Cuomo nominates Christopher Columbus defender for CUNY board

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated one of New York City’s staunchest defenders of Christopher Columbus to serve as a trustee on CUNY’s governing board — and a battle is already brewing over the move.

Cuomo’s pick — Angelo Vivolo, 74, a retired restaurateur and prominent local Italian-American leader — will be interviewed during scheduled board confirmation hearings Monday, and sources say his advocacy for Columbus will come up.

The Democratic-run state Senate must ratify Vivolo’s nomination to serve on CUNY’s board, and there are some lawmakers who oppose the kind of public celebrations that Vivolo has fervently backed for Columbus, who enslaved native peoples during his famous explorations in the 1400s.

“I told [Vivolo] there are people who are going to have questions. We’ll ask what makes him qualified to be a CUNY trustee,” said Toby Stavisky (D-Queens), who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, to The Post.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Columbus Citizens Foundation Board Chairman Angelo Vivolo at an unveiling event for the new statue of Mother Frances Cabrini at a ceremony held in Battery Park on Oct. 12, 2020.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Columbus Citizens Foundation Board Chairman Angelo Vivolo at an unveiling event for a statue of Mother Frances Cabrini at a ceremony held in Battery Park on Oct. 12, 2020.
STEFAN JEREMIAH

Vivolo has served as the longtime chair of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which runs the city’s annual Columbus Day Parade, and heads the Columbus Heritage Coalition.

He recently slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city Education Department for striking the Christopher Columbus holiday from the public-school calendar and renaming it Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day.

He also served as a Cuomo appointee to a state panel that commissioned a statue to honor Mother Frances Cabrini — after de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray snubbed the Italian immigrant saint when announcing the first round of names of famous women to be honored with monuments. Cabrini had received the most nominations from the public to be honored with such a monument.

Vivolo is a Brooklyn native who taught in city public schools for 10 years after graduating from Long Island University in Brooklyn. He went on to run successful “Vivolo” Italian restaurants in the city.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) with Columbus Citizens Foundation Board Chairman Angelo Vivolo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Angelo Vivolo. Vivolo took master’s courses at CUNY’s Brooklyn College and Hunter College.
STEFAN JEREMIAH

“I’m going to keep my fingers crossed,” Vivolo told The Post of his pending confirmation vote. “I’m very familiar with CUNY.”

Vivolo took courses toward a master’s degree in teaching at CUNY’s Brooklyn College and Hunter College.

His brother and sister also earned associate degrees from CUNY’s New York City Tech, where Vivolo lectured when he was a restaurateur.

He also has served on other boards and foundations, including John Cabot University in Rome.

Vivolo told The Post that he wears his support of Columbus on his sleeve — and he will address it head-on at the confirmation hearings.

“My position on Columbus is very simple: education,” Vivolo said.

“The best way to deal with Columbus is to provide education, to provide knowledge and to provide the truth. I hope the controversy doesn’t prevent me from being a trustee on the CUNY board.

“Columbus is someone Italian-Americans look up to. There are detractors. But I’m here to serve the interests of everyone — not just Italian-Americans. I’m just one voice.”

Meanwhile, de Blasio recommended the appointment of his former deputy mayor for health and human services, Herminia Palacio, for a separate spot on the CUNY board. The mayor as well as governor select appointees to the board.

Palacio became CEO of the abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute in 2019 after serving at City Hall for three years grappling with issues including homelessness, NYCHA’s lead-paint scandal and the measles outbreak.

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