New York, NY
United States
Park Row between Beekman & Spruce St People With A.I.D.S. Plaza since 1 December 1997
without names
The honorific street name near City Hall that commemorates a plague
Unless you know where to look, it’s hard to find. But on the east side of City Hall Park is a spot that honors people living with a disease considered a plague when it emerged in the early 1980s. “People With A.I.D.S Plaza,” as the street sign reads, spans Park Row between Beekman and Spruce Streets, near the approach for the Brooklyn Bridge.
It’s technically an honorific street or a co-named street; both terms are used to described streets that have an official name but also a second one to commemorate a person or event. New York has over a thousand of these, such as “Rivera Avenue” for Mariano Rivera in front of Yankee Stadium, or the 3-block stretch of Worth Street co-named “Avenue of the Strongest” to honor city sanitation workers.

Clues about the backstory of People With A.I.D.S. Plaza aren’t easy to come by. The street may have been co-named in 1997, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition, but the wording isn’t clear. It’s not on a list of honorific street names compiled by a researcher named Gilbert Tauber.
Why City Hall? Possibly to mark the location where AIDS activists and allies held protests — like this one in 1989 organized by ACT UP, with more than 3,000 people protesting Mayor Koch’s handling of the disease.

Since People With A.I.D.S. Plaza was added to the map, New York has created more prominent memorials to the thousands of city residents living with AIDS or HIV, or who have died of the virus.
The New York City AIDS Memorial, dedicated in 2016, is a pyramid-like steel sculpture at St. Vincent’s Triangle on Seventh Avenue and West 11th Street. Now the site of a small park, St. Vincent’s Triangle is across the street from the former St. Vincent’s Hospital—which in 1984 established the first AIDS ward in New York City, according to NYC Parks.
An earlier AIDS memorial, unveiled in 2008, is in Hudson River Park near Bank Street.

Photos © Esther Crain Ephemeral New York

29 November 2021
Esther Crain, New York City