By Truby Chiaviello, PRIMO Magazine

On to Syracuse…

Basil M. Russo is in no mood to rest on his laurels.

As president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), he can look back to January with a proud achievement.

From all accounts, the Italian American Future Leaders Conference was a grand success. As conceived and organized by Judge Russo, John M. Viola and others of the organizations’ Youth Committee, the gathering of young Italian Americans from January 13-16 in Fort Lauderdale, reached heights beyond all expectations.

“We continue to receive written testimonials from attendees of our Italian American Future Leaders Conference expressing how excited they were to be part of our program,” Russo said. “Some groups of attendees have scheduled follow-up meetings in their respective communities so that they can build upon the relationships they developed at the Conference. We will keep you posted on some of the creative ideas and programs that are initiated as a result of those meetings.”

But now, the time has come to get back into the ring.

From the warm sunny environs of Florida, it’s on to battle in the cold snowy hills of upstate New York.

Judge Russo looks forward to the fight. He has given the green light to COPOMIAO National Counsel George Bochetto, to file an amicus brief in New York’s appellate court to keep the Columbus monument standing tall in Syracuse.

The Columbus Monument Corporation, under the leadership of Nick Pirro — a native son of Syracuse, five-term political office holder and former county executive of Onondaga County — has won repeatedly, in both the legal and public relations bouts, brought on, unnecessarily, by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. The Columbus monument, as erected in 1934, remains a beautiful work of public art inside Saint Mary’s Circle, more commonly known as Columbus Circle, along Onondaga Street. The Columbus Monument Corp. is one of COPOMIAO’s newest members and, as such, has the backing of Judge Russo and fellow member Italian American organizations, both large and small.

“Members of the Columbus Monument Corp., and their attorney, Anthony Pietrafesa, asked COPOMIAO to file an amicus brief with the Appellate Court expressing our support for Judge Neri’s ruling,” Russo said. “An amicus brief may be filed by an organization that is not a party to a case, as is the situation here with COPOMIAO, to provide the court with information that has a bearing on the case.”

Judge Gerald Neri ruled on March 11, 2022, that Mayor Walsh had no authority to tear down the Columbus monument. Before and after the showdown in court, the Columbus Monument Corp. sought to settle the dispute. They went so far as to offer, to the tune of almost $30,000, funding for other works of art by other ethnic groups in the city. Mayor Walsh pushed away the olive branch; he remains adamant in burning taxpayers’ money to finance his fight.

“Since an important part of COPOMIAO’s mission is to speak on behalf of the Italian American community, our legal counsel, George Bochetto, filed the brief with the court expertly explaining the historical tie the Italian American community has had to Columbus, and why we support the retention of Columbus statues,” Russo said.

Mayor Walsh has insisted on appealing his NY State Supreme Court loss, despite the numerous cases like this one around the country setting precedents against him.

We continue to fight to preserve Syracuse’s historic Columbus monument against Walsh’s attacks.

We encourage the development of a Heritage Park on the nearby Powelson Site.

Walsh has asked for feedback on this initiative. If you are with us, please forward this article to him at

…and ask him to abandon his expensive and unnecessary attack on Syracuse’s art, history, and heritage.

Thank you all for your continued support and attention!

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