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
Under Adams Administration, creating new, safe and up-to-date signage along Sixth Avenue was a priority
In commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro and Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Commissioner Edward Mermelstein announced that the national medallions installed along the Avenue of the Americas would be restored. The new medallions, which depict the emblem of each of the nations in the Western Hemisphere, will once again adorn Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 59th Streets. DOT will create 35 new medallions to represent each country (see medallions illustrated below). Originally installed in 1959, only 18 of the original medallions remain along the street today.
“Our administration is so excited to honor Hispanic Heritage Month by doing something that the city’s immigrant communities have been asking for so long: restoring the national medallions along the Avenue or the Americas,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “These medallions represent the best of New York City — people coming from all over for a better life, helping to make this the greatest city in the world.”
“New York City was built by immigrants, so it is important that we recognize and preserve all symbolic icons that represent the incredible diversity of our communities,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “In addition to the people of the City, I want to thank the leaders of the proud nations of our hemisphere, some of whom would attend events at the United Nations, only to be greeted by crumbling signage of their countries along one of Manhattan’s major avenues. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month, we are granting the people of those countries – residents and visitors alike — the respect and honor they have earned. I also thank and salute the leadership of Mayor Eric Adams: when he instructed us to ‘get stuff done,’ this is what he had in mind!”
“The restoration of the national medallions is a symbol of New York City’s role as a global city and the home of immigrants,” said Edward Mermelstein, Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “The medallions were first created after WWII to show the importance of global unity and connections. This message is needed more than ever today as the world continues to face challenges. Working together is the only viable solution. I am thrilled the Adams Administration, through my office, DOT, and NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, made this initiative happen.”
“The restoration of the national medallions along Manhattan’s Avenue of the Americas is a timely reminder of New York City’s rich history of welcoming many around the world,” said Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “My office is proud to work with DOT and International Affairs on this initiative. I look forward to the installation of the medallions and their impact for decades to come.”
“The Avenue of the Americas should celebrate the Americas, and I am so happy that the City is revamping these iconic signs and restoring them along the Avenue,” said Department of City Planning Director Dan Garodnick. “Thank you to Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez for making it happen.”
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, nearly 300 medallions along the avenue 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 took a fresh look at the permanent restoration 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. For pedestrians, cyclists and drivers along 6th Avenue 30 feet below, the new medallions will appear largely the same as those they replace.
From street and plaza co-naming to translating street signs in historically multilingual neighborhoods, the restoration of the Avenue of the Americas medallions provides an opportunity for the City to reflect the many backgrounds and nationalities of those who call New York City home.
“These 35 new medallions depict the respective emblems that represent each country in the Americas, all of which are represented here in New York City,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “I commend Mayor Adams and Commissioner Rodriguez on today’s efforts and for their continued committed to ensuring equitable representation throughout the city, from street and plaza co-namings to translating street signs in historically multilingual neighborhoods. Representation matters and reflects the beauty, diversity, and richness of the cultures that make up the fabric of our communities – and the nationalities of those who call New York City home.”
“For almost three-quarters of a century, the Avenue of the Americas has stood as a testament to the myriad contributions the millions of Latinx, Caribbean, Canadian, and all people of the Americas have made to the vibrant multiculturalism that has made New York City the greatest city in the world. The restoration of these medallions will not only give New Yorkers who have connections to the Northern, Central, and South American nations beautiful new symbols of their inclusion in our city but also will also be a greeting to millions of travelers who will now have a place in Manhattan to call their own. I commend Commissioner Rodriguez and the team at DOT for understanding the importance of Avenue of the Americas and for making this restoration of the medallions a priority,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
“The fabric of New York City is shaped by our diverse communities and nationalities, and I applaud the NYC DOT and Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez for restoring the National Medallions along the Avenue of the Americas. This is a welcome addition during Hispanic Heritage Month to showcase the incredible achievements, history and culture of the Western Hemisphere while showing that NYC will always be welcoming and inclusive,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.
“New York is the birthplace of immigrants, and these medallions have long represented our city’s rich culture and diversity. Today’s restoration is long overdue, and I applaud Commissioner Rodriguez for taking this necessary step. Our immigrant and Hispanic communities have contributed so much to our city and country. We owe it to them to recognize their hard work and achievements,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos.
“!Viva México Y Nueva York! I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Mayor Adams and the City of New York for the return and restoration of these medallions located at the inconic Avenue of the Americas. Actions such as these make New York the most diverse and inclusive city in the world,” said, Jorge Islas, Consul General of Mexico in New York.
“On behalf of the Association, we want to thank Mayor Adams as well as DOT and the entire administration for prioritizing this physical improvement of the signage on Sixth Avenue, further solidifying our community as a premier place to live, work and visit. We know that the refurbished medallions will ensure that all people on the Avenue of the Americas are greeted with a symbol of our community partnership within New York City as well as the greater unity amongst all countries within the Western Hemisphere. Today, our businesses on the Avenue embrace the City’s continued efforts to celebrate diversity and inclusion of all people as part of our Midtown community.” said, Sarah Berman, Executive Director, Avenue of the Americas Association.