Council to Consider Changing Name of Columbus Delta in Watertown Square

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Charlie Breitrose The grassy area in Watertown Square, known as the Columbus Delta, is under consideration by the City Council to be renamed.

City Councilors decided to look at possibly changing the name of the grassy area in the middle of Watertown Square, which has been named for Christopher Columbus since 1940.

The Council received a petition from resident Mishy Lesser, on behalf of the Pigsgusset Initiative which seeks to “generate a new name that is more inclusive of all members of our community and the history of the place we now call home,” the petition reads.

On Tuesday night, City Council President Mark Sideris told the packed Council Chamber and those on Zoom, that the process is just beginning.

“The council is not going to be renaming anything tonight, please understand that what’s in front of us is do we want to continue in the process,” Sideris said.

The Council heard more than an hour of comments from the public, both for and against the name change.

Those wanting to see the change cited information about Columbus that has been found since the Delta was named for the explorer, and said that celebrating him dishonors the Indigenous people of the areas he explored, and was part of a tradition that negatively impacted the Native Americans who lived in what is now Watertown and Massachusetts.

Others spoke out against the change, saying that Italian immigrants to Watertown dedicated the Delta to a man they considered a hero, and it was a way of becoming part of American society after many endured discrimination and violence. They said removing Columbus’ name insults Italian Americans and disrespects what previous generations went through.

Speakers debated which historical accounts should be believed, whether the center of Watertown should have a name that resonates with one group of residents or a wider group, and whether changing a name to be more inclusive would exclude one group.

The Council also heard from a person with Indigenous heritage who opposed changing the name, and a few Italian Americans who want to rename the delta.

Some people wanted to know what the new name would be. The petition does not propose a name. Some said they currently called it The Delta, and said that could be an option. Another resident suggested finding a resident of Italian descent, such as Domenick Filippello, who immigrated to town and joined the U.S. military and was killed in World War I. A park on the Eastside of town is named for him.

Ultimately, the Council voted 7-2 to continue exploring a possible name change. The vote placed an item on the June 28 City Council meeting agenda to consider referring it to a Committee to discuss a name change. Sideris and Councilor John Airasian voted “no.”  

The Council will follow the naming policy for square and intersection for non-veterans, which was approved by the Council in 2019. Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said he believes the proper Committee to discuss it would be the Public Works Committee.

Councilor Lisa Feltner asked whether the policy covers the situation.

“There are some holes, if you will,” Feltner said. “The policy created in 2019 … it doesn’t really address changing a name, it really addresses creating a new name.”

Sideris said the policy provides a process that the Council can follow.

Feltner said she appreciated the wide range of views from people at the hearing, and she added that she thinks it is important for people to continue to provide input to help the Council make a final decision as the process moves forward.

27 thoughts on “Council to Consider Changing Name of Columbus Delta in Watertown Square

  1. In my opinion the very name Columbus “insults Italian Americans”. He was a murderer who never set foot on American soil, why do we continue to name things after him? Why does the Delta have to be named after anyone? Why not the Watertown Delta? Also why is this tiny patch of grass even called a delta? Shouldn’t it be called a green? I always thought a delta was a landform created by sedimentary deposits at the mouth of a river, this is not the mouth of the Charles River here is it? So many questions…..

    • Very rational comments sir. Thanks you Mr. Anderson.
      I am sorry if Italian Americans feel like they need to defend their Italian heritage because of changing the name at the center of Town. I don’t believe the “Delta” was name after Columbus to honor Italians. If it was then that seems wrong because then it kind of dishonors every other nationality.
      I will say that using a native name seems like it does bring honor and respect to native American cultures which has often been overlooked while also not insulting any descendants of other nations. It is a more neutral option.
      Calling it ‘Watertown Commons’ is better than naming it after any one person.
      I have been here for almost 40 years and never call it “Columbus Delta”. Nobody does that I know.

      • My guess is that nearly all of the virtue-signalling people who want to rename the Columbus Delta (and do other Woke things) have zero interest in Native Americans.

        These things are just ways to pat oneself on the back and feel righteous, something many Democrats are really into nowadays.

  2. It’s nothing but”virtue-signalling,” which will eventually overturn everything American and have nothing good to replace it with.

