Washington Heights, Manhattan

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Washington Heights
Washington Heights seen from the west tower of the George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge.[1][2] The Little Red Lighthouse is at the base of the east tower.
Washington Heights seen from the west tower of the George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge.[1][2] The Little Red Lighthouse is at the base of the east tower.
Nickname(s): 
The Heights
Location in New York City
Coordinates: 40°50′N 73°56′W / 40.84°N 73.94°W / 40.84; -73.94Coordinates: 40°50′N 73°56′W / 40.84°N 73.94°W / 40.84; -73.94
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
BoroughManhattan
Community DistrictManhattan 12[3]
Area
 • Total1.655 sq mi (4.29 km2)
Population
 (2010)[4]
 • Total151,574
 • Density92,000/sq mi (35,000/km2)
Ethnicity
 • Hispanic70.6%
 • White17.7
 • Black7.6
 • Asian2.6
 • Others2.5
Economics
 • Median household income$52,302
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
10032, 10033, 10040
Area code212, 332, 646, and 917

Washington Heights is a neighborhood in the uppermost part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is named for Fort Washington, a fortification constructed at the highest natural point on Manhattan Island by Continental Army troops to defend the area from the British forces during the American Revolutionary War. Washington Heights is bordered by Inwood to the north along Dyckman Street, by Harlem to the south along 155th Street, by the Harlem River and Coogan's Bluff to the east, and by the Hudson River to the west.

Washington Heights, which before the 20th century was sparsely populated by luxurious mansions and single-family homes, was rapidly developed during the early 1900s as the neighborhood became connected to the rest of Manhattan via the A, C, and 1 subway lines. Beginning as a middle-class neighborhood with many Irish and Eastern European immigrants, the neighborhood has at various points been home to communities of German Jews, Greek Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Russian Americans. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, White residents began to leave the neighborhood for nearby suburbs as the Black and Latino populations increased. Dominican Americans became the dominant group by the 1980s despite facing difficult economic circumstances, leading the neighborhood to its status today as the most prominent Dominican community in the United States. While crime became a serious issue during the crack cocaine crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, in the 2000s Washington Heights became a much safer community and began to experience some upward mobility as well as gentrification.

Washington Heights is set apart among Manhattan neighborhoods for its high residential density despite the lack of modern construction, with the majority of its few high-rise buildings belonging to the NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center. Other higher education institutions include Yeshiva University and Boricua College. The neighborhood has generous access to green space in Fort Washington Park, Highbridge Park, and Fort Tryon Park, home to the historical landmarks the Little Red Lighthouse, the High Bridge Water Tower, and the Cloisters respectively. Other points of interest include Audubon Terrace, the Morris–Jumel Mansion, the United Palace, the Audubon Ballroom, and the Fort Washington Avenue Armory.

Washington Heights is part of Manhattan Community District 12, and its primary ZIP Codes are 10032, 10033, and 10040. It is served by the 33rd and 34th Precincts of the New York City Police Department and Engine Companies 67, 84, and 93 of the New York City Fire Department. Politically, it is part of the New York City Council's 7th and 10th districts.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Northern Manhattan was settled by the Wecquaesgeeks (originally a name for the area meaning "birch-bark country"),[7]:3 who were a band of the Wappinger and a Lenape Native American people.[8]:5[9][10] The winding path of Broadway north of 168th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to its south is living evidence of the old Wecquaesgeek trail which travelled along the Hudson Valley from Lower Manhattan all the way through Albany.[11]:74[12]:442 On the plateau west of Broadway between 175th and 181st streets, the residents had been cultivating crops in a field known to Dutch colonists as the "Great Maize Field."[13]:133[14]:2 The area was also travelled by American Indians from the Early Woodland Period,[12]:117 who left remains of shellfish and pottery at the site of the present-day Little Red Lighthouse.[11]:79

Arriving in 1623, the Dutch initially worked as trade partners with the American Indians but became more and more hostile as time went on, with the natives frequently reciprocating.[15]:20 Even after the bloody assault by the Dutch in Kieft's War (1643–1645), however, some Wecquaesgeeks managed to maintain residence in Washington Heights up until the Dutch paid them a settlement for their last land claims in 1715.[10]:5

To the Dutch, the elevated area of northwestern Washington Heights was known as "Long Hill," while the Fort Tryon Park area specifically carried the name "Forest Hill."[16]:2 None of the land was under private ownership until 1712, when it was parcelled out in lots to various landowners from the village of Harlem to the south.[17]:745 For the greater part of the next two centuries, Washington Heights would remain a home to wealthy landowners seeking a quiet location for their suburban estates.[12]:3,542

A topographic map of Northern Manhattan made by the British in November 1776 following the fall of Fort Washington,[18] renamed Fort Knyphausen by the British.

During the New York Campaign of the Revolutionary War, General George Washington's Continental Army secured a small but much-needed victory over the pursuing British Army at the Battle of Harlem Heights, after a series of defeats in Manhattan.[19]:56[20]:102 Not long after their victory, the Continental Army suffered one of its worst defeats at the Battle of Fort Washington, in which nearly 2,900 troops were captured.[21]:165 Fort Washington was a group of fortifications on the high points of Washington Heights, with its central site at present-day Bennett Park (known then as Mount Washington)[17]:737 built a few months prior opposite Fort Lee, New Jersey to protect the Hudson River from enemy ships.[8]:229[16]:2[20]:111

Now in their control, the British renamed the position Fort Knyphausen for the Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen, who played a major part in the victory;[22]:326[18] its lesser fortification at present-day Fort Tryon Park was renamed for Sir William Tryon, the last governor of New York before it was taken back by the Continental Army.[13]:158 The park today holds a plaque dedicated in 1909 to Margaret Corbin, an American who took over at her husband's cannon after his death in the Battle of Fort Washington;[23] she was also honored with the naming of Margaret Corbin Drive in 1977.[9]

The old Blue Bell Tavern on Broadway

At the northwest corner of 181st Street and Broadway (then Kingsbridge Road) was the Blue Bell Tavern, built in the early-mid 18th century as an inn and site of social gatherings.[13]:65[22]:331 When New York's Provincial Congress assented to the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776, the head of the statue of George III ended up on a spike at the Blue Bell Tavern, broken off by a "rowdy" group of civilians and soldiers at Bowling Green.[8]:232 Years later, during the British evacuation of New York, George Washington and his staff stood in front of the tavern as they watched the American troops march southward to retake the city.[24]:17 After changing ownership several times, the tavern moved to a new building in 1885, following the original structure's destruction for the widening of Broadway.[13]:65 In 1915, the tavern was demolished again to build the 3,500-seat Coliseum Theatre, which was demolished in 2021 after denial of its landmark status.[25][26][27]

Paterno Castle

Before the apartment development of the 20th century, many wealthy citizens built grand mansions in Washington Heights. The most famous landowner in the southwest part of the neighborhood was ornithologist John James Audubon, whose estate encompassed the 20 acres from 155th to 158th Street west of Broadway.[10]:7 A mystery surrounds his family home by Riverside Drive, which was deconstructed and moved to a city lot to make room for new development in 1931, only for its remnants to vanish without a trace.[28] On the eastern side, by Edgecombe Avenue between 160th and 162nd streets, the Morris–Jumel Mansion has been successfully preserved to this day.[29] The land of the estate had been owned by Jan Kiersen and her son-in-law Jacob Dyckman before it was bought by British colonel Roger Morris in 1765 and completed the same year.[13]:120[30]:1 In 1776, the house was commandeered as a headquarters by George Washington, and after changing hands a few times was purchased by Stephen and Eliza Jumel in 1810.[22]:318 In 1903, the City bought the mansion and it became a museum, today the oldest surviving house in Manhattan.[24]:11[30]:1

With a picturesque view of the Palisades, the elevated ridge of northwest Washington Heights became the site of a few modern castles. The first of these was Libbey Castle, built by Augustus Richards after he purchased the land from Lucius Chittenden in 1855.[13]:160 Located near Margaret Corbin Circle,[31]:23 this estate was once owned by William "Boss" Tweed but got its current name from William Libbey, who purchased it in 1880.[32] Even more extravagant, Paterno Castle was situated on the estate of real estate developer Charles Paterno by the Hudson River at 181st Street.[33] Built in 1907, the mansion was demolished thirty years later for Paterno's Castle Village complex, where pieces of the original structure remain today.[24]:12[34] The largest estate, however, was the property of industrial tycoon C. K. G. Billings, taking up 25 acres in the southern part of Fort Tryon Park.[24]:20[31] Although the Louis XIV-style mansion at present-day Linden Terrace burned to the ground in 1925, Billings Terrace remains, supported by the elegant stone archway that originally lead to the Billings mansion.[16]:10[32]

