2015-07-29 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Mt. Rushmore Carver

To The Editor:

I often wish I were Italian.

But my late mother made spaghetti with ketchup, so I really didn’t have much of a chance.

Apparently, President Barack Obama wishes he were Italian too.

At a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi this past April, the President said he considers himself “an honorary Italian because I love all things Italian.

“And the United States would not be what we are or who we are without the contributions of generations of Italian-Americans,” he added.

Mr. President, I agree with you.

Our country has flourished for 239 years, in part, because of the contributions of Italian- Americans: men and women such as Enrico Fermi, Frances Cabrini and Arturo Toscanini, to name a few.

An immigrant from the Italian Province of Pordenone – an obscure sculptor named Luigi Del Bianco, who was the chief carver of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 1933-1940 – should be added to that list.

Never heard of Del Bianco, who resided in Port Chester, New York for nearly a half-century? You’re not alone.

That’s because the United States Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) refuses to acknowledge him as the monument’s chief carver.

Which is a head-scratcher because Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum, in a July 30, 1935 letter that you can find in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, clearly refers to Del Bianco as the chief carver.

An NPS official, Maureen McGee-Ballinger, admitted in the New York Daily News last October that she has seen and read this letter, but nonetheless refuses to call Del Bianco the chief carver.

If Gutzon Borglum himself calls Del Bianco the chief carver in his own correspondence, why isn’t that good enough for the federal government?

At the 2007, 2008 and 2009 naturalization ceremonies that are held at Mount Rushmore every year, even the Immediate Past President of the Mount Rushmore Society, Ruth Samuelsen, referred to Del Bianco as the chief carver, and challenged all the new citizens to figuratively reach the heights he had attained in his professional career.

Del Bianco’s relatives and others such as myself have been attempting for the past 35 years to get the credit for Del Bianco that he wasn’t accorded in life. But still the NPS is intransigent.

The Park Service chooses to lump all the Rushmore workers in one group, irrespective of job. And while that’s very egalitarian, it also means that Borglum’s stenographer, Ellen Katherine Kirk, receives the same credit as Del Bianco.

Ditto Edwald Hayes, who ran the elevator lift.

Egalitarian? Sure. But right? No way.

For an agency that allegedly practices multiculturalism and pluralism, this refusal to do the right thing is unfathomable.

Del Bianco, who was a decorated marksman for Italy during World War I, became a citizen of this country in 1929. And now, the United States of America won’t even posthumously recognize his artistic achievements.

There are 18 million Italian-Americans in this country, including the 230,000 in Queens, New York (approximately 8.4 percent of the borough’s population) who would be puffing up their chests with pride if the federal government at long last gave Del Bianco the recognition he is due.

I have asked a number of Members of Congress, including my friend, Representative Joe Crowley, who is an associate member of the Italian-American Congressional Delegation, to help me remedy this slight.

After all, if being chief carver at what is arguably this nation’s most iconic landmark isn’t the realization of the American dream for an immigrant to these shores, what is?

Douglas Gladstone

The one-time director of public relations for the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of Carving a Niche for Himself: The Untold Story of Luigi Del Bianco and Mount Rushmore. The book is sold in New York by Bordighera Press.

Ranting New Yorkers

To The Editor:

Thursday I saw a woman in a rant against a parking attendant and today I read about Reggie Jackson’s rant at a fan that wanted two signatures. Well both of these people were wrong in screaming at another person and both used words that were insulting and they were wrong for doing that. But that said, ranting is a way of life in New York City and there are probably 5,000 rants a day in this city and it is hardly NEWS. I think that anyone that makes a big deal about them is either a hypocrite, thin-skinned or desperate for a news story. In anger people who may not be prejudiced will use ethnic slurs just to insult the person that they are screaming at and in fact may have many friends of the same ethnic persuasion that they love. It’s the way the game is played. I repeat that it is wrong, but if you live in New York get used to it or move as it will never change.

We are eight million people in New York City, constantly grinding on each other and ranting. Again it is wrong, but it is a way of not getting ulcers.

John Procida

No ‘Shot’ At Reelection

To The Editor:

Now that the proposed ban on horse-drawn carriages has lost traction, does this mean that the outer boroughs haven’t got a shot at luring the horses-stables-stablemates-drivers and muchneeded tourism?

Re: Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2015, It seems increasingly likely the horse-drawn carriages will continue to tread Manhattan streets, but Mayor de Blasio remains committed to the proposed ban. The mayor should focus on removing guns from the streets, and reducing gun violence or he has no shot at a second term.

Kosmas Patikoglou

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