a short period of time particular since Ro and I started the movement. Is there a timeframe when you say, “let’s get it done,” d uou have any kind of timeframe in mind?

Governor Cuomo: As soon as practicable. There are three steps: find an artist, find a location, raise the funding. My guess is the finding the artist and the worktime it takes the artist to do his or her work, that will be the longest lead items so to speak. So let’s start, let’s find the best artist and what do we want depicted and what’s the best location and let’s just do it. We built statues for Hurricane Maria, we built statues to honor the LGBTQ community, we built statues for reminding people of the LGBT abuse and the Florida night club shooting so this is certainly an appropriate statue for New York. That is undeniable and it’s become a controversy and an issue so let’s just do it and I want New Yorkers to know and today I want the Italian American community to know and the Catholic community to know we heard you. We understand the discontentment and it will be remedied and it is being remedied so it’s done, as long as it takes to get the statue designed and built, that will be the time.

Rosanna Scotto: Appreciate you talking with us Governor Cuomo this morning and we’ll see you on the parade route.

Governor Cuomo: Yes. And just to be clear, the statue, I’m going to work with the Diocese of Brooklyn which has been very active on this and they started it and they’re right and the Columbus Citizens Foundation and any other concerned New Yorkers, we just want to be supportive to do what they want to do and I will be marching proudly.

Rosanna Scotto: Okay, we’ll see you there. It’s going to be a nice day, Governor, thank you so much. Have a good day.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you for having me, Lori. Thank you, Rosanna. Thank you and congratulations again to Rosanna.

Rosanna Scotto: Thank you, Governor. Thank you.

Lori Stokes: Appreciate it.