Early and mid-20th century[edit]

Urban development[edit]

Initial residential development in Washington Heights began in the late 19th century, with the construction of row and wood-frame houses in the southern part of the neighborhood, centered around Amsterdam Avenue.[30]:2[35] In 1886, the Third Avenue Railway was extended from 125th Street to 155th Street along Amsterdam Avenue.[36]:7 However, higher residential density would not be supported until the extension of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT)'s first subway line (now part of the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line).[37]:76 The IRT subway built stations at 157th Street, 168th Street, 181st Street, and Dyckman Street stations between 1904 and 1906 (the 191st Street station was constructed in 1911).[10]:12[38]:1026[39]:60

A 1910 photograph of The Riviera at 156th Street and Riverside Drive

Although skyrocketing land values sparked early predictions that upper-class apartment buildings would dominate the neighborhood, such development was limited in the pre-World War I period to the Audubon Park area west of Broadway and south of 158th Street.[40]:14[37]:75 Buildings such as the 13-story Riviera included elaborate decor and generous amenities to attract higher-paying tenants.[10]:15

The southern and eastern parts of Washington Heights experienced a construction boom in the years leading up to World War I.[37]:77 The downtown access provided by the IRT prompted a rapid increase in density through the proliferation of five- and six-story New Law Tenements, the vast majority of which remain today.[41] Many of the new residents came from crowded immigrant neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side,[40]:15 which saw its density halved between 1910 and 1930.[42]:73 This new housing led the total population of Manhattan above 155th Street to grow from just 8,000 in 1900 to 110,000 by 1920.[42]:53 The incoming residents of Washington Heights were a diverse group of people of European descent. In 1920, nearly half were Protestant, the majority of American-born parents, and the remainder split between Jews and Catholics, typically immigrants or born to immigrant parents.[42]:292

The next wave of urbanization for Washington Heights came in the 1920s, coinciding with the construction boom occurring across the city.[37]:79 The population increased significantly in the central area west of Broadway, and drastically in the area north of 181st Street, populating the last of the undeveloped areas just south and west of Fort Tryon Park.[42]:93 Transit was improved for new residents with the construction of the Independent Subway System (IND)'s Eighth Avenue Line in 1932, with stops at 175th Street, 181st Street, and 190th Street along Fort Washington Avenue.[43] Consequently, the population of the neighborhood north of 181st Street would double between 1925 and 1950, when it reached its peak.[41]:275

Demographic changes and ethnic conflict[edit]

Meanwhile, the demographics of the neighborhood were undergoing significant change. While the Protestant population remained stagnant, first- and second-generation Irish and Eastern European Jews continued to move in (the Irish, however, were most concentrated in Inwood).[37]:79 By 1930, nearly a quarter of Manhattan's Jews lived north of 155th Street.[44]:152 The neighborhood also saw an influx of German Jews escaping Nazism in the 1930s and 40s, a history documented by Steven M. Lowenstein's book Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson (a nickname referencing the origin city of many in the diaspora).[41]:25 One attractive aspect of Washington Heights for German Jews was likely its Eastern European Jewish presence, but an economic pull was its abundance of housing stock from the 1920s construction boom.[40]:16 Although rents were higher than average, many landlords offered some free rent to draw new tenants, and apartments were nonetheless spacious for their cost.[41]:45

In the first half of the twentieth century, Washington Heights was defined by its religious and ethnic tensions. Although Catholics and Jews were not very segregated residentially, their social organizations were often completely separate, creating conditions for conflict to arise.[45]:439 Around the start of World War II Irish groups such as the Christian Front arose, drawing large crowds to their antisemitic rallies, coupled with the vandalism of synagogues and beating of Jewish youth by Irish youth in gangs such as the Amsterdams.[46]:236[44]:155 After continual charges of police negligence, a committee was created to combat the violence and many members of the Irish gangs were arrested. By 1944, the local Catholic Clergy were pressured to speak out against the prejudice, and Jews, Catholics, and Protestants began working together on solutions to ease the tensions.[44]:157

Around this time, Washington Heights also gained its first substantial population of Black residents, by 1943 numbering around 3,000 and concentrated mainly in the southeastern part of the neighborhood.[47] The Black population of Washington Heights was dwarfed, however, by that of Hamilton Heights, where Whites were only 63% of the population in 1943.[48] It was in this period that the popular boundary of Washington Heights shifted from 135th Street to 155th Street, as many residents of European descent refused to include African Americans in their conception of the neighborhood.[12]:4585 This attitude was expressed in a phrase heard in the time period: "Washington Heights begins where Harlem ends."[40]:33[37]:125 In fact, many of the neighborhood's new Jewish arrivals had left from Harlem as it became increasingly populated by Southern Blacks during the Great Migration.[44]:152[12]:1890

Segregation and racism[edit]

Despite the growth of the Black population, racial segregation remained very rigid. While in the vast majority of blocks less than 2% of housing units were occupied by non-White residents, nearly every block east of Amsterdam Avenue and south of 165th Street was over 90% non-White by 1950.[49]:38

The process underlying this segregation is exemplified in the history of one of Washington Heights’ most famous apartment buildings: 555 Edgecombe Avenue. Built in 1914, the fourteen-story building rented to a variety of relatively affluent Whites until 1939, when the owner cancelled all the tenants’ leases and began renting exclusively to Blacks.[50]:5 While organizations like the Neighborhood Protective Association of Washington Heights had kept the neighborhood virtually all-White throughout much of the twentieth century,[51]:248 the overcrowded conditions of Harlem had built up a high demand for apartments outside the neighborhood.[52]:35 Throughout the 1940s, the building had a number of notable Black residents, such as Paul Robeson, Kenneth Clark, and Count Basie.[50]:6 The presence of middle-class Blacks in 555 Edgecombe and other higher-class buildings in southeast Washington Heights lead many to associate it with Sugar Hill, the Harlem subneighborhood spanning between Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue to its south.[50]:4

In addition to segregation, racism also manifested itself in gang culture, where youth often defined themselves by race or ethnicity and violently defended their respective territories. These tensions were brought to a climax in 1957, with the assault of two teenagers of European ancestry, Michael Farmer and Roger McShane, members of the majority-Irish “Jesters” gang.[53]:1043[54] The incident took place in the Highbridge Pool, a Works Progress Administration-funded pool built in 1936 which had no racial restrictions but was nonetheless an environment of racial hostility in the changing landscape of the neighborhood.[40]:48 The assault, which ended in Michael Farmer's death, was perpetrated by an alliance of the African American Egyptian Kings and the Puerto Rican Dragons, both based in West Harlem just south of the Heights. The evident motive for the attack was revenge: Highbridge Pool was “owned” by the Jesters, and Black and Latino youths were often called racial slurs and chased away from the surrounding blocks.[52]:79 As Eric Schneider analyzes in Vampires, Dragons, and Egyptian Kings: Youth Gangs in Postwar New York, the incident illustrated the paradoxical effects of the neighborhood's demographic shift: the Jesters defined themselves as fighting against Black and Latino occupancy of the neighborhood even as they included newly arrived Blacks in their ranks (similar diversity was seen in the membership of the Dragons and Egyptian Kings).[52]:88

White flight and Latino immigration[edit]

While the signs were slowly appearing for the first half of the century that Washington Heights would not forever be a neighborhood of European Americans, by the 1960s the demographic shifts had entered in full force. Washington Heights’ White residents left in great numbers in a reflection of the White flight occurring across the city, while the neighborhood's Latino population saw great increases.[40]:138 While Puerto Ricans had been the dominant Latino group in the 1950s, by 1965 Cubans and Dominicans had overtaken them in number, and by 1970 native Spanish speakers were the majority group in central-eastern census tracts.[41]:215 Despite being a smaller group, Cuban immigrants in the Heights had an outsized role in business, according to a 1976 estimate owning the majority of Latino-owned stores.[55] The neighborhood's Black population also increased, by 1980 numbering over 25,000 and residing in all areas of the neighborhood while remaining a plurality in the southeastern section.[41]:215

While the overall trend was of exodus among White residents, the rate of this trend varied among different groups. One of the most pronounced changes occurred with Greek immigrants, who had reached their peak in the 1950s with the establishment of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church and an accompanying school, only to see that in two decades nearly all of the congregation had left for the suburbs.[56][57] On the other hand, the German Jewish exodus was characterized by a decrease in overall population but an increasing presence in the neighborhood's northwestern corner.[41]:216 By the 1970s, evidence of the exodus of the broader Jewish community was present in the changing landscape of the neighborhood, where kosher stores and Jewish bakeries were gradually replaced by new small businesses with signs in Spanish.[41]:218