    “Virtue signalling,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.”[4] The expression is often used to imply that the virtue being signalled is exaggerated or insincere.[5]

    Here is what former Clinton advisor James Carville (a Democrat) says about “Wokeness”:

    “What went wrong is just stupid wokeness,” he told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff when she asked what happened Tuesday in Virginia, where Democratic gubernatorial incumbent Terry McAuliffe went down to Republican Glenn Youngkin. “This ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this ‘take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools.’ I mean that … people see that.”

    See: https://www.thewrap.com/carville-democrats-polls-wokeness/

  3. Leave this name alone. Allow it to be changed and get ready for petitions to replace Watertown, Charles River, Grant Ave, Colonial Ave. (that would be a good one, uh?), etc., with whatever “indigenous” or “inclusive” names may come to mind to the activists, who will never be satisfied.

    It is a slippery slope. We got bigger things to worry about.

  4. Amazing what the Town, eh City, Council wastes their time with while the great sell off of Watertown continues full throttle.

  5. Removing the name of Columbus from our heritage and history is a matter of serious concern not just for the Italians, but for the future understanding of our American and world history. Columbus contribution to the innovations of navigation resulted with many other individuals setting foot on the US soil and eventually creating this much acclaimed experiment of governance by a Democracy. The founding of America has granted a refuge and a “Haven” to numerous human beings who are now ancestors of the many current US citizens of diverse nationalities. After Columbus’ voyages, millions of European immigrants populated this New World and brought with them their art, music, science, medicine, philosophy and religious principles. Hence Columbus is a symbol of the expansion of cultural and economic exchange between the two continents of America and Europe.

    Additionally, after gaining their independence from England, our Founding Fathers, having rejected England and its cultural values, sought for ways to fill the voids. Along with other dominions, they looked for champions and heroes to fill the pages of their new developing story. They already had a number of men and women: George Washington, Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and countless others who had risen to prominence through their courage, patriotism, wisdom, foresight and capability. And yes, after the American Revolution, it should be of no surprise to anyone that Columbus also rose to this sought level of prominence. His foresight, audacious resolve, sense of exploration, and daring grit to risk everything for what he believed to be true aligned exactly with the sentiment of the colonists who had just defeated the mighty British army and navy. Hence, through their perseverance, both Columbus and the Colonists are the symbol of expansion of man’s evolution by altering the course of history, with their incomparable gifts of determination.

    Today it’s well worth remembering why Columbus was so admired by our ancestors and our Founding Fathers and why it is important to keep his name viable and relevant. Ronald Reagan articulated the sentiment distinctively: “[Columbus] was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding whatever was there.” Hence it can be said, with some good level of certainty, that Columbus was the ancestor of the American dream and the explorer whose discovery provided the land where the dream was rendered. Columbus’ name is all around us. Columbia University is named for him, as is Columbus, Ohio, Columbia County in Georgia, Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, and other numerous cities, places and counties of the US. The Knights of Columbus adopted his name in honor of his Catholic roots and most significantly, the District of Columbia, in Washington, D.C., our national capital, bears his name.

    It is also a fact that, between 1776 and 1887, more than 250 years after Columbus first visited the New World, the United States government and some of its citizens, through the so-called “Indian Wars.” managed to take by aggressive and morally reprehensible means 1.5 billion acres of land ( roughly 2/3 the size of China ) from the Indigenous People. In comparison, the entire continental United States currently has 1.9 billion acres of land! In addition, between 1778 and 1871, the America’s federal administrations signed over 500 treaties with indigenous tribes and have broken every one of them. To blame Columbus for America’s demise of the Native American Indians is comparable to blaming John Glenn, being the first American to orbit the earth, for any future conflicts that may arise in regard to space.

    Essentially, the name Columbus commemorates the vitality of both Christopher Columbus and our Founding Fathers. It conveys the sentiment of bravery, equality, diversity, vitality, quality, energy, resolve, innovation, courage, etc. It should remain as it has been established in order to have the future generations know the history of our nation as it truly evolved!!!

    • Andrew Anderson said “In my opinion the very name Columbus ‘insults Italian Americans'”

      Is that not a “slight”?

      Who is he to pass judgement on Italians and what insults them?

      Let us not have favoritism.

  6. Carmelina DAlleva brings up some good points. These commemorations aren’t always about one thing. I don’t feel that we need to celebrate Columbus Day anymore—it is a kick in the face to indigenous people since it mainly heralds the arrival of Europeans to these shores, which is just part of the story and it’s not a pretty story. Indigenous tribes weren’t perfect either and many of the same atrocities committed by Europeans on indigenous peoples were committed between tribes. No subset of human beings has any lock on morality.

