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Washington Heights 'Town Square' Opens to Public With Plans to Host Vendors

By Carolina Pichardo | November 23, 2015 6:32pm
 WASHINGTON HEIGHTS – Washington Heights' “Town Square” has arrived, as the Plaza de Las Americas, on West 175th Street between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, finally opens to the public and the 30 to 50 vendors who call the space home.
Plaza de Las Americas
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A modern “town square” on West 175th Street that is set to house dozens of street vendors finally opened to the public Monday more than two decades after merchants first set up shop in the area.

The Plaza de Las Americas, between Broadway and Wadsworth Avenue, is now equipped with benches and bistro-style seating, colorful stone walkways, a drinking fountain and a larger space for local vendors who have operated on the street for years.

The 16,000-square-foot plaza will also include tree plantings, lighting and a public bathroom, according to the Department of Transportation.

The intial plaza was designed in 1994 to deal with vendor congestion on West 181st Street, eventually counting as many as 50 vendors scattered along West 175th Street.

The redesigned space is part of the OneNYC Plaza Equity Program launched by Mayor de Blasio that provides materials, programs and services of up to $80,000 to support the maintenance of public spaces.  

“All these years of withstanding the storms and sun — we brought the work here,” said Santiago Acosta, a vendor and the founder of the Washington Heights Street Vendors Association, Inc.

He was joined at a ribbon-cutting for the plaza Monday morning by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and several officials from the Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction officials.

Brooklyn artist Ester Partegàs was commissioned in 2011 by Percent for Art to design the fountain, a project she said was inspired by the neighborhood and its residents.

“I took the different colors, geometric shapes and milk crates of the different cultures,” she noted, pointing to the ceramic tiles and concrete that make up the 11-foot, cube-shaped fountain, which features four faucets on each side.

“The top is far away — where the people come from and the past — and the bottom is where we all come together," she said.

No specific date has been given for when the vendors — who currently operate on West 175th Street between Wadsworth and St. Nicholas avenues, after being moved there in March due to construction of the plaza — will be able to set up shop.