Washington Heights
The George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge, crossing the Hudson River with Washington Heights in the background (April 1986)
The George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge, crossing the Hudson River with Washington Heights in the background (April 1986)
The Heights
Location of Washington Heights in New York City
Coordinates: 40°50′N 73°56′W / 40.84°N 73.94°W / 40.84; -73.94
Country United States
State New York
CityNew York City
Community DistrictManhattan 12[1]
 • Total1.655 sq mi (4.29 km2)
 • Total151,574
 • Density92,000/sq mi (35,000/km2)
 • Hispanic64.1%
 • White21.7
 • Black7.5
 • Asian3.5
 • Others3.2
 • Median household income$58,373
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 northern part of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It is named for Fort Washington, a fortification constructed at the highest natural point on Manhattan 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, rapidly developed during the early 1900s as it became connected to the rest of Manhattan via the Broadway–Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue lines of the New York City Subway. 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, many White residents left the neighborhood for nearby suburbs as the Latino populations increased. Dominican Americans became the dominant group by the 1980s despite facing economic difficulties, leading the neighborhood to its status in the 21st century 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.


Early history

A topographic map of northern Manhattan made by the British in November 1776 following the fall of Fort Washington during the Revolutionary War[5]
Blue Bell Tavern on Broadway
Paterno Castle

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area was traversed by American Indians from the Early Woodland Period,[6]: 117  who left remains of shellfish and pottery at the site of the present-day Little Red Lighthouse.[7]: 79  Washington Heights is part of the section of northern Manhattan that was settled by the Wecquaesgeeks (originally a name for the area meaning "birch-bark country"),[8]: 3  a band of the Wappinger and a Lenape Native American people.[9]: 5 [10][11] 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.[7]: 74 [6]: 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".[12]: 133 [13]: 2 

17th century

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.[14]: 20  The Dutch referred to the elevated area of northwestern Washington Heights as "Long Hill" while the Fort Tryon Park area specifically carried the name "Forest Hill".[15]: 2 

18th and 19th centuries

None of the land in present-day Washington Heights was under private ownership until 1712, when it was parcelled out in lots to various landowners from the village of Harlem to the south.[16]: 745  Even after repeated attempts by the Dutch to drive them out, including the bloody Kieft's War (1643–1645), some Wecquaesgeeks managed to maintain residence in Washington Heights up until the Dutch paid them a settlement for their last land claims in 1715.[11]: 5  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.[6]: 3, 542 

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.[17]: 56 [18]: 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.[19]: 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)[16]: 737  built a few months prior opposite Fort Lee, New Jersey to protect the Hudson River from enemy ships.[9]: 229 [15]: 2 [18]: 111 

Under British control, the position was renamed Fort Knyphausen for the Hessian general Wilhelm von Knyphausen, who played a major part in the victory;[20]: 326 [5] 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.[12]: 158  The park 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;[21] she was also honored with the naming of Margaret Corbin Drive in 1977.[10]

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.[12]: 65 [20]: 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.[9]: 232 

During the British evacuation of New York in 1783, George Washington and his staff stood in front of the tavern as they watched the American troops march southward to retake the city.[22]: 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.[12]: 65 

20th century

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

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.[23][24][25]

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 (8.1 ha) from 155th to 158th Street west of Broadway.[11]: 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.[26]

On the eastern side, by Edgecombe Avenue between 160th and 162nd streets, the Morris–Jumel Mansion has been successfully preserved to this day.[27] 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.[12]: 120 [28]: 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.[20]: 318  In 1903, the City bought the mansion and it became a museum, the oldest surviving house in Manhattan.[22]: 11 [28]: 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.[12]: 160  Located near Margaret Corbin Circle,[29]: 23  this estate was once owned by William "Boss" Tweed but got its current name from William Libbey, who purchased it in 1880.[30] Even more extravagant, Paterno Castle was situated on the estate of real estate developer Charles Paterno by the Hudson River at 181st Street.[31] Built in 1907, the mansion was demolished thirty years later for Paterno's Castle Village complex, where pieces of the original structure still remain.[22]: 12 [32]

The neighborhood's largest estate was the property of industrial tycoon C. K. G. Billings, taking up 25 acres (10 ha) in the southern part of Fort Tryon Park.[22]: 20 [29] 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 led to the Billings mansion.[15]: 10 [30]

Initial residential development in Washington Heights began in the late 19th century with the construction of row and wood-frame houses in the southern portion of the neighborhood, particularly near Amsterdam Avenue.[28]: 2 [33] In 1886, the Third Avenue Railway was extended from 125th Street to 155th Street along Amsterdam Avenue.[34]: 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).[35]: 76  The IRT built the 157th Street, 168th Street, 181st Street, and Dyckman Street stations between 1904 and 1906 (the 191st Street station opened as an infill station in 1911).[11]: 12 [36]: 1026 [37]: 60 

