Washington Heights, Manhattan - Wikipedia

Washington Heights, Manhattan

Washington Heights is a neighborhood in the northern portion 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 during the American Revolutionary War, to defend the area from the British forces. Washington Heights is bordered by Inwood to the north along Dyckman Street, Harlem to the south along 155th Street, the Harlem River and Coogan's Bluff to the east, and the Hudson River to the west. As of 2016, it has a population of 201,590.

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.
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
CityNew York City
Community DistrictManhattan 12[3]
 • Total1.732 sq mi (4.49 km2)
 • Total201,590
 • Density120,000/sq mi (45,000/km2)
 • Hispanic70.6%
 • White17.7
 • Black7.6
 • Asian2.6
 • Others2.5
 • Median income$45,316
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
10032, 10033, 10040
Area code212, 332, 646, and 917

Washington Heights is part of Manhattan Community District 12, and its primary ZIP Codes are 10032, 10033, and 10040.[3] It is patrolled by the 33rd and 34th Precincts of the New York City Police Department.


Early historyEdit

A 1921 map of some of the shell desposits found in the New York metropolitan area.[6]:9 Note the dot by the Hudson River near Dyckman Street.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Northern Manhattan was settled by the Weckquaesgeeks,[a] a band of the Wappinger and a Lenape Native American people.[10]:5 The winding path of Broadway north of 168th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to its south is living evidence of the old Weckquaesgeek 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 Weckquaesgeeks managed to maintain residence in Washington Heights up until the Dutch paid them a settlement for their last land claims in 1715.[8]: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 Revolutionary War, the battle won by the British around present-day Morningside Heights in the fall of 1776 was dubbed the Battle of Harlem Heights, referring to the contemporary name for Northern Manhattan.[8]:6[19]:56 After their defeat in Harlem, the Continental Army was severely weakened; indeed, George Washington wanted at first to retreat from Manhattan altogether, but was convinced to make a last stand at Fort Washington.[16]:2[20]:111 Fort Washington was a group of fortifications on the high points of Washington Heights, with its central one at present-day Bennett Park (known then as Mount Washington)[17]:737 built a few months prior opposite Fort Lee in New Jersey to protect the Hudson River from enemy ships.[10]:229

Washington's soldiers were decisively defeated at the Battle of Fort Washington, with thousands killed or wounded and thousands more taken captive.[21]:167 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[23] 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 during the Battle of Fort Washington,[24] who was also honored by the naming of Margaret Corbin Drive in 1977.[7]

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

Fort Washington's northeastern redoubt of Fort George, located near today's George Washington Educational Campus,[13]:155 was involved with the Slave Insurrection of 1741. Governor George Clarke's residence at the fort experienced the most major of the fires set that spring by a suspected conspiracy of enslaved Blacks and poor Whites.[25]:7 The subsequent trials sentenced four Whites and thirty Blacks to death and arrested hundreds more, yet whether a conspiracy in fact existed is still unknown.[10]:163 After abandonment by the British in 1783 following the Treaty of Paris,[26] the fort became the site of Fort George Amusement Park, a trolley park/amusement park that stood from 1895 to 1914.[27]

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.[10]: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 south to retake the city.[28]: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 yet again faces demolition for conversion into a retail facility after the denial of its landmark status.[29][30]

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, between Broadway and the Hudson River.[8]: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.[31] On the eastern side, by Jumel Terrace between 160th and 162nd streets, the Morris–Jumel Mansion has been successfully preserved to this day.[32] 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[33]: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.[28]:11[33]:1

Paterno Castle

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,[34]:23 this estate was once owned by William "Boss" Tweed but got its current name from William Libbey, who purchased it in 1880.[35] Even more extravagant, Paterno Castle was situated on the estate of real estate developer Charles Paterno by the Hudson River at 181st Street.[36] Built in 1907, the mansion was demolished thirty years later for Paterno's Castle Village complex, where pieces of the original structure remain today.[28]:12[37] 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.[28]:20[34] 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[35]

