November 16, 2023
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NYC DOT, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Mayor’s Office of International Affairs Announce Full Restoration of National Medallions Along Avenue of the Americas
Installed more than 60 years ago as a symbol of hope and unity in the hemisphere, medallions had fallen into disrepair, with only 18 original medallions remaining in early 2023
Creating new, safe and up-to-date signage along Sixth Avenue to honor 43 nations and territories was a priority of the Administration and NYC DOT
New York — NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Mayor's Office for International Affairs Commissioner Edward Mermelstein, Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro today announced the full restoration and replacement of national medallions along the Avenue of the Americas. The medallions, depicting the emblems of 43 nations and territories from the Western Hemisphere, now adorn Sixth Avenue between Canal and 59th Streets. Each entity is recognized with four medallions across the corridor. Originally installed in 1959, only 18 of the original medallions remained along the corridor at the beginning of the year. NYC DOT completed the installations last month and today's event was held on the corridor directly north of Canal Street at Juan Pablo Duarte Plaza, which honors the foremost Founding Father of the Dominican Republic.
"New York City is the most diverse city in the world, and that diversity makes us the greatest city in the world," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. "We're all from somewhere — and the iconic national medallions on the Avenue of the Americas celebrate the tremendous contributions of our immigrant communities across this city. I want to thank DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, as well as International Affairs Commissioner Ed Mermelstein and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro for restoring this symbol of hope and unity in our city."
"With the installation of these medallions along the Sixth Avenue corridor, we honor and celebrate the immigrant story that is New York City," said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. "The combined contributions of immigrants from these lands to New York have made New York such a diverse and attractive city for its culture, for its food, for its neighborhood, and for its inclusivity."
"Today marks a historic milestone in the heart of New York City as the restoration of the national medallions is complete. These medallions are permanent reminders of our city's connection to the world," said Edward Mermelstein, Commissioner, NYC Mayor's Office for International Affairs. "My office is proud to have partnered with our sister agencies on this project. We are grateful to Mayor Adams for his leadership and vision for NYC which lead to moments like today. We also thank the Consulates for their collaboration and support."
"As the ultimate city of immigrants, the medallions along the Avenue of Americas offers a chance for New Yorkers to reflect on their diverse backgrounds and nationalities," said Commissioner Manuel Castro of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. I am proud to work with Commissioners Rodriguez, Mermelstein, the consulate generals and countless community partners to permanently restore 172 Medallions along the avenue, and I look forward to their impact for decades to come."
To recognize the historical contributions of immigrants to New York City, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia renamed Sixth Avenue "Avenue of the Americas" in 1945. Originally installed during the Eisenhower presidency and the Administration of Mayor Robert Wagner, the nearly 300 original medallions celebrated a unified hemisphere after the divisions of the Second World War. However, over ensuing decades, the medallions were largely ignored. Made of materials that were not easily accessible or replaced, the medallions were never the subject of regular maintenance and fell into disrepair with rust and corrosion, with many removed for safety concerns. Under the Administration of Mayor Eric Adams, committed to equitable representation throughout the city, NYC DOT Commissioner Rodriguez advanced permanent restoration and replacement of the medallions.
The medallions were designed, fabricated, and wind-tested entirely by DOT's in-house engineers and other staff. Rather than the previous heavy porcelain enamel, the new circular medallions, three feet in diameter, are constructed out of lighter and more weather-resistant aluminum. Closer to highway signs in design thickness than DOT's standard street sign materials, the new medallions will be attached to DOT street lighting with sturdier brackets, a design intended to be more durable and easier to maintain.
"The restoration of the Avenue of the Americas medallions is a beautiful tribute to the rich diversity of New York City and the incredible contributions of immigrants from all over the Western Hemisphere," said Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. "These medallions are not just symbols of our shared history, but also a reminder of the ongoing vibrancy and resilience of our city. Thank you to the NYC DOT, the Mayor's Office for International Affairs, and the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs for their commitment to preserving this important piece of New York's heritage."