While some Dominican immigrants had been arriving in Washington Heights throughout the 1950s and 60s, the pace increased drastically during the regime of Joaquín Balaguer, who took power in 1966 following the Dominican Civil War.[58]:12 The combination of the recent passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Balaguer's policy of freely granting passports, and the country's high unemployment rate created the conditions for a growing emigration from the Dominican Republic.[59]:58 Many of the initial migrants were left-wing revolutionaries exiled by the Balaguer regime, theorized to have been granted visas through an unwritten agreement with the United States, but the majority of arrivals came for better economic opportunities.[59]:58[60] In Quisqueya on the Hudson: The Transnational Identity of Dominicans in Washington Heights, Jorge Duany describes how Washington Heights developed as a “transnational community,” continually defined by its connection to the Dominican Republic.[61] The majority of Dominican immigrants viewed their stay in the United States as purely economically motivated while they remained culturally attached to the D.R.; many also took advantage of an advantageous exchange rate to send remittances home, imagining an eventual retirement to the island.[62]:823

School conflicts[edit]

During the 1970s, Washington Heights' School District 6 (including Inwood and Hamilton Heights) was the scene of numerous conflicts over de facto racial segregation and unequal resource distribution within the district's schools.[37]:156 The School Decentralization Act, passed by the New York State Legislature in 1969, set up elected boards for New York City's school districts with limited hiring power and control over Title I funds.[63]:271[64] At the time, District 6's demographics were rapidly changing due to White students' withdrawal from the public school system and the broader trend of White flight, while the Black and Latino student population rapidly increased.[37]:157 This resulted in a stark gap between the district's few racially integrated schools, which enjoyed better academic reputations and access to resources, and the remainder of schools with very few White students and serious overcrowding problems.[37]:162[40]:94 Fierce competition between different factions for educational funding and new schools was compounded by the disproportionate representation of the majority-White northwestern Heights on the board, creating an environment of hostility in which public meetings were plagued by incivility, disruption, and at times even violence.[37]:153

George Washington High School, located on 193rd Street and Audubon Avenue near Highbridge Park, faced numerous issues representative of the changes and conflicts of the neighborhood's public schools, which intersected in 1970 to produce a situation of extreme chaos.[40]:99 Located in a grand building with a Works Progress Administration mural by Lucienne Bloch,[65] the school was relatively prestigious in the decades after its 1925 founding, graduating people such as Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger, and Murray Jarvik.[66]:24[67]:37[68] Although George Washington remained racially mixed through the early 1970s, the school had a tracking system that prepared White students much more effectively for college, and violence frequently broke out among gangs identifying by race.[40]:100 Discontent with academics and school policy led to a wave of student demonstrations, supported by a group of parents who pushed to set up an information table in the school's lobby in order to answer questions and hear complaints regarding the school.[40]:102 However, the United Federation of Teachers – which had also clashed with students and parents over the 1964 school boycott[69] and the 1968 teachers' strike[37]:156 – perceived this as an attempt to subvert teachers' authority, leading them to start a local strike after the administration reached a compromise with parents over the table.[70]

By the end of 1970, the high school had seen the resignation of three principals and multiple serious incidents of violence amongst students as well as against teachers and security guards;[71] while many safety improvements were made throughout the 1970s, its academic performance continued to decline.[40]:109[72][73] In 1999, the school took its present form as the George Washington Educational Campus composed of four smaller schools.[74]

Late 20th and early 21st centuries[edit]

Immigration trends[edit]

For the remainder of the 20th century the Dominican community of Washington Heights continued to increase considerably, most notably during the mid to late 1980s, when over 40,000 Dominicans settled in Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, and Inwood.[61]:30 Around the year 2000, the Dominican community reached its peak and became a slim majority of Washington Heights and Inwood,[75]:10 propelling the neighborhoods' combined population to 208,000, the highest level since 1950.[76][77]

Even as they arrived in great numbers, Dominicans who came to the neighborhood faced a difficult economic situation, with the manufacturing jobs they disproportionally occupied having largely vanished throughout the 1970s and 80s.[58] This was clear by 1990, when the proportion of Dominican New Yorkers living in households below the poverty line was 36%, over half of the citywide rate.[58]:19 A dark reflection of the high demand for low-skill employment was the presence of garment sweatshops in the neighborhood, many with unsafe conditions.[40]:140[78] Some residents took advantage of their proximity to the George Washington Bridge to work at often-temporary factory jobs in New Jersey, commuting daily by bus.[61]:37[79]

During the late 20th century, other immigrant groups began to make their home in the neighborhood as well. In the late 1970s and early 80s a moderate influx of Soviet Jews occurred following a loosening of the country's emigration policy,[80]:7 predominantly professionals and artists pushed out by antisemitism and drawn by economic opportunity.[40]:138 The makeup of the neighborhood's Latino population also began to diversify beyond an exclusively Caribbean background, most prominently through the arrival of Mexicans and Ecuadorians, who together numbered over 6,000 by 2000 and over 10,000 a decade later.[81]:70[82]:49 Smaller communities of Central Americans, Colombians, and Chinese immigrants had also developed.[83][84] The neighborhood's Black population began to decrease from its height in the 1970s, by 2010 making up less than one-tenth of the neighborhood.[40]:138[5] In the present day Washington Heights also has a growing Orthodox Jewish community served by numerous synagogues, many of which have noticed more young Jewish families move into the neighborhood during the 2000s.[85][86]

1980s crime and drug crisis[edit]

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Washington Heights was severely affected by the crack cocaine epidemic, as was the rest of New York City.[40]:158 Washington Heights had become one of the largest drug distribution centers in the Northeastern United States,[87][88] bringing a negative reputation to Dominican Americans as a group.[89] Then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani and Senator Alphonse D'Amato chose the corner of 160th Street and Broadway for their widely publicized undercover crack purchase,[90] and in 1989, The New York Times called the neighborhood "the crack capital of America."[91] By 1990, crack's impact on crime was evident: 103 murders were committed in the 34th Precinct that year, along with 1,130 felony assaults, 1,919 robberies, and 2,647 burglaries.[92]

The Trans-Manhattan Expressway, seen here from Audubon Avenue, was one of the many highway connections that made Washington Heights a hotspot for the cocaine trade.

The causes behind the severity of the crisis for Washington Heights, however, were more intricate. One was the neighborhood's location: the George Washington Bridge and its numerous highway connections made for easy access from the New Jersey suburbs.[40]:162 Another contributing factor was that as Dominican dealers such as Santiago Luis Polanco Rodríguez brought the group higher status in cocaine operations, the heavily-Dominican Washington Heights became increasingly important as a strategic location.[91][93] Washington Heights also had a high level of unemployment and poverty in the 1980s and 90s, providing ample economic motivation for young people to enter the drug trade.[75]

As Robert W. Snyder describes in Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City, the effects of the crack trade extended beyond physical danger to a breakdown in trust and widespread fear provoked by violence in public places as well as murders of people uninvolved in the drug business.[40]:178 It was common for police and detectives to note unresponsiveness from residents during murder inquiries.[94] Overall distrust of the police may have stemmed from the perception of corruption, which was alleged numerous times concerning the 34th Precinct overlooking drug crimes for bribes.[95]

Tensions between residents and the NYPD came to a head on July 4, 1992, when José "Kiko" Garcia was shot by 34th Precinct Officer Michael O'Keefe on the corner of 162nd Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue. Although evidence later supported that the killing was a reaction to violence initiated by Garcia, many residents quickly suspected wanton police brutality.[40]:180 The suspicion was not unfounded, as O'Keefe already had several civilian complaints of unnecessary aggression in arrests.[96]:320 What began as a peaceful demonstration for Garcia's death turned into a violent riot, causing multiple fires, fifteen injuries, and one death.[40]:181[97] Then-mayor David Dinkins, who had met with the Garcia family following the killing, pleaded for an end to the rioting: “There is much anger in the community about the death of José Garcia and other incidents, [but] you do not build a better city by destroying it."[98]

Crime drop and community improvement[edit]

During the mid to late 1990s, Washington Heights experienced a drastic decrease in crime that continued through the 21st century. From 1990 to 2020, reported motor vehicle thefts, murders, burglaries, and robberies have fallen by over 80%, while felony assaults, grand larcenies, and rapes have fallen by over 50%.[99][100] The 30th and 32nd precincts to the south of Washington Heights, which cover most of Harlem above 133rd Street, experienced just as drastic crime drops during the past decades.[101][102][103]