Early and mid-20th centuryEdit

In the early 1900s, Irish immigrants moved to Washington Heights. Later, during the 1930s and the 1940s, European Jews settled in Washington Heights to escape Nazism.[38] Greeks started moving to Washington Heights in the 1920s, and the community was referred to as the "Astoria of Manhattan" by the 1950s and 1960s.[39] Dominican immigrants began arriving shortly after and by the 1980s, Washington Heights was the epicenter of the Dominican diaspora in the United States.[40]

Fort TryonEdit

During World War I, immigrants from Hungary and Poland moved in next to the Irish community.[41] Then, as Nazism grew in Germany, Jews fled. By the late 1930s, more than 20,000 refugees from Germany were living in Washington Heights.[42]

The beginning of this section of Washington Heights as a neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood seems to have started around this time, in the years before World War II. One scholar refers to the area in 1940 as "Fort Tryon" and "the Fort Tryon area." In 1989, Steven M. Lowenstein wrote, "The greatest social distance was to be found between the area in the northwest, just south of Fort Tryon Park, which was, and remains, the most prestigious section ... This difference was already remarked in 1940, continued unabated in 1970 and was still noticeable even in 1980..."[43] Lowenstein considered Fort Tryon to be the area west of Broadway, east of the Hudson, north of West 181st Street, and south of Dyckman Street, which includes Fort Tryon Park. He writes, "Within the core area of Washington Heights (between 155th Street and Dyckman Street) there was a considerable internal difference as well. The further north and west one went, the more prestigious the neighborhood..."[43]


Fort Washington Collegiate Church

In the years after World War II, the neighborhood was referred to as "Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson" due to the dense population of German Jews who had settled there.[44] A disproportionately large number of them had immigrated from Frankfurt am Main, likely giving rise to the new name.[43] No other neighborhood in the city was home to so many German Jews, who had created their own central German world in the 1930s.[45]

In 1934, members of the German-Jewish Club of New York started Aufbau, a newsletter for its members that grew into a newspaper. Its offices were nearby on Broadway.[46] The newspaper became known as a "prominent intellectual voice and a main forum for Germanic Jewry in the United States", according to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. The paper featured the work of numerous writers and intellectuals, including Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Stefan Zweig, and Hannah Arendt," and was one of the few newspapers that extensively covered the terror of the Holocaust during World War II.[47]

In 1941, it published the Aufbau Almanac, a guide to living in the United States that explained the American political system, education, insurance law, the post office and sports.[48] After the war, Aufbau helped families that had been scattered by European battles to reconnect by listing survivors' names.[49] Aufbau's offices eventually moved to the Upper West Side. The paper nearly went bankrupt in 2006, but was purchased by Jewish Media AG, and exists today as a monthly news magazine. Its editorial offices are now in Berlin, but it keeps a correspondent in New York City.[50]

When the children of Jewish immigrants to the Hudson Heights area became adults, they tended to leave the neighborhood, and sometimes, the city itself. By 1960, German Jews accounted for only 16% of the population in the area.[41] The neighborhood changed in character in the 1970s as Soviet immigrants moved in. After the Soviet immigration, families from the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, made it their home. So many Dominicans live in Washington Heights that candidates for the presidency of the Dominican Republic campaign in parades in the neighborhood.[51] African-Americans began to move there in the 1980s, followed shortly by other groups. Soon enough, "Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson" no longer described the neighborhood.

Late 20th and early 21st centuriesEdit

1980s crime and drug crisisEdit

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Washington Heights was severely affected by the crack cocaine epidemic, as was the rest of New York City. Washington Heights had become the second largest drug distribution center in the Northeastern United States during that time, second only to Harlem,[52] and the neighborhood was quickly developing a reputation to that effect. 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,[53] and in 1989, The New York Times called the neighborhood "the crack capital of America."[54] By 1990, crack's devastation 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.[55]

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: with easy access via the George Washington Bridge and its numerous highway connections, many of the customers were White suburbanites, who could easily buy cocaine while evading the shadow of violence cast upon neighborhood's residents.[56]:162 Another cause was that despite the top-level connections for the cocaine trade being Colombians, Dominicans predominantly controlled the cocaine operations in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, making Washington Heights especially a battleground area due to its Dominican majority.[54][57][58]

