Manuel De Dios Unanue Triangle
Manuel De Dios Unanue Triangle
This triangle honors the Cuban-born journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue (1943-1992), who was slain because of his vehement and outspoken crusade against drugs.
De Dios was born in Camaguey, Cuba, and earned a Master’s Degree in criminology in Puerto Rico before moving to New York City in 1973. He worked with the Hispanic Criminal Justice Task Force until 1977, when he joined the staff of El Diario – La Prensa, the largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York City. De Dios worked at El Diario for twelve years as a journalist, columnist, and finally as editor-in-chief from 1984 to 1989. De Dios is best remembered for his relentless coverage of the Colombian narcotics trade in Queens, and he reported extensively on the neighborhood’s drug cartels.
As one of the few journalists courageous enough to cover the local drug trade in hopes of changing lives with his anti-drug message, de Dios wrote for and published the magazines Crimen and Cambio XXI. On March 11, 1992 he was shot in a nearby Elmhurst restaurant. The gunman was hired by a drug cartel whose leaders felt de Dios was too vocal about their activity. After his death, the local community rallied in support of de Dios and decried his vicious murder. He was honored with a candlelight procession converging at this triangle and a posthumous citation awarded by Columbia University. The 19-year-old suspect was found in Miami and convicted in March 1994.
This property was originally owned by a local bank, Banco De Ponce, which had converted the site from a parking lot into a neighborhood square, named Ponce Plaza. The bank sold the park to the City in 1986 for one dollar, and in 1992, Parks acquired the property from the New York City Department of Real Property. Ponce Plaza was renamed Manuel de Dios Unanue Triangle in 1993, in response to de Dios’s death, by a Local Law introduced by Council Member Helen M. Marshall. In addition to this triangle, 83rd Street and local middle school M.S. 142 were renamed to honor de Dios.
Manuel de Dios Unanue Triangle is bounded by Baxter and Roosevelt Avenues and Manuel de Dios Unanue Street in the Queens neighborhood of Elmhurst, originally established as Newtown in 1652. Newtown was one of the three towns that formed what is now Queens County. Newtown Creek, an East River tributary that borders Elmhurst to the south, was one of the busiest commercial waterways in the country, its banks hosting several coal and oil refineries. When Queens was incorporated into New York City in 1898, the town opted to change its name from Newtown in order to disassociate from the pollution of Newtown Creek. The new name “Elmhurst,” meaning “a grove of elms,” was chosen because of the prevalence of elm trees in the area.
The triangle has a raised brick bed, with several trees, bushes, and benches. Local vendors and performers often utilize Manuel de Dios Unanue Triangle as a gathering place away from the traffic of busy Roosevelt Avenue.