"I'm as miffed as you are," de Blasio told a reporter during his Thursday briefing.
On Tuesday, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) quietly released its school calendar, and Oct. 11 was marked a day off school not for Christopher Columbus, but for indigenous peoples. The calendar drew backlash from the city’s Italian American leaders who take pride in Columbus; it was taken offline Tuesday evening.
When it was reposted, the holiday had been changed to "Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People's Day." Students and staff were also given a day off on June 20 to celebrate Juneteenth, which is on June 19 but falls on a Sunday this year.
"I think this process wasn't handled right. I certainly didn't hear about the change, nor did the chancellor. So we spoke about it and we both agreed this was not the right way to handle things," the Democratic mayor said in a briefing a day earlier.
"The fact that a calendar naming didn't come to her attention or my attention on one hand doesn't surprise me, but it was not the right thing to do," he continued.
Still, the mayor said he is happy to see a day honoring Italian Americans.
"I'm an Italian American could not be more proud ... We have to honor that day as a day to recognize the contributions of all Italian Americans. So, of course, the day should not have been changed arbitrarily. I think saying it's a day to celebrate Italian American heritage is absolutely right and appropriate," he said.
"The process wasn't right, but the end result is going to be a day to honor Italian American heritage, a day to honor indigenous peoples."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also blasted the renaming decision on Wednesday.
"Let me give you a shocker. You ready for a shocker? I disagree with it. I know you’re taken aback. Cities have certain authority and a city can declare a city holiday. When it comes to appreciating and respecting Indigenous people, I agree 100%. They deserve much more than a holiday," Cuomo said.
"Columbus Day is a day where we celebrate the Italian American contribution to this state. It’s not either/or. We’re not drawing lines and dividing. You don’t have to exclude Italians to celebrate indigenous people."
A push for federal recognition of Juneteenth gained steam last year after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Last summer, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson and James Lankford introduced an amendment proposing to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a new federal holiday to avoid putting the U.S. "further in debt."
"In response to a bipartisan effort to give federal workers another day of paid leave by designating Juneteenth a federal holiday, we have offered a counterproposal that does not put us further in debt," Johnson said Wednesday. "We support celebrating emancipation with a federal holiday, but believe we should eliminate a current holiday in exchange. We chose Columbus Day as a holiday that is lightly celebrated, and least disruptive to Americans’ schedules."
Fox News' Evie Fordham and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.