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.[38]: 14 [35]: 75  Buildings such as the 13-story Riviera included elaborate decor and generous amenities to attract higher-paying tenants.[11]: 15 

The southern and eastern parts of Washington Heights experienced a construction boom in the years leading up to World War I.[35]: 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.[39] Many of the new residents came from crowded immigrant neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side,[38]: 15  which saw its density halved between 1910 and 1930.[40]: 73  As a result of the development of new housing, the total population of Manhattan north of 155th Street grew from just 8,000 in 1900 to 110,000 by 1920.[40]: 53  The incoming residents of Washington Heights were a diverse group of people of European descent. In 1920, nearly half were Protestant, most of whom had parents born in the United States; the remainder was split between Jews and Catholics, typically immigrants or born to immigrant parents.[40]: 292 

The next wave of urbanization for Washington Heights came in the 1920s, coinciding with the construction boom occurring across the city.[35]: 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.[40]: 93  Transit for new residents was improved 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.[41]

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.[35]: 79  By 1930, nearly a quarter of Manhattan's Jewish residents lived north of 155th Street.[42]: 152  The neighborhood also saw an influx of German Jews escaping Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, a history documented by Steven M. Lowenstein's book Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson (a nickname referencing the origin city of many in the diaspora).[39]: 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.[38]: 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.[39]: 45 

In the first half of the 20th century, tensions broke out between Catholics and Jews, who were not very segregated residentially but remained in separate social spheres.[43]: 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.[44]: 236 [42]: 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.[42]: 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.[45] The Black population of Washington Heights was dwarfed, however, by that of Hamilton Heights, where White residents were 63% of the population in 1943.[46] 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.[6]: 4585  This attitude was expressed in a phrase heard in the time period: "Washington Heights begins where Harlem ends."[38]: 33 [35]: 125  In fact, many of the neighborhood's new Jewish arrivals had left from Harlem as it became increasingly populated by Black people from the South during the Great Migration.[42]: 152 [6]: 1890 

Segregation and racism

555 Edgecombe Avenue
St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church

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.[47]: 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 various relatively affluent White people until 1939, when the owner cancelled all the tenants' leases and began renting exclusively to Black people.[48]: 5  While organizations like the Neighborhood Protective Association of Washington Heights had kept the neighborhood virtually all-White throughout much of the 20th century,[49]: 248  the overcrowded conditions of Harlem led to growth in demand for apartments outside the neighborhood.[50]: 35 

Throughout the 1940s, the building had a number of notable Black residents, such as Paul Robeson, Kenneth Clark, and Count Basie.[48]: 6  The presence of middle-class Black people in 555 Edgecombe and other higher-class buildings in southeast Washington Heights led many to associate it with Sugar Hill, the Harlem sub-neighborhood spanning between Edgecombe Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue to its south.[48]: 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.[51]: 1043 [52] 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.[38]: 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 supposed motive for the attack was to counter the perception that Highbridge Pool was "owned" by the Jesters, and Black and Latino youths were often called racial slurs and chased away from the surrounding blocks.[50]: 79  As Eric Schneider analyzes in Vampires, Dragons, and Egyptian Kings: Youth Gangs in Postwar New York, the incident illustrated the 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 Black people in their ranks (similar diversity was seen in the membership of the Dragons and Egyptian Kings).[50]: 88 

White flight and Latino immigration

While signs were slowly appearing for the first half of the 20th century that Washington Heights would not forever be a neighborhood of European Americans, the 1960s and 1970s featured full force demographic shifts. Washington Heights' upwardly mobile White residents began to leave in great numbers, and lower-income Latino population saw great increases.[38]: 138  Apart from the allure of suburban homes and their economic capacity to buy them, White residents were spurred to leave by the demographic changes themselves, increasing negligence of residential buildings, and rising crime (having more than doubled between 1969 and 1982).[38]: 128 [39]: 224  Compared to the White flight occurring in other neighborhoods such as the West Bronx, the process was much slower and less destructive as few buildings were outright abandoned or burned.[38]: 156 [39]: 216 

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.[39]: 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.[53] 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.[39]: 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.[54][55] 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.[39]: 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.[39]: 218 

While some Dominican immigrants had been arriving in Washington Heights throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the pace increased drastically during the regime of Joaquín Balaguer, who took power in 1966 following the Dominican Civil War.[56]: 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 growing emigration from the Dominican Republic.[57]: 58  Some 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.[57]: 58 [58]

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.[59] 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 sent remittances home, imagining an eventual retirement to the island.[60]: 823 

School conflicts

George Washington Educational Campus

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.[35]: 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.[61]: 271 [62] 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.[35]: 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.[35]: 162 [38]: 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 in which public meetings were plagued by incivility and at times even violence.[35]: 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.[38]: 99  Located in a grand building with a Works Progress Administration mural by Lucienne Bloch,[63] the school was relatively prestigious in the decades after its 1925 founding, graduating people such as Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger, and Murray Jarvik.[64]: 24 [65]: 37 [66] Although George Washington remained racially mixed through the early 1970s, the school had a tracking system that saw White students leave the school better prepared for college, and violence frequently broke out among gangs identifying by race.[38]: 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.[38]: 102  However, the United Federation of Teachers – which had also clashed with students and parents over the 1964 school boycott[67] and the 1968 teachers' strike[35]: 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.[68]

