Paying homage to New York City’s global diaspora that’s helped make it a truly cosmopolitan city, city officials on Nov. 15 showcased the newly retouched and restored national medallions lined up along the Avenue of the Americas.
When the city began this project in January 2023, only 18 of the 43 medallions remained along the corridor from 1959. Sixth Avenue first added the moniker Avenue of the Americas at the end of World War II. Since taking on this project, city officials have placed medallions on every street, from Canal St. to 59th St. on Sixth Ave. at an event on Juan Pablo Duarte Plaza, which honors the foremost Founding Father of the Dominican Republic.
“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,” said Mayor Eric Adams
The national medallions served as symbols of unity, representing over 43 nations and territories from the Western Hemisphere, including places such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Argentina, St. Lucia, Uruguay, and many more. .
“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 of NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs.
At the end of World War II, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia renamed Manhattan’s Sixth Ave. to Avenue of the Americas to recognize the contributions of New York City’s immigrant populations. Nearly 300 medallions were installed along the avenue during the Eisenhower presidency and the administration of Mayor Robert Wagner to reflect unity across the Western Hemisphere. However, these medallions grew old over the years and were largely ignored, officials said. And since they were made of materials that were hard to replace, many had to be removed for safety reasons.
To avoid any previous issues with rust and corrosion, the new ones were designed and tested for wind by DOT’s in-house engineers and other staff. The previously used heavy porcelain enamel is now replaced by lighter, more weather-resistant aluminum. According to DOT, the new pieces are three feet in diameter and have the feel of highway signs in terms of thickness rather than the usual street signs. Each new sign has been attached to streetlights with sturdier brackets to ensure durability and easy maintenance.
“These medallions are not just symbols of our shared history but also a reminder of the ongoing vibrancy and resilience of our city,” said Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, who was also present at the event alongside Ydanis Rodriguez, DOT commissioner Edward Mermelstein, the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs Commissioner, and Manuel Castro Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner. During his speech, Castro thanked all the agencies that had come together to support this project. He emphasized how the 172 medallions offered New Yorkers a chance to “reflect on their diverse backgrounds and nationalities.”
Nine of the 172 medallions were first unveiled at an event in January earlier this year.