The crime drop, which was felt across all major U.S. cities, owed itself largely to the decrease in new users and dealers of crack cocaine, and the move of existing dealers from dealing on the streets to dealing from inside apartments.[104][105] In Washington Heights, this meant a move back to the established cocaine dealing culture that had existed before the introduction of crack. As Terry Williams notes in The Cocaine Kids: The Inside Story of a Teenage Drug Ring, many dealers from the pre-freebasing period put greater emphasis on knowing their customers and hid their operations more carefully from police, as opposed to dealers of the crack days who would deal openly and fight violently in the competition for the drug's high profits.[93]

Nonetheless, many also credit actions taken on the neighborhood level in increasing safety in Washington Heights. After years of advocacy from residents, in 1994 the NYPD split the 34th Precinct to create the 33rd Precinct for Washington Heights south of 179th Street in order to devote more resources to crime prevention.[40]:170[106] Another local policing strategy was the "model block" initiative, first attempted in 1997 on 163rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, a location notable for the dealers who set up a "fortified complex" complete with traps and electrified wires to prevent police raids on their apartment.[40]:192 In an attempt to disrupt drug activity on the block, police officers set up barricades at both ends, demanded proof of residence from anyone coming through, patrolled building hallways, and pressured landlords to improve their buildings.[107] The program was controversial, facing criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union and resistance from residents for its invasion of privacy,[40]:193 although crime was reduced on the block,[108] and the initiative was later expanded throughout the city.[109]

In an effort to improve police-community relations, the local precincts made efforts to connect with neighborhood families through Police Athletic League programs at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory and events such as the Night Out Against Crime.[110][111] The city also chose the 33rd and 34th precincts, among two others, to start its neighborhood policing initiative in 2015, which involves assigning officers to specific neighborhood areas and allotting them time to build relationships with residents.[112][113] However, the initiative received mixed responses, with some arguing that it does not go far enough in building mutual trust and cooperation, while others see it as a guise for the continuation of broken windows policing.[114][115]

Following the end of the crime crisis of the 1980s and 90s, Washington Heights saw a recovery of many of its community institutions, including parks.[40] Fort Tryon Park had fallen into a period of decline after the 1975 New York City fiscal crisis, when evaporated Parks Department funds left its walkways and playgrounds in a state of disrepair,[116] and several corpses were found in the park.[117][118] After work from the Fort Tryon Park Trust and the New York Restoration Project throughout the 1990s and 2000s, funded by the city with the help of generous private donations,[119] the park was restored, leaving behind its reputation as a criminal area.[40]:210[116]

Highbridge Park, however, had the same problems as Fort Tryon Park but went without any major restoration funding for a while, likely due to its location in a lower-income area and lack of a frequently touristed landmark like The Cloisters.[120] In 1997, the New York Restoration Project began to work on maintaining the park, but without the necessary funding much of the park's disrepair continued.[121] In 2016, however, the park received $30 million in restoration funding through the city's Anchor Parks initiative, with the full restoration set to be finished by 2021.[122][123][124] Despite existing problems, most residents feel much safer in the park they did in its worst days, when a thirteen-year-old girl was shot dead in broad daylight.[40]:212[125]

Throughout the 2000s Washington Heights residents have made modest economic gains. According to American Community Survey data the neighborhood's poverty rate went from 27% to 21% between 2010 and 2018.[6] In the same period, the unemployment rate decreased from 14% to 10% and the proportion of residents with bachelor's degrees increased from 29% to 34%.[126]

Gentrification[edit]

Washington Heights has faced gentrification throughout the 2000s, with the 2010 Census revealing that from 2000 the neighorhood's Hispanic / Latino population had decreased by nearly 17,000 and its Black population by over 3,000, while its White population increased by nearly 5,000.[127] Data from the New York University Furman Center also found that Washington Heights and Inwood's average residential rent had increased by 29.3% between 1990 and 2014.[128] Furthermore, there have been several businesses faced with drastic rent increases such as Coogan's, a well-known restaurant and bar which managed to renegotiate with its landlord NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital following outcry by many locals, including Lin-Manuel Miranda.[129][130]

Washington Heights residents face a variety of housing issues, many of which are tied directly to increasing rents. As of 2014, Washington Heights and Inwood have the highest rate of severe crowding in Manhattan,[128]:121 and as of 2018 one in six households have an average occupancy of more than one person per room.[131] In addition, Washington Heights has the city's second-highest rate of serious housing code violations and its lowest rental vacancy rate.[128]:174 The average household pays a third of its income toward rent, while nearly half of low-income households pay the majority of their income in rent.[128]:121

Many have expressed opposition to the neighborhood's gentrification on both commercial and residential fronts. Luis Miranda and Robert Ramirez of the Manhattan Times wrote in 2005, "How sad and ironic that many of the same people who fought to save our neighborhoods in the face of thugs and drugs have ultimately been forced to surrender their communities to the almighty dollar."[40]:206 Echoing this sentiment, Crossing Broadway author Robert W. Snyder said, "The people who saved Washington Heights in the days of crime and crack deserve more for their pains than a stiff rent increase."[40]:237 Fears about displacement in Upper Manhattan have most recently manifest themselves in the controversy surrounding the 2018 Inwood rezoning plan, which despite its offers of community benefits and affordable housing has been accused of accelerating real estate speculation.[132]

In a sign of luxury interests in the neighborhood, ground was broken in 2018 on Amsterdam Avenue and 180th Street by developer Youngwoo & Associates for the MVRDV-designed Radio Tower & Hotel.[133] The tower, to be completed in 2021, will be a 22-story multi-use tower with office space, retail and a 221-room hotel, and is the first major mixed-use development to be built in Washington Heights in nearly five decades.[134]

Geography[edit]

An 1874 topographical map displaying the elevated ridge of Upper Manhattan

Washington Heights is located on the high ridge of Upper Manhattan that extends west of Edgecombe Avenue from around 133rd Street to just below Dyckman Street.[135] On this elevated valley is the highest terrestrial point in Manhattan, an outcropping of schist 265 feet above sea level in Bennett Park.[136]

The neighborhood was in the early 1900s considered to run as far south as 135th Street west of Central Harlem,[13][137]:294 encompassing most of the elevated area of Upper Manhattan.[135] In the modern day, Washington Heights is typically defined as the area between Hamilton Heights at 155th Street and Inwood at Dyckman Street,[40]:139[138][139] although some have also considered Washington Heights' southern boundary to be 158th Street.[44]:151[47]

Sub-neighborhoods[edit]

Hudson Heights[edit]

The Hudson Heights subneighborhood is generally considered to cover the area west of Broadway and north of 181st Street or 179th Street,[140][141] although some extend its southern boundary as far as 173rd Street.[142][143] The name was created by the Hudson Heights Owners' Coalition in 1992 to promote the sale of co-op apartments in the northwestern part of the neighborhood.[140]

Castle Village, like other buildings in Hudson Heights, switched from rental occupation to co-op ownership in the 1980s.[144]

Hudson Heights' name has been adopted by numerous newspapers, typically setting it apart from the rest of Washington Heights for its Art Deco decor, residential character, and closeness to Fort Tryon Park and the Hudson River.[145][146][147][148] However, some disparage the name;[149] Manhattan Borough Historian Robert W. Snyder argued that the name's intention was to "conceptually separate the area from the rest of Washington Heights," diminishing the "shared interest on both sides of Broadway."[40]:205

While the name "Hudson Heights" may be relatively new, a divide between northwestern Washington Heights and the rest of the neighborhood has existed in some form in the neighborhood since the early 1900s. Census data from 1950 shows that rents in the western areas of the neighborhood tended to be slightly higher compared to the eastern areas, but the highest rents were almost entirely in the northwestern area, with its high concentration of more modern elevator buildings, and the Audubon Park Historic District, which has most of the neighborhood's few buildings with more than six stories.[49] This economic divide became racial as well during the 1970s and 80s, as the majority of White residents who did not leave the neighborhood settled in the northwestern area.[41]:216 As of 2019, market rents remain significantly higher north of 181st Street and west of Broadway,[150] although the most noticeable difference is the racial divide, with nearly every block in Hudson Heights being majority-White while most blocks east of Broadway are less than 10% White.[151]

A photograph of apartment buildings in Fort George. Note the buildings on "stilts" along Fairview Avenue due to elevation differences.