By the end of 1970, the high school had seen the resignation of three principals and multiple incidents of violence against students, teachers, and security guards;[69] while many safety improvements were made throughout the 1970s, its academic performance continued to decline.[38]: 109 [70][71] In 1999, the school took its present form as the George Washington Educational Campus composed of four smaller schools.[72]

Late 20th and early 21st centuries

Immigration trends

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.[59]: 30  Around the year 2000, the Dominican community reached its peak and became a slim majority of Washington Heights and Inwood,[73]: 10  propelling the neighborhoods' combined population to 208,000, the highest level since 1950.[74][75]

Even as they arrived in great numbers, Dominicans who came to the neighborhood faced a difficult economic situation, with many of the manufacturing jobs they disproportionately occupied having disappeared throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[56] This was clear by 1990, when the proportion of Dominican New Yorkers living in households below the poverty line was 36%, more than double the citywide rate.[56]: 19  In addition to service work, many residents found local jobs in the small-scale garment sector and factory work in New Jersey.[38]: 140 [59]: 37 [76][77]

During the late 20th century, other immigrant groups began to make their home in the neighborhood as well. In the late 1970s and early 1980s a moderate influx of Soviet Jews occurred following a loosening of the country's emigration policy,[78]: 17  predominantly professionals and artists pushed out by antisemitism and drawn by economic opportunity.[38]: 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.[79]: 70 [80]: 49 

Smaller communities of Central Americans, Colombians, and Chinese immigrants had also developed.[4] The neighborhood's African American population began to decrease from its height in the 1970s, by 2000 making up less than one-tenth of the neighborhood.[38]: 138 [81] In the present day Washington Heights also has an Orthodox Jewish community served by numerous synagogues, many of which have noticed more young Jewish families move into the neighborhood during the 2000s.[82][83]

1980s crime and drug crisis

The Trans-Manhattan Expressway, one of several highway connections that made Washington Heights a hotspot for the cocaine trade in the 1980s.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Washington Heights was severely affected by the crack cocaine epidemic, as was the rest of New York City.[38]: 158  Washington Heights had become one of the largest drug distribution centers in the Northeastern United States,[84][85] bringing a negative reputation to Dominican Americans as a group.[86] 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,[87] and in 1989, The New York Times called the neighborhood "the crack capital of America".[88] 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.[89]

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.[38]: 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.[88][90] Washington Heights also had a high level of unemployment and poverty in the 1980s and 1990s, providing ample economic motivation for young people to enter the drug trade.[73]

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.[38]: 178  It was common for police and detectives to note unresponsiveness from residents during murder inquiries.[91] 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.[92]

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.[38]: 180  The suspicion was not unfounded, as O'Keefe already had several civilian complaints of unnecessary aggression in arrests.[93]: 320  What began as a peaceful demonstration for Garcia's death turned into a violent riot, causing multiple fires, fifteen injuries, and one death.[38]: 181 [94] 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."[95]

Crime drop and community improvement

Heather Garden, one of Fort Tryon Park's areas that was refurbished during the 1980s and 1990s[96]

During the mid to late 1990s, Washington Heights experienced a drastic decrease in crime that continued through the 21st century. From 1990 to 2023, reported motor vehicle thefts, murders, and burglaries have each fallen by over 85%, felony assaults, rapes, and robberies by over 65%, and grand larcenies by around 45%.[97][98] The 30th and 32nd precincts to the south of Washington Heights, which cover most of Harlem north of 133rd Street, experienced just as drastic crime drops during the past decades.[99][100][101]

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.[102][103] 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 observes 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.[90]

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.[38]: 170 [104] 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.[38]: 192  In an attempt to disrupt drug activity on the block, police officers set up barricades at both ends of the block, demanded proof of residence from anyone coming through, patrolled building hallways, and pressured landlords to improve their buildings.[105] The program was controversial, facing criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union and resistance from residents for its invasion of privacy.[38]: 193  The initiative was later expanded throughout the city.[106]

As crime decreased, Washington Heights also saw a recovery of many of its community institutions, including parks.[38] 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,[107] and several corpses were found in the park.[108][109]

21st century

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,[110] the park and its reputation were restored.[38]: 210 [107]

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.[111] 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.[112] 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.[113][114][115]

Throughout the 2010s Washington Heights residents have made modest economic gains. According to American Community Survey data the neighborhood's poverty rate decreased from 27% to 18% in the approximate 2008–2018 period.[4] In the same period, the unemployment rate decreased from 14% to 9% and the proportion of residents with bachelor's degrees increased from 29% to 35%.[4]

