PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former Providence Mayor and real estate mogul Joe Paolino has set his sights on purchasing a controversial statue.
Paolino tells 12 News he’s attempting to preserve the capital city’s Christopher Columbus statue, which has been vandalized numerous times in recent years.
“It turned my stomach to see red paint thrown on it,” he said. “It was a slap in the face.”
The statue was boarded up a few years ago after vandals threatened to tear it down. The city decided to put in storage a few days after the plywood box it was encased in was vandalized.
Paolino has offered to not only buy the statue from the city for $50,000, but also pay for moving expenses.
“I’ve done well in life and if I can give back to the community, I’d like to do that,” he explained.
When asked why he wants to preserve it, Paolino said the statue is part of the city’s Italian-American history.
“I don’t want to see anyone melt it down and turn it into scrap metal,” he said. “History is very important, both good and bad.”
Paolino said his bid for the statue is one of two the city is considering, with the other being from someone out-of-state.
If the city agrees to let him buy the statue, Paolino said he plans to put it somewhere in the city where it will be respected.
“[Hundreds of] years ago things were different,” he said. “I think there has to be mention of some of the negatives of Columbus, but let that be part of wherever it’s located.”
Paolino floated the idea of working with the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art, though nothing has been set in stone yet.
It’s unclear at this time whether the city will accept Paolino’s bid for the statue.