Fort George[edit]

Named for the Revolutionary War's Fort George, the lesser-recognized Fort George sub-neighborhood runs east of Broadway from 181st Street to Dyckman Street.[152][153] Educational institutions include Yeshiva College, located east of Amsterdam Avenue near Highbridge Park,[154] and George Washington High School, on the nearby site of the original Fort George.[13]:155 Fort George also holds one of Manhattan's rare semi-private streets, Washington Terrace, which runs south of West 186th Street for a half-block between Audubon and Amsterdam avenues.[155]

Elevation changes[edit]

Because of its abrupt, hilly topography, pedestrian navigation in Upper Manhattan is facilitated by many step streets.[156] The longest of these is a set of 130 stairs connecting Fort Washington Avenue and Overlook Terrace at 187th Street.[157]

To help with eastward-westward transit in upper Washington Heights, elevators are available at the 181st Street IND station, with entrances on Overlook Terrace and Fort Washington Avenue at 184th Street, and the 190th Street station, with entrances on Fort Washington Avenue and Bennett Avenue.[158][159] Also, at the 191st Street IRT station there is a pedestrian tunnel, with entrance on Broadway near 190th Street, and free elevator connection.[160] As an example of the abrupt changes in the area's terrain, the 191st Street IRT station, at 173 ft (53 m) below ground, is the deepest subway station in the city,[161][162] but the next station 0.4 miles (0.64 km) north is Dyckman Street, which is aboveground but at a lower elevation above sea level.[163]

Demographics[edit]

For census purposes, the New York City government classifies Washington Heights as part of two neighborhood tabulation areas called Washington Heights North and Washington Heights South, split by 181st Street west of Broadway and 180th Street east of Broadway.[164] Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Washington Heights was 151,574, a decrease of 15,554 (10.3%) from the 167,128 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,058.91 acres (428.53 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 143.1 inhabitants per acre (91,600/sq mi; 35,400/km2).[4] As of 2010, two of New York City's ten densest census tracts were located in Washington Heights, with densities of 284.5 inhabitants per acre (182,100/sq mi; 70,300/km2) and 313.1 inhabitants per acre (200,400/sq mi; 77,400/km2).[4]

The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 17.7% (26,806) White, 7.6% (11,565) African American, 0.1% (180) Native American, 2.6% (4,004) Asian, 0% (15) Pacific Islander, 0.3% (517) from other races, and 1% (1,546) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 70.6% (106,941) of the population. While the White population is greater in Washington Heights North, the Black and Hispanic / Latino populations are greater in Washington Heights South.[5] The most significant shifts in the racial composition of Washington Heights between 2000 and 2010 were the White population's increase by 22% (4,808), the Black population's decrease by 21% (3,024), and the Hispanic / Latino population's decrease by 14% (16,777). Both the White population's increase and the Black population's decrease were largely concentrated in Washington Heights South, while the Hispanic / Latino population's decrease was similar in both census tabulation areas. Meanwhile, the Asian population grew by 12% (412) but remained a small minority, and the modest population of all other races decreased by 30% (974).[127]

The entirety of Community District 12, which comprises Washington Heights and Inwood, had 195,830 inhabitants according to the NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile.[138] The age distribution is very similar to the city as a whole: 19% of residents are ages 0 to 17, 10% ages 18 to 24, 33% ages 25 to 44, 25% ages 45 to 64, and 13% age 65 or older.[138]:2

As of 2017, the median household income in Community District 12 was $53,507, with an average of 2.6 people per household.[165] In 2018, an estimated 20% of Community District 12 residents lived in poverty, compared to 14% in all of Manhattan and 20% in all of New York City. One in eight residents (12%) were unemployed, compared to 7% in Manhattan and 9% in New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 53% in Community District 12, compared to the boroughwide and citywide rates of 45% and 51% respectively. As of 2018, Community District 12 is considered to be gentrifying: according to the Community Health Profile, the district was low-income in 1990 and has seen above-median rent growth up to 2010.[138]:7

Culture[edit]

A photograph of local protests that took place on February 22, 2020 over the postponement of elections in the Dominican Republic and the possibility of corruption.[166]

Little Dominican Republic[edit]

Washington Heights was designated "Little Dominican Republic" along with Inwood and part of Hamilton Heights in 2018,[167] and nearly half of Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill residents identify as Dominican as of 2015.[168]:5 Another name sometimes given to the area is "Quisqueya Heights", in reference to a Taíno name for Hispaniola meaning "cradle of life."[61]:30[169] As Roberto Suro describes in Strangers Among Us: Latino Lives in a Changing America, many Dominicans in Washington Heights lead double lives between the U.S. and the D.R., moving between countries and investing money back home.[170]:183 Jorge Duany supports this analysis in Quisqueya on the Hudson, documenting how first-generation immigrants feel a strong cultural connection with the D.R., reinforced by frequent flights back to the island.[61]:56 A travel agency owner interviewed in The New York Times claimed, "For the Dominican to go to Santo Domingo during Christmas and summer is like the Muslims going to Mecca."[171]

One of the most popular flights of the route between New York and Santo Domingo was American Airlines Flight 587, which in November 2001 suffered an accidental crash in Belle Harbor, Queens shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport, killing all 260 people aboard the plane as well as five Belle Harbor residents.[172] The flight had a long history among Dominican residents of Washington Heights, even being referenced in Kinito Méndez and Johnny Ventura's song El Avión.[173][174] A memorial to the crash was built in 2006 near Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk, inscribed with the victims' names and the Pedro Mir quote "Después no quiero más que paz" (which translates to "Afterwards I want nothing more than peace").[175]

In 2015, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Department of Transportation organized with graffiti artists such as Cope2 to repaint the 191st Street subway tunnel.[176]

Arts[edit]

Along with the Bronx and other parts of the city, Washington Heights had a significant role in the early history of graffiti in New York City.[177] In 1971, TAKI 183 (born on 183rd street) was the first graffiti tagger to be exposed to the broader public through a profile in The New York Times;[178] 188th Street and Audubon Avenue has also been cited as a location where graffiti writers exchanged names and ideas in the 1970s.[177]

The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, founded in 2007 to support local artists,[179] organizes the annual Uptown Arts Stroll, which features artists from Upper Manhattan in public locations for several weeks each summer.[180] The United Palace, a landmarked theater built in 1930,[181] continues as a space for film and live performance in the present day, having featured musicians such as John Legend, Bob Dylan, Lenny Kravitz, and Lauryn Hill.[182]

Washington Heights has also become the setting for creative works such as Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical and film In the Heights and Angie Cruz's novels Soledad and Dominicana.[183][184][185]

Sports[edit]

Historic[edit]

Hilltop Park during a 1903 game

Five clubs in American professional sports have played in the Washington Heights area: the New York Giants, New York Mets, and New York Yankees baseball teams, and the New York Giants and New York Jets football teams.[186] Situated on Coogan's Hollow where the present-day Polo Grounds Towers are located,[187] the Polo Grounds have been the home field of the following teams: the baseball Giants (1911 to 1957), the Yankees (1912 to 1923), the Mets (1962 to 1963), the football Giants (1925 to 1955), and the New York Jets (1960 to 1963).[188] The Mets and Jets both began play at the Polo Grounds while their future home, Shea Stadium in Queens, was under construction.[189] The Polo Grounds were the site of two baseball-related deaths: the first of Ray Chapman in 1920 after being hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays, and the second of spectator Bernard Doyle in 1950,[190] accidentally killed by a 14-year-old boy who had fired his .45 caliber pistol into the air from his apartment on Edgecombe Avenue.[191][192]

Before the Yankees played at the Polo Grounds, they played at Hilltop Park on Broadway between 165th Street and 168th Street from 1903 to 1912; at the time they were known as the New York Highlanders.[193] On May 15, 1912, after being heckled for several innings, then-Detroit Tigers player Ty Cobb leaped the fence and attacked his tormentor. He was suspended indefinitely by league president Ban Johnson, but his suspension was eventually reduced to 10 days and $50.[194] A historically outstanding pitching performance took place at Hilltop Park, when on September 4, 1908, 20-year-old Washington Senators-player Walter Johnson shut out the Highlanders for three consecutive games.[195] The park is now the Columbia University Medical Center, a major hospital complex, which opened in the location in 1928.[196]

Washington Heights has been the childhood residence of many baseball stars, including former Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, who was born in the neighborhood to Dominican parents.[197] Rod Carew and Manny Ramírez were two famous players who immigrated to the neighborhood as teenagers and attended George Washington High School (Carew during the 1960s and Ramírez during the 1980s).[198] The New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig grew up in the neighborhood after moving out of Yorkville with his family,[199] attending PS 132 during the 1910s.[200][201]

