New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez today announced the groundbreaking of Plaza de Las Americas project in Washington Heights. The new Plaza de Las Americas will create a permanent focal point – a town square or plaza – for the Washington Heights community. The dynamic paving design references the style found in many town squares of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
La Plaza was specifically designed to enhance the market. For the first time ever, market vendors will be able to access electrical power and water for their booths. La Plaza de Las Americas will also feature trees, pedestrian scale lighting, an information kiosk, benches, café tables and chairs, and an artwork fountain by artist Ester Partegás that celebrates the plurality and richness of cultures that make up La Plaza.
“The new Plaza de Las Americas will be a vibrant destination and a pleasant gathering space for a truly diverse community, and a unique opportunity to enjoy an attractive, quality open area,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “We’re excited to transform this street from asphalt to the high-quality public plaza that the Washington Heights and Northern Manhattan community deserves.”
“DDC is proud to have partnered with DOT, our Local Elected Officials and Community Stakeholders, for the groundbreaking of the new Plaza de Las Americas, or as our local community refers to it, La Plaza,” noted Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design and Construction. “Our transformative design draws inspiration from Caribbean, Central and South American themes. This inclusive design would not have been successful without the input of the Community. Today we are proudly realizing the vision of so many people, including Mayor di Blasio. A vision that successfully marries the provision of safe and accessible pedestrian spaces while creating a local hub for economic and cultural incubation. This is an achievement that will be a vital part of the community for generations to come.”
“Our community is being revitalized at every corner! After years of planning, today we come together to see a space our community has valued for decades transformed into an even better venue. La Plaza de Las Americas will not only give our street vendors a beautiful, tree-lined venue to sell, but also our neighborhood a new focal point. Thank you to Commissioner Trottenberg and Commissioner Peña-Mora, Dennis Reeder, the whole team at the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation, the designers Victoria Milne and Xenia Diente, and the artist Ester Partegàs for making Washington Heights even more beautiful!,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez
“The Plaza de las Americas and its beautiful center piece fountain will help bring our community together, just as plazas do throughout the Americas. I want to thank the designers Victoria Milne and Xenia Diente, and the artist Ester Partegás for bringing great beauty and symbolism to this project, and transforming this streetscape. I am pleased to see this project, after years of planning and construction, finally open to the community,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan/Bronx).
“High-quality public spaces add character and community to our neighborhoods,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This 14,000 square foot permanent plaza will be an asset that enhances this community, and it’s wonderful that we’re breaking ground on the project today.”
“Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation is excited to see the new and improved La Plaza de Las Americas. The Plaza is vital to our vendors and a hub of economic activity in our community,” said Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, Executive Director Maria Lizardo.
La Plaza de Las Americas was awarded in the first round of the NYC Plaza Program in 2008. The Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC) applied with the vision to make La Plaza a centerpiece of local cultural and economic life.
The site – 175th Street between Broadway and Wardsworth Ave. has long served as a community marketplace – the local vendor market was established in 1994 and Greenmarket established in 1980 – but was only an asphalt street without any public amenities. Once completed in early 2016, La Plaza will accommodate public events during the day and evening; such as art shows, non-amplified folk music/dance, dramatic performances, poetry readings, and craft fairs.
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (NYCDCLA) provided a “Percent for Art” component for the plaza. Together, DOT, DDC and NYCDCLA worked closely with the community, conducting interviews, and public sessions to ensure the new plaza design met their needs.
This project is funded by a $5 million grant from the City of New York.
The NYC Plaza Program has 71 plazas citywide in planning, design, construction, or completed. Of these, 49 are currently open to the public. In Northern Manhattan, the Plaza Program has Plaza de Las Americas and the 185th Street Plaza.
For more information about the NYC Plaza Program, and for program guidelines and applications, visit www.nyc.gov/plazas