    The name could be changed, but if it is, it should be changed to something neutral as a few other people have mentioned here. On the other hand, maybe it should be tabled until this frenzy of wokeness has reached its peak and we can all admit our mistakes.

    Then maybe we can think more seriously about the climate crisis, which, in the words of writer Naomi Klein, “changes everything”.

  7. Hilarious to see people complain about the acknowledgement that Columbus is a fraud and a murderer. You people sound like Gandolfini in Sopranos yelling at AJ for questioning Columbus Day.

    There are plenty of other deserving figures the delta can be named after, far and recent past. Old folks afraid of change grasping at straws need to get with the times. It’s 2022 folks, we are much more educated with a better understanding of history. Columbus should be taught accurately and not celebrated.

    Honestly I’d be happier with Eliza Dushku Delta. (Only half kidding…)

  8. The vitriol spewed by some at the hearing was truly off-putting. Frankly, I assumed most in attendance were Americans, but speaker after speaker claimed to be Italian and offended at the prospect of changing the name. Then, there was the Trumpian “cancel culture” and “woke” charges tossed about.

    My ancestral roots are British and French and go back to the Revolutionary War period, but I am an American. Columbus Delta has always seemed odd to me as it isn’t a memorial to Italian-American war dead and has no significance as a location identifier. I see no problem in considering a name change, since renaming the space does not mean removing the existing plaque. I would recommend and support changing the name of the space to reflect place, such as Watertown Green or Watertown Center.

  9. Let’s see, did “Mishy Lesser” grow up in Watertown or is she just another transplant who couldn’t afford Cambridge? Did she celebrate the taking down of the Columbus statue in the North End or the Lincoln statue in Park Square? Most of us know what Columbus brought to the New World, but I will wager that even Mishy has a few rotting branches on her family tree that just might shock her if she knew about them. People love to quote the Constitution for their particular likes, when it be the right to bear arms, or freedom of speech, or all “men are created equal”. However, the right to bear arms does not apply to AR-15’s, freedom of speech only applies to those who agree with your position, and all “men” are created equal was not written by those who had any thoughts of either women, or men who were not white, period!
    Now, just who will get to choose the name if Columbus is dispatched to the trash heap? Let me take a wild guess????????????

  10. In my whole life as a 3rd generation Watertown resident, we have always called it just “The Delta”. (let’s meet at The Delta, we will gather on The Delta, when you get to The Delta take a right, etc etc) Just remove the other name and move on to more important things.

    • There is no NEED to change or remove the name Columbus.

      Identify the NECESSITY.

      We’re not going to go around renaming things just because a minority of people say so.

      Shall we rename Washington, District of COLUMBIA?

      Maybe rename America?

      We don’t change things unless there is a NEED.

  11. This horrible attack on Christopher Columbus is based on Howard Zinn. It has been proven time and time again Howard Zinn Lied. Many articles and books have been published disproving these slanderous attacks on Columbus. However, certain groups refuse to believe the truth. It is up to these elected officials to distinguish Truth from fiction. Do not insult and offend the Italian American people over lies and hate. STOP ITALIAN Hate once and for all.

    • Nobody has ever gone into this name change process with the intention in mind of erasing Italian American identity or promoting slander. It’s simply that the people who defend Columbus and his actions have picked a representative who, even in his own day, was considered to be a brutal and cruel; his own contemporaries removed him from the post of colonial governor for the torture and mutilation he inflicted upon the native people of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti). If you want to claim him as your own, fine, but I personally feel that Italian Americans would be best represented by a more benevolent figure, one like John Gotti, or Joe Arpaio.

  12. As an Italian-American and resident of Watertown, I am not in the least offended by the effort to change the name of the Delta. Columbus Day was never about being Italian or Italian pride where I grew up. It was a celebration of “the discovery” of America. I’m 60 and the way the history of Columbus was taught when I began school was based more on mythology than fact — he didn’t “discover” the continent; he did not prove that the earth was round; he wasn’t benevolent to native people. He sailed for Spain, for crineoutloud. If you want to defend the heritage of the Italian people — and why not, it’s a remarkable culture — then work to fight stereotypes relating to mob culture, or businesses that use mafia imagery to sell their product.

  13. The idea that questioning the use of the Columbus name is anti-Italian is total nonsense. People have legitimate concerns about the history of Columbus and what he represents. Agree or disagree, but stop the silly claim that this is anti-Italian!

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