Modern[edit]

The New Balance Track and Field Center, located in the Fort Washington Avenue Armory, maintains an Olympic-caliber track that is one of the fastest in the world.[202] Starting in January 2012, the Millrose Games have been held there, after having been held at the second, third, and current Madison Square Gardens from 1914 to 2011.[203] To encourage physical activity and healthy eating, a partnership of local politicians, schools, and community organizers have organized the annual "Uptown Games" for children grades 1 to 8 at the Armory.[204][205] Also at the Armory is the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, along with the Charles B. Rangel Technology & Learning Center for middle and high school students; the facility is operated by the Armory Foundation, which was created in 1993.[206][207] The Armory is the starting point for the annual Washington Heights Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, founded in 1999 by Peter M. Walsh of Coogan's Restaurant but is now run by the New York Road Runners.[208][209]

Points of interest[edit]

Parks[edit]

Washington Heights and Inwood collectively have over 500 acres (200 ha) of parkland,[210] representing over a third of the neighborhoods' total area.[4]

Seen next to the Hudson River Greenway, Inspiration Point was once a popular rest stop for pedestrians and motorists.[211]

Fort Washington Park[edit]

Washington Heights' Fort Washington Park runs from 155th Street to Dyckman Street along the Hudson River, meeting the George Washington Bridge at Jeffrey's Hook (around 178th Street).[212] The 184-acre park was originally designed in 1873 by Fredrick Law Olmsted along with Riverside Park and Morningside Park,[213]:4 and most of the park was acquired via eminent domain between 1896 and 1927.[214] Although it was initially contiguous with Fort Tryon Park (a condition for John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s donation of the Fort Tryon parkland),[16] the 1937 construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway separated the two parks.[214]

Sitting just underneath the George Washington Bridge is the Little Red Lighthouse, which was originally built in 1917 in Sandy Hook, New Jersey before being moved to aid with navigation in the Hudson River during the 1920s.[215] After the George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, the lighthouse became obsolete, and the United States Coast Guard began planning to dismantle and auction it.[216] After a public outcry, contributed to by Hildegarde Swift's popular children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, the lighthouse was instead given to the city government in 1951.[217] Having undergone renovation in 1986 and again in 2000, the lighthouse is today available for tours and is honored in the annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival.[216][218]

Fort Tryon Park[edit]

Occupying a 67-acre area south of Inwood Hill Park between Broadway and the Henry Hudson Parkway,[219] Fort Tryon Park's history began with John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s purchase of the Hays, Shaefer, Libbey, and Billings estates for $2 million in 1917.[17]:777[220] Rockefeller hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (the son of Fort Washington Park's planner) to design the park in 1927, and in 1931 Mayor James Walker accepted his donation of the parkland, to be developed primarily at Rockefeller's expense.[16] Opening in 1935, the park's picturesque views of the Palisades across the Hudson River were maintained by another Rockefeller purchase there with the aim of preventing construction, now preserved as part of Palisades Interstate Park.[219]

The Cloisters seen from the main entrance

As part of his Fort Tryon donation, Rockefeller reserved 4 acres in the center of the park for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to develop the Cloisters. The original Cloisters museum, a collection of medieval art owned by George Grey Barnard and located on upper Fort Washington Avenue,[16] was purchased by the Metropolitan with Rockefeller funds in 1925.[31]:18 After Fort Tryon Park's opening in 1935, construction began for the new Cloisters building using elements shipped from abbeys in southern France and Catalonia, based on designs by Charles Collens.[221] Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the museum has a vast collection of Romanesque and Gothic art, including the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, purchased by Rockefeller for $1 million in 1922.[222]:19[223]:7

One of Fort Tryon Park's biggest annual events is the Medieval Festival, a collaboration between the Parks Department and the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation that has taken place at the park since 1983.[224][225] The event is free, relying on a mix of private and public sponsors as well as donations, and draws an average of 60,000 people for an afternoon of medieval-themed arts, activities, and food.[226][227]

A postcard of Fort George Amusement Park, as seen from the Harlem River

Highbridge Park[edit]

Highbridge Park, a 160-acre park with heavily wooded areas and views of the Harlem River, lies on Washington Heights' western cliffside from 155th Street to Dyckman Street, cut off from the waterfront by the Harlem River Drive.[228] Unlike Washington Heights' other major parks, Highbridge had no prior design but was assembled piecemeal by the city through condemnation, the majority being acquired from 1895 to 1901.[229] In the park's southern extreme lies Coogan's Bluff, which in the time of the Polo Grounds offered a vantage point for watching baseball games without paying for tickets.[230] The park's northernmost Fort George Hill section was gained through the condemnation of Fort George Amusement Park, a trolley park built in 1895 that was burned twice by 1913.[231] In 2007, the Parks Department collaborated with the New York City Mountain Bike Association to open a network of mountain bike trails in this section of the park.[232][233]

Highbridge Park is home to three New York City landmarks: its namesake the High Bridge, the High Bridge Water Tower, and the Highbridge Play Center.[229][234][235] The High Bridge, New York City's oldest remaining bridge, was built in 1848 as part of the Croton Aqueduct system connecting the Bronx to Manhattan at 174th Street, and is active today as a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.[236] The bridge's accompanying water tower was also an integral part of New York City's water system until 1949;[234] it is currently undergoing repairs slated for completion by July 2021.[237] Built on a former reservoir in front of the High Bridge Water Tower, the Highbridge Play Center is best known for its pool, one of many Works Progress Administration-funded outdoor pools opened in the summer of 1936.[229]

The highest natural point on Manhattan, in Bennett Park. The inset at bottom left magnifies the plaque at right.

Other parks[edit]

Washington Heights is also home to the following smaller parks:

Landmarks and attractions[edit]

Columbia–Presbyterian, one of the first academic medical centers in the United States, opened in 1928.[242] Now known as NewYork–Presbyterian / Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the complex contains the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University. Located between 165th and 168th streets west of Broadway, it occupies the former site of Hilltop Park, the home of the New York Highlanders – now known as the New York Yankees – from 1903 to 1912.[243] Across the street is the Fort Washington Avenue Armory's New Balance Track and Field Center, an indoor track home to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.[244]

One of Audubon Terrace's courtyard details, with a view of the Hispanic Society of America in the background

Audubon Terrace, a cluster of eight distinguished Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival buildings constructed between 1904 and 1930, is located on Broadway between 155th and 156th streets.[245] Named for John James Audubon due to his land holdings in the Audubon Park Historic District, the complex was envisioned as a cultural center by its founder Archer Milton Huntington and almost entirely designed by his cousin Charles Pratt Huntington.[245] A National Historic Landmark,[246] the Audubon Terrace is currently home to the Hispanic Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Our Lady of Esperanza Church, and Boricua College.[247] Despite their unique decor and expansive collections, its museums have long struggled with attracting visitors due to their non-central location;[248] the American Geographical Society,[249]:527 the Heye Collection of the National Museum of the American Indian,[250] and the American Numismatic Society[251] all previously occupied Audubon Terrace but have since moved their collections elsewhere.

Overlooking Coogan's Bluff between 160th and 162nd streets in the Jumel Terrace Historic District, the Morris–Jumel Mansion has the distinction of being Manhattan's oldest surviving house.[24]:11 Headquartered by George Washington in 1776, the mansion was built in 1765 by British colonel Roger Morris and in 1810 became property of Eliza Jumel.[30] Jumel became one of the wealthiest women in the city after the death of her husband Stephen in 1832, and was later wife of Aaron Burr until his death in 1836.[22]:318 Designated a landmark by the National Register of Historic Places,[252] today the house is owned and maintained as a museum by the Department of Parks and Recreation.[29][253] Likely due to its historic nature, the Morris–Jumel Mansion is considered by some to be a haunted house.[254] Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda sat in Aaron Burr's room to write of many of the hit musical's songs.[255][256]

The Paul Robeson Home, located on the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 160th Street, is a National Historic Landmark building.[257] Part of Washington Heights' historically Black southeastern area,[49]:38 the building is known for its famous African American residents including actor Paul Robeson, musician Count Basie, and boxer Joe Louis.[50]:6

