The police said they were seeking any surveillance video that may exist, and that no arrests had been made in continuing investigation.

On Tuesday morning, a worker from the Central Park Conservancy’s conservation team stood atop a ladder, methodically rubbing a solvent-soaked rag on Columbus’ right hand, which was stained bright red, a bronze flag in its grasp. A worker had draped a drop cloth over the statue’s base to keep drips of red paint from staining it.

Robrecht Cornelis, 50, a cargo ship captain visiting from Belgium, looked on with his family as the workers cleaned the 15-foot-tall statue.

“It’s good people are reminded of the other side of the story,” Mr. Cornelis said of the vandalism. “People need the full history to pay attention.”

The Central Park statue is about half a mile north of the more famous depiction of Columbus that towers over Columbus Circle at 59th Street. It was commissioned by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ 1492 voyage across the Atlantic from Spain and sculpted by Jeronimo Sunol, a Spanish sculptor.

Last month, another statue in Central Park, that of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a pioneering gynecologist who experimented on slaves, was vandalized. Mr. Phillips, the mayor’s spokesman, said there are no plans to add additional protections to the statues. “Police on the beat will be keeping an eye out, but there’s no plan or need at this point for any sort of additional large-scale law-enforcement deployment surrounding these sites,” he wrote in an email. “New Yorkers are by and large respectful of public property and we don’t see that changing in any meaningful way.”

“We’ve known for a long time that bigotry, slavery and racism are evil, but you can’t whitewash history,” said Mark Hollander, 42, a real estate developer from Miami who had come to New York to avoid the hurricane in Florida.“Maybe Christopher Columbus wasn’t the most ethical person or kind person, but his accomplishments stand for themselves.”

Angelina and Dylan Peace, who were visiting from California on their honeymoon, stood at the base as workers scrubbed at the red hands. “A lot of people think he’s given this false heroism,” said Ms. Peace, 25, an event planner. “We’re taught that he’s a founder.”

Her husband agreed. “It’s only when we are introduced to other cultures that we get the other side of the story,” said Mr. Peace. “Then we learn he’s not the person they say he was.”

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