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November 16, 2016

Washington Heights Community Projects Receive Six Major Design Awards in Past Year

Plaza de Las Americas, the 215th Step Street, and the High Bridge All Recognized for Excellence

Shavone Williams
Public Information Officer

New York, NY – Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora of the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced today that three major projects recently completed by DDC in Washington Heights have received a total of six prestigious architecture and engineering awards in the last 12 months.

The West 215th Step Street, the Plaza de las Americas and the High Bridge have been cited for excellence by groups including the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Construction Management Association of America, the New York Landmark Conservancy and the Municipal Art Society of New York. 

“To have in one year such a strong grouping of awards for projects in one neighborhood such as Washington Heights demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to Mayor de Blasio’s vision for an equitable City,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “DDC’s work has enhanced this community and contributed to its potential growth. We build and deliver high quality projects for all New Yorkers and continue to seek ways to improve the health and resiliency of the City through public design.”

Congressman-Elect Adriano Espaillat said "These public works have created beautifully designed connections. From the renovated 215th Step Street that helps connect Inwood, to the restored and reopened High Bridge that connects Upper Manhattan to the Bronx, to the newly created Plaza de Las Americas that connects people for commerce and conversation. It is no surprise to me that these projects are being recognized for their great design and I congratulate DDC on their success and thank them for helping to bring these assets to our communities."

"Well-designed public space is essential to a great city," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "It's wonderful that the city's Department of Design and Construction has led these three projects to award-winning status."

“I commend the DDC on their excellent work on some great uptown infrastructure projects that have helped to liven up our community,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “The Plaza Las Americas in particular has turned a shoddy corridor into a marketplace bursting with life, a model for other vendor corridors in the city. The reopening of the High Bridge after decades of disrepair marked a historic moment uptown, increasing our connections in Northern Manhattan to our sister borough of the Bronx. The beautiful architecture and new lighting is a monument to our past, just as it is a bridge to our future.”

"I would like to commend the city's Department of Design and Construction for its award winning projects in our wonderful community uptown. The new Plaza of the Americas now serves as a beautiful marketplace and social center that promotes uptown's culture and positively engages the community. And the reopening of High Bridge Park gives Washington Heights access to its sister borough of the Bronx, while showcasing its beautiful architecture. It brings me much joy and pride to live and represent a community with these award winning community projects,"  said State Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara.

Plaza de Las Americas

  • ACEC New York “Diamond Award”
Plaza de Las Americas
Plaza de Las Americas

Last week DDC’s Plaza de Las Americas received the highest 2017 Diamond Award in the category of Special Projects in the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York Engineering Excellence Awards (ACEC). Entries in the contest are judged by a panel of industry experts using a rigorous set of criteria, which includes complexity, innovation and value to society. 

The reconstruction of Plaza de Las Americas on West 175th street from Broadway to Wadsworth Avenue offers a unique opportunity for the community to enjoy over 14,000 square feet of new pedestrian space, with upgrades to infrastructure facilities. The center of the new gathering space accommodates weekday vendors a weekend green market and public events. Other site amenities include benches, plantings,  pedestrian-scale light poles, an automatic public toilet, drinking fountain and a custom designed round stainless steel and glass building that serves as both information kiosk and storage unit. The design and construction of the plaza was managed by DDC for the Department of Transportation (DOT). DDC’s consultant for the project was NV5 in Manhattan. 

The High Bridge

  • New York Landmark Conservancy – Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award
  • The Municipal Art Society of New York – MASterworks Award for Best Neighborhood Catalyst
  • American Council of Engineering Companies of New York – Silver Award
The High Bridge
The High Bridge

DDC’s restoration of the High Bridge was recognized this year with three awards including the New York Landmark Conservancy Lucy G. Moses Award for Excellence in Preservation, the Municipal Art Society of New York MASterworks Award for Best Neighborhood Catalyst, and the 2016 Diamond Award in the category of Structural Systems from ACEC New York.

Originally part of an aqueduct bringing water from Westchester to the City, the High Bridge, built in 1848, now provides pedestrian and bicycle access between Manhattan and the Bronx. DDC restored and improved the 1,450-foot-long, 123-foot high bridge, making it safe and accessible for local residents to walk to and from the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center. The restoration includes a hand-restored brick walkway, new safety railings, barrier-free access, new architectural lighting, and a renovated steel and masonry structure. DDC installed LED lights under the bridge to bring the under-arch structure alive at night, and also rebuilt the Manhattan gatehouse with the same techniques that it was built in over 100 years ago. Eight bronze medallions line the walkway and show the progression of the life of the High Bridge, which is a national landmark. 

The project was managed by the by DDC for the Parks Department. The project’s design consultant was the Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers and the contractor was the Schiavone Construction Company.

West 215 Street Step Street

  • Construction Management Association of America New York/New Jersey – Project of the Year
  • Engineering News Record – Best Project: Landscape/Urban Development
The High Bridge
West 215 Street Step Street

The reconstruction of the West 215th Street Step Street received a Project of the Year from the Construction Management Association of America Metro New York/New Jersey chapter, as well as a Best Project Award for Landscape and Urban Development from Engineering News Record.

The 215th step street was originally built in 1915, is an integral part of the community connecting neighborhood residents to the subway and local businesses. DDC’s reconstruction of the Step Street added bike channels and repaired multiple years’ worth of cracked concrete. DDC also preserved two original cast-iron lamp posts, which were thoroughly restored after a rigorous review process in partnership with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, in conditions comparable to their original installment in the early 20th century. The Step Street is accessible to all pedestrian traffic and expedites the journey between Park Terrace East and Broadway.

The project was managed by DDC for the NYC Department of Transportation. The design consultant was Aecom and the contractor was Acme, Skillman Concrete Inc.  

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s lenses of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, new or upgraded roadways, sewers, water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $15 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative, and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to city projects. For more information, please visit