A photograph of the site of Malcolm X's assassination in the Audubon Ballroom

The Audubon Ballroom was originally a vaudeville and movie theater, built by William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation on the corner of Broadway and 165th Street.[258] Since the 1930s the theater had been used as a meeting space for unions and other organizations, and in the 1950s hosted the annual New York Mardi Gras festival.[259] The building acquired its greatest historical significance on February 21, 1965, when Malcolm X was assassinated there during a rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity.[260][12] The theater was seized by the city for unpaid back taxes in 1967, and in the late 1980s was planned for demolition in order to build a medical research center for Columbia University;[261]:109 after pushback by community members and Columbia students, however, the university reached a compromise in 1990 to restore part of the original facade and ballroom.[258][259] Today the building houses Columbia’s Mary Woodard Lasker Biomedical Research Building in addition to the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, which houses documents related to the life and work of the two civil rights activists.[262]

The United Palace was built in 1930 as the Loew's 175th Street Theater, designed primarily by Thomas W. Lamb (the same architect of the Audubon Ballroom)[259] and featuring interior design work by Harold Rambusch.[181] Originally a theater, it was bought in 1969 by televangelist Reverend Ike and became a church for the United Church Science of Living Institute.[263][264] Made a New York City landmark in 2016, today the United Palace also acts as a cultural center, hosting films and live performances.[182]

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2010,[246] the Fort Washington Presbyterian Church was built in 1914 in neo-Georgian style according to plans by Thomas Hastings, designer of the New York Public Library Main Branch.[7] In 1982 the original congregation turned the church over to La Primera Iglesia Española de Washington Heights, a congregation organized in 1942 by Puerto Rican Presbyterians on 172nd Street and Audubon Avenue; the church is now known officially as Iglesia Presbiteriana Fort Washington Heights.[7]

Local newspaper[edit]

Manhattan Times is a free English / Spanish bilingual community newspaper serving Upper Manhattan, with a focus on Washington Heights and Inwood.[265] Founded by Luís A. Miranda Jr., Roberto Ramírez Sr., and David Keisman in 2000,[40]:205 the newspaper features stories about events and other developments of interest to residents on the city and neighborhood level, and is funded in part by private advertisements in addition to public service announcements.[266] The print version is distributed on Wednesdays to 235 different street boxes and community organizations as of 2020, more than half of them in Washington Heights.[267]

Police and crime[edit]

NYPD Precincts Serving Washington Heights
33rd Precinct, serving Washington Heights South
34th Precinct, serving Washington Heights North and Inwood

Washington Heights is served by two precincts of the NYPD.[268] The area south of 179th Street is served by the 33rd Precinct, located at 2207 Amsterdam Avenue,[269] while the 34th Precinct, located at 4295 Broadway, serves the north side of the neighborhood along with Inwood.[92] The 34th Precinct ranked 23rd safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010,[270] while the 33rd Precinct ranked 24th safest.[271] The precinct was split in 1994 to increase police presence in Washington Heights at a time of very high crime rates,[106] but crime has fallen drastically since then.[271][272] As of 2018, the neighborhood has a non-fatal assault hospitalization rate of 43 per 100,000 people, lower than the citywide rate of 59 per 100,000; however, its incarceration rate of 482 per 100,000 adults is slightly higher than the citywide rate of 425 per 100,000.[138]:8

In 2020, the 34th Precinct reported 7 murders, 16 rapes, 205 robberies, 213 felony assaults, 226 burglaries, 444 grand larcenies, and 166 grand larcenies auto.[101] Crime in these categories fell by 42.1% between 1998 and 2020.[100] In the same year, the 33rd Precinct reported 4 murders, 12 rapes, 167 robberies, 205 felony assaults, 228 burglaries, 256 grand larcenies, and 87 grand larcenies auto.[101] Crime in these categories fell by 42.4% between 1998 and 2020.[99]

Fire safety[edit]

FDNY Engine Co. 93/Ladder Co. 45/Battalion 13

Washington Heights is served by three New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire stations:[273]

  • Engine Company 67 – 518 West 170th Street (a New York City landmark)[274][275]
  • Engine Company 84/Ladder Company 34 – 513 West 161st Street (a New York City landmark)[276][277]
  • Engine Company 93/Ladder Company 45/Battalion 13 – 515 West 181st Street[278]

In addition, FDNY EMS Station 13 is located at 501 West 172nd Street.[279]

Health[edit]

As of 2018, preterm births in Manhattan Community District 12 are lower than the city average, though births to teenage mothers are higher. In Community District 12, there are 73 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 23.3 births to teenage mothers per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).[138]:11 Community District 12 has a low population of residents who are uninsured. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 14%, compared to the 12% of residents citywide.[138]:14

The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in Community District 12 is 0.0078 milligrams per cubic metre (7.8×10−9 oz/cu ft), slightly greater than the city average of 0.0075.[138]:9 Thirteen percent of Community District 12 residents are smokers, similar to the city average of 14%.[138]:13 In Community District 12, 26% of residents are obese, 13% are diabetic, and 28% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.[138]:16 Additionally, 24% of children are obese, more than the citywide average of 20%.[138]:12

Eighty-one percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, less than the citywide average of 87%. In 2018, 68% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," also less than the citywide average of 78%.[138]:13 For every supermarket in Community District 12, there are 13 bodegas.[138]:10

The overall life expectancy of Community District 12 is 84, 2.8 years greater than the citywide average.[138]:20 Its rates of premature death from cancer (39.1 per 100,000) and heart disease (26.1 per 100,000) are significantly lower than the citywide rates, although its drug-related death rate (9.6 per 100,000) is similar and its suicide death rate (7.2 per 100,000) is higher.[138]:18

The NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Irving Medical Center is located in Washington Heights at 168th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue.[280] Built and opened in the 1920s, and known as the Columbia–Presbyterian Medical Center until 1998, the complex was one of the world's first academic medical centers.[281] The campus contains the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University.[282] The campus also contains Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, New York City's only stand-alone children's hospital. In addition, NewYork–Presbyterian's Allen Hospital is located in Inwood.[283][284]

Politics[edit]

Politically, Washington Heights is in New York's 13th congressional district, represented by Democrat Adriano Espaillat as of 2017.[285] It is also part of the 31st State Senate District,[286][287] represented by Democrat Robert Jackson,[288] and the 71st and 72nd State Assembly districts,[289][290][291] represented respectively by Democrats Al Taylor and Carmen De La Rosa.[292] In the City Council, the neighborhood is part of the 7th and 10th districts,[293] represented respectively by Democrats Mark Levine[294] and Ydanis Rodriguez.[295]

Post offices and ZIP Codes[edit]

USPS Fort George Station

Washington Heights is located in three ZIP Codes. From south to north, they are 10032 (between 155th and 173rd streets), 10033 (between 173rd and 187th streets) and 10040 (between 187th and Dyckman streets).[296]

The United States Postal Service operates four post offices in Washington Heights:

  • Audubon Station – 511 West 165th Street[297]
  • Fort George Station – 4558 Broadway[298]
  • Fort Washington Station – 556 West 158th Street[299]
  • Washington Bridge Station – 518 West 181st Street[300]

Education[edit]

Community District 12 has fewer college graduates and more high school dropouts compared to the borough and city as a whole. Only 38% of residents age 25 and older have a college education or higher, compared to 64% boroughwide and 43% citywide; meanwhile, 29% of adults in Community District 12 did not finish high school, compared to 13% boroughwide and 19% citywide.[138]:6 Elementary school absenteeism is similar to the rest of the city: as of 2018, 19% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, compared to 18% boroughwide and 20% citywide.[301]:24 (PDF p. 55)

Washington Heights is part of District 6, along with Inwood and Hamilton Heights.[302] Of the district's 19,939 students as of 2019, 85% are Hispanic / Latino, 7% are Black, 5% are White, and 3% are any other race; in addition, 29% are English Language Learners, and 22% are Students with Disabilities.[303] Of all students in the cohort set to graduate in 2019, 74% in District 6 did so by August 2019, compared to 77% citywide.[304] The district rate was significantly lower for males (69%), English Language Learners (52%), and Students with Disabilities (49%).[305]

Schools[edit]

Public schools[edit]

PS 189
PS/IS 187 Hudson Cliffs

Public primary and secondary schools are provided to New York City students by the New York City Department of Education.

