Installed more than 60 years ago as a symbol of hope and unity in the hemisphere, previous medallions had fallen into disrepair; DOT has begun the process of restoring 45 medallions of all nations and territories
Today, NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, joined by the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs Commissioner Edward Mermelstein, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro unveiled the first restored medallions installed along the Manhattan’s Avenue of the Americas — with dozens more to be completed in the coming months. The new medallions – attached by DOT crews to lampposts along Sixth Avenue from West 42nd to West 59th Streets — depict the national emblems of each of the nations and territories of the Western Hemisphere. The first nine medallions installed today were Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Argentina, St. Lucia, and Uruguay.
“The creation of the Avenue of the Americas in 1945 was a great gesture that celebrated the cultures of our hemisphere, and these beautiful new medallions now once again properly honor the nationalities of so many of the people who live, work, and visit New York City,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “I want to thank Mayor Adams, who had heard from the leaders of the proud nations and territories of our hemisphere that we should get this done, as well as the dedicated staff at DOT who have done the incredible hard work to make this vision a reality.”
“Today is a historic day in New York City, it is the unveiling of the national medallions, and my office is proud to have helped make this moment a reality, said Edward Mermelstein, Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “NYC is a global city, and now people walking down the Avenue of the Americas can admire and reflect on our rich history. Thank you to Mayor Adams for his leadership and vision. We are also proud of the great collaboration between my office, the consulates general, DOT, and MOIA that lead to this successful day.”
“New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants and their global diversity is reflected throughout our five boroughs,” 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 restore the first round of Medallions to its historical importance along the Avenue of the Americas. Our city has been a symbol of hope for generations of immigrants and we must continue this commitment to the American Dream. As New Yorkers travel through this avenue and see these medallions they will be reminded that they are welcomed here no matter where they were born.”
Sixth Avenue in Manhattan was renamed Avenue of the Americas by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia at the end of World War II. Originally installed during the Eisenhower presidency and the Administration of Mayor Robert Wagner, nearly 300 medallions along the avenue had celebrated a post-war unified hemisphere. The medallions had outlived their life (fewer than 20 remained) and over recent decades, the medallions were largely ignored: made of materials that were not easily accessible or replaced, the medallions fell into disrepair with rust and corrosion, with many removed for safety concerns.
Since taking the helm at NYC DOT in early 2022, Commissioner Rodriguez has been committed to the preservation and protection of iconic symbols which represent the many cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities of New York City. The new medallions were designed, fabricated, and wind-tested entirely by DOT’s in-house engineers and staff. The new circular medallions are three feet in diameter and 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, while also flexible enough to allow adjustments to be made for major events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Throughout the course of this year, DOT will work with its city partners, including the Mayor’s Offices of Immigrant Affairs and International Affairs as well as the Public Design Commission, consulates general, and other stakeholders to authenticate each nation or territory’s individual medallion emblem. Once the emblem is certified by all relevant stakeholders, DOT in-house crews will manufacture signs at DOT’s Maspeth Sign Shop and then install the medallions along the Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan. As the new medallions are created, other crews will also remove old medallions along the avenue, leaving a sign in its place explaining the removal, and the plan for a new medallion to be soon installed in its place.
“Whether you’re from Haiti, Uruguay, or Puerto Rico, where I’m from, New York City is a place we can all call home,” said Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “Thank you to DOT Commissioner Rodriguez and his team for celebrating NYC’s deep cultural heritage.”
“The restoration of the Avenue of the Americas medallions recognizes the outstanding contributions that our immigrant communities have made for the City of New York. It is through actions like these that we highlight the spirit of our city that has historically welcomed immigrants of all backgrounds.” said José Bayona, Executive Director of the Mayor’s office of Ethnic and Community Media. “I am proud to join DOT Commissioner Rodriguez today as we unveil the first 9 medallions of many more to come that will hang high on the Avenue of the Americas for decades to come.”
“These 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 these efforts and for their continued commitment 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 decades, the medallions along the Avenue of the Americas have been a poignant representation of the rich cultures and histories of the nations of the Western Hemisphere,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-7). “I was proud to work with community leaders and Commissioner Rodriguez to ensure that every nation and territory is included in this restoration project. It’s vital that we honor and protect the historical landmarks that represent our diverse communities, and I’m excited to see the new versions of these iconic symbols.”
“In October, I proudly joined Commissioner Rodriguez, Chilean President Juan Antonio Rios, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and others for the announcement that the City would restore our iconic tribute to Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, the Mayor and Commissioner are delivering on their promise. New York’s history and destiny are intertwined with the nations and territories these medallions honor. Each of them has contributed to our Gorgeous Mosaic and helped make us the Greatest City in the World,” said Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “New Yorkers from the Americas—including the Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Guyanese, Ecuadorian, and Colombian communities—provide us with some of the finest sights, sounds, and tastes in our City. Now our love and gratitude for them will shine brighter than ever before as the new medallions adorn the Avenue of the Americas.”
“Since the 1940s, New York City has hosted delegates from across the globe on the East side of Manhattan to secure and maintain world peace. Today, when those diplomats walk a few avenues across town they’ll finally, once again, be greeted by medallions celebrating the nations, territories and peoples of the Americas,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez “Most of the Americas, have a shared past as colonies, a past that we cannot forget as we work to build a more equitable future for all of us. I appreciate the DOT and Commissioner Rodriguez for their efforts to bring back these medallions, including Puerto Rico’s.”