By: Elisheva Kohn | News  | 

YU Petition Supports New Pedestrian Plaza on Amsterdam Avenue

For the past few weeks, YU students have been collecting signatures from Washington Heights residents for a petition in support of creating a Pedestrian Plaza on Amsterdam Ave. on the Wilf Campus. Manhattan Community Board 12’s Parks and Cultural Committee is currently considering a local proposal to install pedestrian amenities between 184th and 186th St. in order to beautify the currently-unused area and provide a public space for the community.

The proposed Plaza would stretch over the existing sidewalk and street closure on Amsterdam Ave. Mirroring the communal area by the YU library also referred to as “the quad,” the plaza would provide the community with benches, trash cans, lampposts, greenery and umbrellas. The 34,000-square-foot pedestrian area is expected to cost $4.47 million.

The project aims to take advantage of a location that has been unused for years. The plaza would not limit parking or disturb traffic.

In collaboration with YU Government Relations Director Jon Greenfield, members of the International Club have been approaching local residents to spread the word about the petition. “We have been conducting a far-reaching and comprehensive community survey,” said Greenfield, referring to the bilingual nature of the petition. Spanish-speaking students have been heavily involved in the project, reassuring neighbors that the designated space would be open to everyone. As of the time of publication YU students have gathered 95 signatures.

YU has an agreement with the Department of Transportation regarding the existing 185th St. Plaza. The university is responsible for the communal area’s upkeep. The Plaza on 185th received approval in 2015 and was completed in 2017. Similarly, the proposed plaza would be a “multi-year” project, but Greenfield remains optimistic. The project was originally initiated by YU but quickly gained support from the board. “We are confident that this is a proposal that will generate significant community benefit,” stated Greenfield.

“It’s nice that the Washington Heights community would be able to enjoy [the Plaza],” said Jacopo Pagliara (Syms ‘20), who spent his last few Sundays collecting signatures from locals. “Green areas could integrate the community we live in with our own community on campus.”

On April 1, Community Board 12 hosted a public hearing regarding the plaza proposal in Furst Hall 535. More than a dozen YU students presented the work they have done so far on the project. “The students were very powerful voices,” remarked Greenfield. “The work of the International Club, in particular, was integral for the process.” Their commitment and hard work ultimately led to the Board unanimously voting in favor of the project.

The next steps include securing funding in the New York City budget and collecting additional signatures.“I feel proud to have contributed to this project,” said Aharaon Benchimol (YC ‘21), a political science major. “I see it as giving back to YU. They granted us international students a great opportunity. This is my hakarat hatov.”


Photo Caption: Proposed plans for the Plaza
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University