Zoned public elementary and elementary/middle schools include:[303]

  • PS 28 Wright Brothers (grades 3K-5)[306]
  • PS 189 (grades 3K-5)[307]
  • PS 48 PO Michael J Buczek (grades 3K-5)[308]
  • PS 128 Audubon (grades 3K-5)[309]
  • PS 173 (grades 3K-5)[310]
  • PS 4 Duke Ellington (grades 3K-5)[311]
  • PS 8 Luis Belliard (grades 3K-5)[312]
  • PS 115 Alexander Humboldt (grades PK-5)[313]
  • PS 152 Dyckman Valley (grades PK-5)[314]
  • Dos Puentes Elementary School (grades K-5)[315]
  • PS 132 Juan Pablo Duarte (grades K-5)[316]
  • PS/IS 187 Hudson Cliffs (grades PK-8)[317]

Unzoned elementary and elementary/middle schools include:

  • Castle Bridge School (grades PK-5)[318]
  • Professor Juan Bosch Public School (grades K-5)[319]

Zoned middle schools include:

  • JHS 143 Eleanor Roosevelt (grades 6–8)[320]
  • MS 319 Maria Teresa (grades 6–8)[321]
  • MS 322 (grades 6–8)[322]
  • MS 324 Patria Mirabal (grades 6–8)[323]

Unzoned middle and middle/high schools include:

  • Harbor Heights (grades 6–8)[324]
  • Community Math and Science Prep (grades 6–8)[325]
  • IS 528 Bea Fuller Rodgers (grades 6–8)[326]
  • City College Academy of the Arts (grades 6-12)[327]
  • Community Health Academy of the Heights (grades 6-12)[328]

The former George Washington High School, built in 1923, is located between 192nd and 193rd streets directly west of Highbridge Park.[40]:72 It became the George Washington Educational Campus in 1999 when it was split into four smaller schools:[329]

  • The College Academy (grades 9-12)[330]
  • High School for Media and Communications (grades 9-12)[331]
  • High School for Law and Public Service (grades 9-12)[332]
  • High School for Health Careers and Sciences (grades 9-12)[333]

The Gregorio Luperón High School for Science and Mathematics was founded in 1994 and serves a student body of newly-arrived Spanish-speakers.[334][335] Washington Heights also has the unzoned Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, serving grades PK to 12.[336][337]

Charter and private schools[edit]

Success Academy Washington Heights, previously the location of Mother Cabrini High School
The Mirabal Sisters Campus, housing KIPP Washington Heights, MS 319 Maria Teresa, and MS 324 Patria Mirabal

Charter schools include:

Catholic schools under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York include:

Other private schools include:

Higher education[edit]

Yeshiva University Schottenstein Center
New York Public Library Washington Heights branch

University education in Washington Heights includes Yeshiva University[351] and Boricua College.[352] Located between 184th and 186th streets east of Broadway, Yeshiva University's Wilf Campus was founded in 1928 and is currently the Jewish institution's main campus;[353][354] it was originally envisioned with Moorish Revival aesthetic, although most of its buildings ended up with a modern design.[355] Schools within the campus include Yeshiva College, the Syms School of Business, and the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy high school.[356] Boricua College, whose Manhattan campus is located on 156th and Broadway in the Audubon Terrace complex,[352] is a small private college founded in 1975 to serve the city's Puerto Rican population.[357]

The medical campus of Columbia University hosts the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, and the biomedical programs of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which offer Masters and Doctorate degrees in several fields.[280] These schools are among the departments that compose the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.[282]

CUNY in the Heights, a higher education program of the Borough of Manhattan Community College of the City University of New York, is actually located in Inwood on the corner of 213th Street and Broadway, despite its name.[358] In the same building, the CUNY XPress Immigration Center is a branch of their Citizenship Now! program, which offers immigrants free legal services to help in attaining citizenship.[359][360]

Libraries[edit]

The New York Public Library (NYPL) operates two branches in Washington Heights:

  • The Fort Washington branch is located at 535 West 179th Street. The three-story Carnegie library opened in 1979.[361]
  • The Washington Heights branch is located at 1000 St. Nicholas Avenue. It was founded in 1868 as a subscription-based library and moved twice before it relocated to its current four-story structure in 1914, owing to generous donations from James Hood Wright.[362][363]:189

Religious institutions[edit]

Christian institutions include:

Jewish institutions include:

Transportation[edit]

Bridges and highways[edit]

Three of the bridges that cross the Harlem River are visible: the High Bridge (foreground), the Alexander Hamilton Bridge (middle, behind High Bridge), and the Washington Bridge (background). In this photo, looking north, Manhattan is on the left and the Bronx on the right.

Washington Heights is connected to Fort Lee, New Jersey across the Hudson River via the Othmar Ammann-designed George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge.[377]:42[1] Upon completion in 1931, the George Washington Bridge was also the world's longest suspension bridge.[214] The Pier Luigi Nervi-designed George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal is located at the Manhattan end of the bridge, at 179th Street and Fort Washington Avenue.[378] In 1963, the year it was built, Nervi won an award for the terminal's unique use of concrete,[379] exemplified by the huge ventilation ducts that look like butterflies from a distance.[380]:570

The Trans-Manhattan Expressway, part of Interstate 95, runs for 0.8 miles (1.3 km) from the George Washington Bridge in a trench between 178th and 179th streets.[381] The construction of the George Washington Bridge and the Trans-Manhattan Expressway required the demolition of all apartment buildings between 178th and 179th streets, in addition to many west of Cabrini Boulevard between 177th and 181st streets, evicting nearly 2,000 families.[382][383][384] To the east, the highway leads to the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, completed in 1963, which crosses the Harlem River and connects to the Bronx via the Cross Bronx Expressway.[385] The Washington Bridge, built in 1888, crosses the river just north of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and connects to both the Trans-Manhattan and Cross Bronx expressways.[386]:4

Crossing the river at 175th Street in Manhattan, the High Bridge is the oldest bridge in New York City still in existence.[387] The bridge was completed in 1848 to carry the Croton Aqueduct as part of the city's water system;[236] a promenade was added in 1864 that stayed in use up until the 1970s, although the aqueduct function was discontinued in 1949.[388] In the late 1920s, several of its stone piers were replaced with a steel arch that spanned the river to allow ships to more easily navigate under the bridge.[389] In June 2015, the High Bridge reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge after a three-year rehabilitation project.[236]

For transport northward and southward across Manhattan, Washington Heights is connected with two other significant highways: the Harlem River Drive by the Harlem River and the Henry Hudson Parkway (part of New York State Route 9A) by the Hudson River.[390] The Harlem River Drive began as a horse carriage roadway in 1898 and was converted into a highway exclusively for cars during the 1950s.[391][392] The road has since blocked access to the waterfront from Highbridge Park,[236] although the Harlem River Greenway (which is currently planned for renovation)[393] can still be accessed from 155th Street and Dyckman Street.[394] The Henry Hudson Parkway, built in 1936,[395] is also surrounded by parkland but leaves Fort Washington Park with a large amount of waterfront space on its western side,[211] while the Hudson River Greenway lies on its eastern side.[394] Running above-ground between the highway and the greenway is the Empire Service Amtrak line, whose closest stops are at Yonkers and Penn Station.[396]

Subway[edit]

Washington Heights is well served by the New York City Subway. On the IND Eighth Avenue Line, service is available at the 155th Street and 163rd Street–Amsterdam Avenue stations (C train), the 168th Street station (1​, A, and ​C trains), and the 175th Street, 181st Street, and 190th Street stations (A train). The IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line (1 train) has stops at 157th Street, 168th Street, 181st Street, and 191st Street.[397]

Out of these stations, only 175th Street is fully accessible, while 168th Street is accessible only for the entrance to the A and C trains.[398] To help residents navigate the steep hills of the neighborhood's northwestern area, the 181st Street and 190th Street IND stations provide free elevator service between Fort Washington Avenue and the Broadway valley below.[399] On the northeastern side, the 191st Street station also has an elevator to St. Nicholas Avenue and a tunnel running to Broadway.[400]

The 181st Street and 190th Street IND stations have several unique entrances and exits, many featuring a stone brick design inspired by the cliffside of Overlook Terrace.[24][401] The 168th Street, 190th Street, and both 181st Street stations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[246] The 191st Street and 190th Street stations also have the distinction of being the deepest in the entire subway system by distance to ground level, at 180 and 140 feet respectively.[402] In fact, in 1951 researchers from New York University declared that the 190th Street station would provide adequate protection from nuclear fallout.[403]

Bus[edit]

The following MTA Regional Bus Operations bus routes serve Washington Heights:[405][406]

Notable people[edit]

Notable current and former residents of Washington Heights include:

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

Citations

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  467. ^ An Evening with Screenwriter/Novelist Rafael Yglesias Archived May 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Emerson College. Retrieved April 30, 2016. "Rafael Yglesias is an American novelist and screenwriter. He was born (May 12, 1954) and raised in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood."
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Further reading

External links[edit]