Being a drug with such high potential for profit, much of the violence of the crack crisis was a result of fierce competition for market control between numerous small crack crews, each selling their own "brands." One of the most infamous was the operation centered on 174th Street and Audubon Avenue, led by Santiago Luis Polanco Rodríguez and responsible for the "Based Balls" brand.[59]:73 Other crews identified their product by the color of the vial's top, such as the Red Top Gang, whose history is chronicled among other gangs in Robert Jackall's book Wild Cowboys: Urban Marauders & the Forces of Order.[59]

As Robert W. Snyder describes in his book Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City, the reality of Washington Heights under the crack trade was not just one of physical danger, but also fear. People were scared to swim at the Highbridge Park pool after a thirteen-year-old was killed while she was drying off by an angry gunman who fired several rounds at a lifeguard.[56]:165 Many would keep their heads down rather than stand up to the drug dealers taking over their communities for fear of violent retribution. This was exemplified by the story of José Reyes, who organized tenants of his building on 157th Street and talked with police officers to get the Jheri Curls crack gang out of his building. Suspecting him as an informer, a Jheri Curls member shot Reyes in broad daylight after he left a local shop. Perhaps intending to avoid Reyes' fate, eyewitnesses were reluctant to describe what they saw when police arrived at the scene.[56]:178

This problem was exacerbated by the deteriorating relationship between residents and police, a conflict that 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 proved that the killing was the result of an honest conflict between an officer and a drug dealer, many residents quickly suspected police brutality.[56]:180 This sentiment was not unfounded, as O'Keefe already had several civilian complaints of unnecessary aggression in arrests.[59]:320 Furthermore, overall distrust of the police may have stemmed from corruption, which was alleged numerous times concerning the 34th Precinct overlooking drug crimes for bribes.[60] In any case, what started as a peaceful demonstration for Garcia's death turned into a violent riot, leaving broken windows, fires, fifteen injuries, and one death.[56]:181[61]

Former 30th Precinct House on 152nd Street, a NYC Landmark

The violence of the neighborhood's drug crisis left many police officers dead as well. On October 18, 1988, 24-year-old NYPD Police Officer Michael J. Buczek was murdered by drug dealers in Washington Heights.[62] The killers fled to the Dominican Republic, where one – Daniel Mirambeaux, the alleged shooter – died in police custody in June 1989 after plunging to his death under mysterious circumstances, and a second was apprehended by U.S. Marshals in 2000. The third suspect was apprehended in the Dominican Republic in May 2002, after which Pablo Almonte, 51, and José Fernandez, 52, received maximum 25-years-to-life prison sentences for their roles in the murder of Officer Buczek.[63] As a sign of the start of a healing of relations between community members and police, the Buczek family founded the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek Foundation. Residents also named an elementary school, PS 48, in honor of Officer Buczek,[64] and the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and Fort George Avenue in honor of his father Ted Buczek for his work in starting the Police Officer Michael J. Buczek Little League.[65] It is the nation's only program operated by police officers, hosting 30 teams with over 350 boys and girls, who are coached by officers from the NYPD and community members.[66]

Crime drop, community improvement, and gentrificationEdit

During the 1990s, Washington Heights experienced a drastic decrease in crime. This can be seen in the 2019 statistics, where the combined 33rd and 34th precinct crime rates showed dramatic reductions from the 1990 rates in motor vehicle theft (96.3% decrease), burglary (91.1%), murder (90.3%), and robbery (80.6%), while more modest reductions were made in felony assault (57.1%), rape (50%), and grand larceny (44.1%).[67][68] 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 from 1990 to 2019. Despite this, the combined per capita crime rate of the 33rd and 34th precincts was lower than that of the Harlem precincts in 2019, with significantly lower rates of murder (50.5%), rape (49.2%), felony assault (39.2%), and robbery (37%), in addition to slightly lower rates of burglary (8.7%) and grand larceny (5.8%); the one exception was motor vehicle theft, which was 13.6% higher in the Washington Heights precincts.[69][70][71]