Washington Heights has faced gentrification throughout the 2000s, with data from the New York University Furman Center finding that Washington Heights and Inwood's average residential rent had increased by 29.3% between 1990 and 2014.[116] 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.[117][118]

Washington Heights residents face many difficulties with the rental housing market; over a quarter of households pay the majority of their income in rent.[4] As of 2014, Washington Heights and Inwood have the highest rate of severe crowding in Manhattan.[116]: 121  Washington Heights also has the city's second-highest rate of serious housing code violations and its lowest rental vacancy rate.[116]: 174 

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."[38]: 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."[38]: 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.[119]

In 2018, ground was broken in 2018 on Amsterdam Avenue and 180th Street by developer Youngwoo & Associates for the MVRDV-designed Radio Tower & Hotel.[120] The tower, 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.[121] The hotel opened in July 2022.[122][123]


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.[124] It contains the highest piece of land in Manhattan: an outcropping of schist 265 feet (81 m) above sea level in Bennett Park.[125]

The neighborhood was in the early 1900s considered to run as far south as 135th Street west of Central Harlem,[12][126]: 294  encompassing most of the elevated area of Upper Manhattan.[124] In the modern day, Washington Heights is typically defined as the area between Hamilton Heights at 155th Street and Inwood at Dyckman Street,[38]: 139 [127][128] although some have also considered Washington Heights' southern boundary to be 158th Street.[42]: 151 [45]


Hudson Heights

Main article: Hudson Heights, Manhattan

Castle Village, like other buildings in Hudson Heights, switched from rental occupation to co-op ownership in the 1980s.[129]

The Hudson Heights subneighborhood is generally considered to cover the area west of Broadway and north of 181st Street or 179th Street,[130][131] although some extend its southern boundary as far as 173rd Street.[132][133] 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.[130]

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.[134][135][136][137] However, some disparage the name;[138] 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."[38]: 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.[47]

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.[39]: 216  As of 2019, market rents remain significantly higher north of 181st Street and west of Broadway,[139] although the most noticeable difference is the racial divide; as of 2020, Hudson Heights census blocks are 60% White while census blocks east of Broadway are 13% White.[3]

Fort George

Apartment buildings in Fort George with stilts along Fairview Avenue due to elevation differences

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.[140][141] Educational institutions include Yeshiva College, located east of Amsterdam Avenue near Highbridge Park,[142] and George Washington High School, on the nearby site of the original Fort George.[12]: 155  Fort George also holds one of Manhattan's rare semi-private streets, Washington Terrace, which runs south from West 186th Street for a half-block between Audubon and Amsterdam avenues.[143]

Elevation changes

Because of its abrupt, hilly topography, pedestrian navigation in Upper Manhattan is facilitated by many step streets.[144] The longest of these is a set of 130 stairs connecting Fort Washington Avenue and Overlook Terrace at 187th Street.[145]

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.[146][147] The 191st Street IRT station also has a pedestrian tunnel, with an entrance on Broadway near 190th Street, and free elevator connection.[148] Exemplifying the abrupt changes in the area's terrain, the 191st Street and Dyckman Street IRT stations are at similar elevations compared to sea level, but the former is the city's deepest subway station below ground level,[149][150] while the latter, just 0.4 miles (0.64 km) north, is above ground.[151][152]


For census purposes, New York City government classifies Washington Heights as part of two neighborhood tabulation areas called Washington Heights North and Washington Heights South, split by 177th Street west of Broadway and 180th Street east of Broadway.[3] Based on data from the 2020 United States Census, the population of Washington Heights was 143,879, a decrease of 23,249 (13.9%) 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 136.3 inhabitants per acre (87,200/sq mi; 33,700/km2).[2][3]

The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 21.7% (31,155) White, 7.5% (10,823) African American, 3.5% (4,976) Asian, 0.9% (1,348) from other races, and 2.3% (3,298) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race(s) were 64.1% (92,279) of the population. Between 2000 and 2020, the White and Asian populations increased by 42% (9,157) and 39% (1,385) respectively, while the Black and Hispanic/Latino populations decreased by 26% (3,766) and 25% (31,439) respectively.[3][153]

In-depth demographic statistics are collected by the American Community Survey. Based on 2016-2020 data, an estimated 18% of the population is under 20 (compared to 23% citywide), 30% are ages 20 to 35 (24% citywide), 37% are ages 35 to 65 (38% citywide), and 15% are 65 and over (15% citywide). 46% of residents are foreign-born (36% citywide), of whom 56% are U.S. citizens (58% citywide). Of the population 5 years and over, 70% speak a language other than English at home (48% citywide) and 35% speak English less than "very well" (22% citywide).[3][4]

