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NYC Commission Reviewing Controversial Monuments Holds First Public Hearing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The public got its first chance to voice their concerns about several controversial monuments throughout the city before a special commission appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The hearing began at 10 a.m. Friday at Queens Borough Hall.

The controversy has been the source of protests and multiple acts of vandalism. Over the last few weeks, red paint was splashed across monuments, including Teddy Roosevelt and Christopher Columbus.

Friday's hearing was the first time that people will be able to voice their opinion in person in front of the mayor's advisory commission. 

Jeffrey Kressler said he thinks it's wrong to have a commission in the first place.

"I recoil at the notion of white-washing history," he told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell. "History is not pretty. History does not care how you feel."

The 18-member Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers has the job of reviewing the monuments and recommending what, if any action, should be taken.

Among the controversial issues the commission will weigh is whether statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle should remain in place or come down.

People have been vocal on both sides of the issue.

"He enslaved them, he dispossessed them, he took their land, he raped the women," said Rich Avola, with an American Indian group.

Virginia Caputo disagreed.

"Christopher Columbus was a daring explorer who lived in the Renaissance of the Middle Ages and lived on those standards of the time," she said.

"I think it's wrong for us to celebrate these people," said Josh Lamon of Woodside, Queens.

"I think they should stay here. It's a very important part of the city," said Richard Gomez of the Lower East Side.

The city has also provided an online survey for people to weigh in with questions including "What do you think is the role of public monuments in our city's public spaces?"and "What factors should the city consider when reviewing a monument?"

There will be additional hearings -- one in each borough -- before the end of the month.

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