City Officials Join YU for 185th Street Plaza Groundbreaking Ceremony
Construction on YU’s $3.6 million pedestrian plaza on 185th street has been progressing since the summer, but it symbolically began yesterday. Over the past few months, the pavement of the 20,000-foot space has been broken in various places by orange-vested construction workers powering jackhammers and hydraulic excavators, but yesterday it was broken by formally-dressed YU administrators and NYC officials using decorative golden shovels.
The ceremony began in Nagel Lounge. The infamous Nagel Lounge wall was folded away for the festivities, and the lounge was set up for speeches with a podium, rows of chairs, and velvet ropes and stanchions. The crowd was greeted by light refreshments as YU students and administrators were joined by officials from NYC’s Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction for the groundbreaking ceremony kicking off the construction of the new pedestrian plaza.
Yeshiva University Senior Vice President Rabbi Josh Joseph spoke first, emphasizing the value of community and explaining that the plaza will be an open space with no walls, allowing members of the larger Washington Heights neighborhood to interact and socialize. “The plaza will be open to everyone to be used by everyone,” said Rabbi Joseph. “It is a blessing that we have this chance to embrace the richness and diversity of each other and move forward in building a community.” NYC Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez then spoke briefly, followed by NYC Department of Design and Construction Associate Commissioner Tim Foley who described the details of the construction and predicted its completion in around a year’s time by next Labor Day, September 4, 2017. City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez was also scheduled to speak, but he unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute.
When the speeches concluded, the crowd headed outside for the symbolic groundbreaking. A wooden rectangle filled with dirt was placed in the center of 185th street. Gold-painted shovels with blue ribbons tied to them and construction hats emblazoned with YU’s logo were distributed to YU administrators, city officials, and construction workers who posed for pictures in various combinations, smiling for the cameras while symbolically sticking the shovels into the dirt. When completed, the new space will house chess tabletops, bicycle racks, ornamental street lighting, stone benches, flowering perennials, and native shrubs, and will serve as a spacious and centrally-located outdoor space for students and faculty to work and socialize. Rabbi Kenneth Brander, who was not present at the ceremony, explained that “the driving force behind the project is what drives YU – to provide the students with a great academic and campus experience.”