The unemployment rate is 11% (7% citywide); 67% of workers commute by public transportation (53% citywide) and 12% by automobile (27% citywide). Washington Heights has a median household income of $58,373 ($67,046 citywide) and a mean household income of $78,184 ($107,000 citywide). 18% of residents are considered below poverty (17% citywide); the rate among children and seniors is 25% (24% citywide) and 28% (18% citywide) respectively. With a median gross rent of $1,405 ($1,489 citywide), 28% of households paid over half of their income in rent (28% citywide).[4]


Little Dominican Republic

Local protests on February 22, 2020 over the postponement of elections in the Dominican Republic and the possibility of corruption.[154]

Washington Heights was designated "Little Dominican Republic" along with Inwood and part of Hamilton Heights in 2018,[155] an area where two-thirds of Hispanic/Latino residents identify as Dominican as of 2017.[4] Another name sometimes given to the area is "Quisqueya Heights", in reference to a Taíno name for Hispaniola meaning "cradle of life".[59]: 30 [156] 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.[157]: 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.[59]: 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."[158]

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.[159] The flight had a long history among Dominican New Yorkers, even being referenced in Kinito Méndez and Johnny Ventura's song El Avión.[160][161] 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").[162]


North Presbyterian Church, founded in 1847 and merged with two other congregations, has an English Gothic design in its present landmarked building, designed in 1904.[163]: 159 
The Hebrew Tabernacle of Washington Heights is a Reform congregation whose former location on 161st Street became a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall, while the current landmarked building was previously the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist until its closure in 1973.[163]: 97 [164]

Washington Heights' religious institutions are primarily Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic.[163] Some of Washington Heights and Inwood's earliest churches were the St. Elizabeth Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and the Mount Washington Presbyterian Church, all built in the mid- to late-1800s before the neighborhood urbanized.[165]: 9  Most of the neighborhood's places of worship date back to the early 1900s, but many have changed or moved as the ethnic composition changed in the later 1900s.

The landmarked Fort Washington Presbyterian Church, built in 1914 in neo-Georgian style according to plans by Thomas Hastings,[8] is an example of how Washington Heights' religious institutions reflected demographic changes in the neighborhood. The church was constructed after a merger between two Presbyterian churches further south in order to have a location uptown, where many members of the previous congregations were moving.[165]: 10  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.[8]: 11  Other Protestant churches which changed from a European American to a mostly Caribbean American congregation in the later part of the 20th century include the landmarked Holyrood Episcopal Church and Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Dia (a Seventh-day Adventist church).[163]: 80 [165]

With the exception of Our Lady of Esperanza Church, which was built in Audubon Terrace as New York's second Spanish-language Catholic church,[163]: 163  the neighborhood's Catholic churches served its large Irish population during the early 1900s.[38]: 27  Church of the Incarnation and St. Elizabeth Church both started Catholic schools which began to serve more and more Dominicans as the Irish moved to the suburbs.[38]: 130, 170 [163]: 111, 201 

Other Christian denominations have a smaller but significant presence in Washington Heights, such as Baptist churches and Greek Orthodox churches (most notably St. Spyridon).[163] Also of note is the Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church, where in 1933 members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation assassinated Eastern Diocese Archbishop Levon Tourian as he walked down its halls, after which the church needed to be reconsecrated.[163]: 99 

Washington Heights' many Jewish institutions underwent significant change throughout the 20th century, with many of their locations in the southern part of the neighborhood being sold to Christian congregations as they closed or moved to more northern areas, where a significant population of Jewish people remained after the White flight of the 1960s and 1970s.[39]: 220  Some Jewish congregations were founded by German Jewish immigrants during the flight from Nazi persecution in the 1930s and 1940s, such as the Conservative Fort Tryon Jewish Center, while others predate it, such as the Orthodox Mount Sinai Jewish Center.[163]: 79, 153  Khal Adath Jeshurun is a Separatist Orthodox congregation started by Rabbi Joseph Breuer in New York, a continuation of his father's Jewish community in Frankfurt am Main which includes the Yeshiva Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch as a parochial school.[39][163]: 123 


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.[166]
United Palace Theater

Washington Heights, along with other parts of the city such as the Bronx, had a significant role in the early history of graffiti in New York City.[167] 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;[168] 188th Street and Audubon Avenue has also been cited as a location where graffiti writers exchanged names and ideas in the 1970s.[167]

The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, founded in 2007 to support local artists,[169] organizes the annual Uptown Arts Stroll, which features artists from Upper Manhattan in public locations for several weeks each summer.[170] The United Palace, a landmarked theater built in 1930,[171] 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.[172] Also noteworthy is UP Theater Company, a Washington Heights and Inwood-based company established in 2010 which performs original plays in the neighborhood.[173][174][175]

Washington Heights has also become the setting for creative works such as Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway musical and film In the Heights, Angie Cruz's novels Soledad and Dominicana, and the Amazon show The Horror of Dolores Roach.[176][177][178]



