NYC unveils first restored national medallions along Manhattan’s Avenue of the Americas

January 31, 2023

Photos courtesy of the NYC Department of Transportation

The city’s Department of Transportation this week unveiled the first restored medallions installed along the Avenue of the Americas on lampposts from 42nd Street to 59th Street. The medallions, which were first displayed in 1959, depict the emblems of each nation and territory in the Western Hemisphere. After years of neglect, the medallions had fallen into disrepair, leaving just 18 of the original 300 medallions remaining. Last fall, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced plans to create new medallions. On Monday, the city installed the first nine of 45 new medallions, representing the 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,” Ydanis Rodriguez, commissioner of the DOT, said.

At the end of World War II in 1945, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia renamed Sixth Avenue the Avenue of the Americas in celebration of Pan-American unity. About a decade later, during Mayor Robert Wagner’s administration, the original 300 medallions were installed along the length of the avenue.

Over the decades, the medallions began to corrode, some were removed over safety concerns, and eventually, only 18 of the original signs remained.

The restored circular medallions measure three feet in diameter and are constructed using lightweight and weather-resistant aluminum. The signs have been designed to be sturdier, easier to maintain, and easy to move for major events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The medallions are produced at the transportation department’s sign shop in Maspeth Queens and then transported to Manhattan. Before the creation of each new medallion, the DOT works with the Mayor’s Offices of Immigrant Affairs and International Affairs, the Public Design Commission, consulates general, and other stakeholders to authenticate each nation’s emblem, according to the agency.

“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,” Edward Mermelstein, Commissioner at the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, said.

“NYC is a global city, and now people walking down the Avenue of the Americas can admire and reflect on our rich history.”


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