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.[179] Situated on Coogan's Hollow where the present-day Polo Grounds Towers are located,[180] the Polo Grounds have been the home field of three professional baseball teams, the baseball Giants (from 1911 to 1957), the Yankees (from 1912 to 1923), the Mets (from 1962 to 1963), and two professional football teams, the New York Giants (from 1925 to 1955) and the New York Jets (from 1960 to 1963).[181] The Mets and Jets both began play at the Polo Grounds while their future home, Shea Stadium in Queens, was under construction.[182] 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,[183] accidentally killed by a 14-year-old boy who had fired his .45 caliber pistol into the air from his apartment on Edgecombe Avenue.[184][185]

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.[186] 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.[187] 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.[188] In 1928 the park became the Columbia University Medical Center, a major hospital complex.[189]

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.[190] 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).[191] The New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig grew up in the neighborhood after moving out of Yorkville with his family,[192] attending PS 132 during the 1910s.[193][194] Legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully also grew up in the Washington Heights.[195]


Fort Washington Avenue Armory

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.[196] 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.[197] 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.[198][199] 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.[200][201] 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.[202][203]

Parks and recreation

Washington Heights and Inwood collectively have over 500 acres (200 ha) of parkland,[204] representing over a third of the neighborhoods' total area.[2]

Fort Washington Park

Next to the Hudson River Greenway, Inspiration Point was once a popular rest stop for pedestrians and motorists.[205]

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).[206] The 184-acre park was originally designed in 1873 by Fredrick Law Olmsted along with Riverside Park and Morningside Park,[207]: 4  and most of the park was acquired via eminent domain between 1896 and 1927.[208] Although it was initially connected with Fort Tryon Park to the east (a condition for John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s donation of the Fort Tryon parkland),[15] the 1937 construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway separated the two parks.[208]

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.[209] 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.[210] 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.[211] Having undergone renovation in 1986 and again in 2000, the lighthouse is available for tours as of 2021 and is honored in the annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival.[210][212]

Fort Tryon Park

The Cloisters seen from the main entrance

Occupying a 67-acre area south of Inwood Hill Park between Broadway and the Henry Hudson Parkway,[213] Fort Tryon Park's history began with John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s purchase of the Hays, Shaefer, Libbey, and Billings estates in 1917 for $2 million (equivalent to $47.6 million in 2023).[16]: 777 [214] 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.[15] 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, preserved as part of Palisades Interstate Park.[213]

As part of his Fort Tryon donation, Rockefeller reserved 4 acres (1.6 ha) 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,[15] was purchased by the Metropolitan with Rockefeller funds in 1925.[29]: 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.[215] 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.[216]: 19 [217]: 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.[218][219] 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.[220][221]

Highbridge Park

A 1905 postcard of Fort George Amusement Park, as seen from the Harlem River

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.[222] 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.[223] 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.[224] 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.[225] 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.[226][227]

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.[223][228][229] 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, since 2015, has been active as a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.[230] The bridge's accompanying water tower was also an integral part of New York City's water system until 1949.[228] 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.[223]

Other parks

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

Washington Heights is also home to the following smaller parks:

Landmarks and attractions

One of Audubon Terrace's courtyard details, with the Hispanic Society of America in the background
The Morris-Jumel Mansion
The site of Malcolm X's 1965 assassination in the Audubon Ballroom

NewYork–Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center opened in 1928 as Columbia–Presbyterian, one of the first academic medical centers in the United States.[236] 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 – later the New York Yankees – from 1903 to 1912.[237] 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.[238]

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.[239] 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.[239] A National Historic Landmark,[240] the Audubon Terrace is home to the Hispanic Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Our Lady of Esperanza Church, and Boricua College.[241] Despite their unique decor and expansive collections, its museums have long struggled with attracting visitors due to their non-central location;[242] the American Geographical Society,[243]: 527  the Heye Collection of the National Museum of the American Indian,[244] and the American Numismatic Society[245] 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.[22]: 11  Headquartered by George Washington in 1776 before being taken by the British and Hessians,[27] the mansion was built in 1765 by British colonel Roger Morris and in 1810 became property of Eliza Jumel.[28] 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.[20]: 318 

Designated a landmark by the National Register of Historic Places,[246] the house is owned and maintained as a museum by the Department of Parks and Recreation.[27][247] At the time of its purchase by the Jumels in 1810, there were rumors that the mansion was haunted by a Hessian ghost.[248] After Eliza Jumel's death she became the main focus of paranormal suspicions, partly due to rumors that she caused her first husband Stephen to die by falling from a carriage onto a pitchfork.[248][249] In the modern day, it has been investigated as a haunted house on the Today Show, Haunted USA, and Ghost Adventures.[250][251] Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda sat in Aaron Burr's room to write of many of the hit musical's songs.[252][253]

The Paul Robeson Home, located on the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 160th Street, is a National Historic Landmark building.[254] Part of Washington Heights' historically Black southeastern area,[47]: 38  the building is known for its famous African American residents including actor Paul Robeson, musician Count Basie, and boxer Joe Louis.[48]: 6 

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.[255] 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.[256] 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.[257][6]

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.[258]: 109  After pushback by community members and Columbia students, the university reached a compromise in 1990 to restore part of the original facade and ballroom.[255][256] As of 2021, 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.[259]

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)[256] and featuring interior design work by Harold Rambusch.[171] Originally a theater, it was bought in 1969 by televangelist Reverend Ike and became a church for the United Church Science of Living Institute.[260][261] Made a New York City landmark in 2016, the United Palace also acts as a cultural center, hosting films and live performances as of 2021.[172]

Local newspaper

Main article: Manhattan Times

Manhattan Times is a free English/Spanish bilingual community newspaper serving Spanish-speaking areas of Upper Manhattan, including Washington Heights.[262] It was founded in 1999[263][264] by Luís A. Miranda Jr., Roberto Ramírez Sr., and David Keisman.[38]: 205 [264] The newspaper features stories about news and events of interest to residents on the city and neighborhood level, and is funded in part by private advertisements in addition to public service announcements.[265]

Police and crime

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

Washington Heights is served by two precincts of the NYPD.[266] The area south of 179th Street is served by the 33rd Precinct, located at 2207 Amsterdam Avenue,[267] while the 34th Precinct, located at 4295 Broadway, serves the north side of the neighborhood along with Inwood.[89]

The precinct was split in 1994 to increase police presence in Washington Heights at a time of very high crime rates,[104] but crime has fallen drastically since then.[97][98] As of 2018, the neighborhood has a non-fatal assault hospitalization rate of 43 per 100,000 people (compared to 59 per 100,000 citywide) and an incarceration rate of 482 per 100,000 adults (425 per 100,000 citywide).[127]: 8 

In 2023, the 34th Precinct reported 4 murders, 14 rapes, 215 robberies, 349 felony assaults, 151 burglaries, 575 grand larcenies, and 231 grand larcenies auto.[99] The number of crimes committed in these categories fell by 30.2% between 1998 and 2023.[98] In the same year, the 33rd Precinct reported 8 murders, 8 rapes, 177 robberies, 243 felony assaults, 115 burglaries, 359 grand larcenies, and 142 grand larcenies auto.[97] The number of crimes committed in these categories fell by 36.8% between 1998 and 2023.[97]

Fire safety

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

Washington Heights is served by three New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire stations:[268]

In addition, FDNY EMS Station 13 is located at 501 West 172nd Street.[274]


The main entrance of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world

Data on health indicators is compiled for each community district in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Community Health Profiles, the most recent of which was released in 2018.[127] In Manhattan Community District 12 (Washington Heights and Inwood), 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 (19.3 per 1,000 citywide).[127]: 11  The population of uninsured residents is estimated to be 14% (12% citywide).[127]: 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) (0.0075 milligrams per cubic metre (7.5×10−9 oz/cu ft) citywide).[127]: 9  13% of residents are smokers (14% citywide), 26% are obese (24% citywide), 13% are diabetic (11% citywide), and 28% have high blood pressure (28% citywide).[127]: 16  Additionally, 24% of children are obese (20% citywide).[127]: 12  81% of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day (87% citywide). In 2018, 68% of residents described their health as "good", "very good", or "excellent" (78% citywide).[127]: 13  For every supermarket, there are an estimated 13 bodegas.[127]: 10 

As of 2018, the overall life expectancy of Community District 12 is 84, 2.8 years greater than the citywide average and 5.3 years greater than the nationwide average.[127]: 20 [275] 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 suicide death rate (7.2 per 100,000) is higher.[127]: 18 

The NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center is located in Washington Heights at 168th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue.[276] 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.[277] The campus contains the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University.[278] 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.[279][280]


Politically, Washington Heights is in New York's 13th congressional district, represented by Democrat Adriano Espaillat as of 2017.[281] It is also part of the 31st State Senate District,[282][283] represented by Democrat Robert Jackson,[284] and the 71st and 72nd State Assembly districts,[285][286][287] represented respectively by Democrats Al Taylor and Manny De Los Santos.[288] In the City Council, the neighborhood is part of the 7th and 10th districts,[289] represented respectively by Democrats Shaun Abreu[290] and Carmen De La Rosa.[291]

Post offices and ZIP Codes

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).[292]

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


Community District 12 has fewer college graduates and more high school dropouts compared to the borough and city as a whole. 38% of residents age 25 and older have a college education or higher (compared to 43% citywide), and 29% did not finish high school (19% citywide).[127]: 6  As of 2018, 19% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year (20% citywide).[297]: 24 (PDF p. 55) 

Washington Heights is part of District 6, along with Inwood and Hamilton Heights.[298] 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.[299] Of all students in the cohort set to graduate in 2019, 74% in District 6 did so by August 2019 (77% citywide).[300] The district rate was significantly lower for males (69%), English Language Learners (52%), and Students with Disabilities (49%).[301] As of 2019, one-quarter of District 6 students are English Language Learners (defined as students who require support to learn English as a second language),[302] of whom 96% are Hispanic or Latino.[301][303]


Public schools

The New York City Department of Education operates public schools in Washington Heights as part of Community School District 6.[304] As with most other school districts in New York City, District 6 has both zoned schools, which take students mainly from a small area in the neighborhood, and unzoned schools, which admit students from anywhere in the district.[305] Zoned public elementary and elementary/middle schools include:[299]

PS 189
PS/IS 187 Hudson Cliffs

Unzoned elementary and elementary/middle schools include:

Zoned middle schools include:

Unzoned middle and middle/high schools include:

Gregorio Luperón High School for Science and Mathematics

The former George Washington High School, built in 1923, is located between 192nd and 193rd streets directly west of Highbridge Park.[38]: 72  It became the George Washington Educational Campus in 1999 when it was split into four smaller schools:[329]

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 parochial schools

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:

Jewish schools include:

Higher education

Yeshiva University Schottenstein Center
New York Public Library Washington Heights branch

University education in Washington Heights includes Yeshiva University[346] and Boricua College.[347] Located between 184th and 186th streets east of Broadway, Yeshiva University's Wilf Campus was founded in 1928 and is the Jewish institution's main campus;[348][349] it was originally envisioned with Moorish Revival aesthetic, although most of its buildings ended up with a modern design.[350] Schools within the campus include Yeshiva College, the Syms School of Business, and the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy high school.[351] Boricua College, whose Manhattan campus is located on 156th and Broadway in the Audubon Terrace complex,[347] is a small private college founded in 1975 to serve the city's Puerto Rican population.[352]

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.[276] These schools are among the departments that compose the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.[278]

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.[353] 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.[354][355]


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


Bridges and highways

Three of the bridges that cross the Harlem River: High Bridge (in the foreground), the Alexander Hamilton Bridge (in the middle, behind High Bridge), and Washington Bridge (in the background) with Manhattan (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.[359][360]: 42  Upon completion in 1931, it was also the world's longest suspension bridge.[208] The Pier Luigi Nervi-designed George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal is located at the Manhattan end between 178th and 179th streets, extending between Fort Washington and Wadsworth avenues.[361] After its construction in 1963, Nervi won an award for the terminal's unique use of concrete,[362] including its huge butterfly-like ventilation ducts.[363]: 570  The station provides service to northern New Jersey via NJ Transit Bus Operations; Paterson and Jersey City via Spanish Transportation; the Northeastern Corridor via Greyhound; and upstate New York via Rockland Coaches and OurBus.[364]

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.[365] 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 over 1,000 families.[366][367][368] 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.[369] 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.[370]: 4 

Crossing the river at 175th Street in Manhattan, the High Bridge is the oldest bridge in New York City still in existence.[371] The bridge was completed in 1848 to carry the Croton Aqueduct as part of the city's water system;[230] a promenade was added in 1864 that stayed in use up until the 1970s, although the aqueduct function was discontinued in 1949.[372] 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.[373] In June 2015, the High Bridge reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge after a three-year rehabilitation project.[230]

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.[374] The Harlem River Drive began as a horse carriage roadway in 1898 and was converted into a highway exclusively for cars during the 1950s.[375][376] The road has since blocked access to the waterfront from Highbridge Park,[230] although the Harlem River Greenway (planned for renovation as of 2019)[377] can still be accessed from 155th Street and Dyckman Street.[378] The Henry Hudson Parkway, built in 1936,[379] is also surrounded by parkland but leaves Fort Washington Park with a large amount of waterfront space on its western side,[205] while the Hudson River Greenway lies on its eastern side.[378] Running above-ground between the highway and the greenway is the Empire Service Amtrak line, whose closest stops are at Yonkers and Penn Station.[380]


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.[381]

Out of these stations, only 175th Street is fully accessible, although the tunnel to the George Washington Bridge Bus Station at its 177th Street exit is not. The 168th Street station is accessible only for the entrance to the A and C trains.[382] 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.[383] On the northeastern side, the 191st Street station also has an elevator to St. Nicholas Avenue and a tunnel running to Broadway.[384]

The 181st Street and 190th Street IND stations have several unique entrances and exits, many featuring a stone brick design inspired by the Overlook Terrace cliffside.[22][385] The 168th Street, 190th Street, and both 181st Street stations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[240] The 191st Street and 190th Street stations have the distinction of being the deepest in the entire subway system by distance to ground level, at 180 and 140 feet respectively.[386] In 1951, researchers from New York University found that the 190th Street station would provide shelter from nuclear fallout.[387]


Several MTA Regional Bus Operations bus routes serve Washington Heights:[388][389]

Notable people

See also: Category:People from Washington Heights, Manhattan

Notable residents of Washington Heights include:

In popular culture



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Further reading