The crime drop, which was felt across all major 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.[72][73] 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 powder cocaine era 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.[57]

Nonetheless, many also credit actions taken on the neighborhood level in increasing safety in Washington Heights. After much advocacy from residents, in 1994 the NYPD split the 34th Precinct to create the 33rd Precinct for Washington Heights south of 179th Street, due to the concentration of the drug trade and related crimes in the area.[56]:170[74] 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.[56]: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.[75] The program was controversial, facing criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union and resistance from some residents for its invasion of privacy,[56]:193 but it did drastically reduce crime on the block,[76] and the initiative was expanded throughout the city and even exported to Chicago.[77]

A feral dog in an overgrown area of Highbridge Park

Although the improved safety was welcomed by all, violence itself was not the only outcome of the crack crisis; it also left scars on important neighborhood institutions, especially parks. Fort Tryon Park fell 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,[78] which only got worse during the crack crisis, when several corpses where found in the park.[79][80] 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,[81] the park was restored, leaving behind its reputation as a criminal area.[56]:210[78] Highbridge Park, however, had the same problems as Fort Tryon Park but went without any major restoration funding for a while, likely due to being on the poorer side of Washington Heights and lacking a frequently touristed landmark like The Cloisters.[82] In 1997, the New York Restoration Project began to work on maintaining the park, but without the necessary funding most of the park's problems continued. 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 2020.[83][84]

The YM&YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood

Other forms of Washington Heights' renewal came in the growth of community organizations. The arts began flourishing, most notably with groups such as the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the People's Theatre Project, events such as the Uptown Arts Stroll and Quisqueya en el Hudson,[85] and the many cultural productions at the United Palace Theatre.[86][56]:208 Washington Heights also became the spotlight of major artistic achievements, most notably the Broadway musical In the Heights and the novels of Angie Cruz.[56]:219 Other organizations more focused on social services include the YM&YWHA,[87] the Washington Heights Corner Project,[88] the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights,[89] and the Community League of the Heights.[90] Two independent bookstores were also established in the 21st century: Word Up Community Bookshop on 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue,[91] and Sisters Uptown Bookstore on 156th Street and Amsterdam Avenue,[92] both of which also serve as centers for cultural events. Evidence of the strength of the neighborhood community can be found in the 2018 Community Health Profile, which found that 80% of Community District 12 residents believe neighbors are willing to help one another, the highest in Manhattan.[93]

While police-community relations have certainly improved since the days of the Kiko Garcia riots, significant setbacks still exist. Police have 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.[94][95] 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.[96][97] However, the initiative received mixed responses, with some arguing that it does not go far enough in building mutual trust and cooperation, and others fearing it as a guise for the continuation of broken windows policing.[98][99]

Washington Heights underwent substantial gentrification through 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.[100] Data from StreetEasy also found that rents listed on its site had increased by 37% from 2000 to 2018.[101] Furthermore, there have been several high-profile cases of commercial rent increases, most notably with Coogan's, a restaurant and bar located on the corner of 169th Street and Broadway.[102] Founded in 1985, the restaurant had the legacy of a place that welcomed all, but it nearly went out of business in 2018 when its landlord NewYork–Presbyterian suddenly asked for $40,000 more in monthly rent – a move that was almost successful, despite mass opposition, if not for Adriano Espaillat, Gale Brewer, and Lin-Manuel Miranda bringing enough attention to the issue for the landlord to reconsider.[103] A similar turn of events, however, did not befall Galicia or Reme, two beloved local restaurants that had been around for decades only to be forced out by rent hikes.[104][105]

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."[56]: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."[56]:237 Fears about displacement in Upper Manhattan have most recently manifest themselves in the bitter fight against the 2018 Inwood rezoning plan, which despite its offers of community benefits and affordable housing triggered fears that the luxury developments involved would accelerate ongoing gentrification.[106]

In another sign of luxury interests in the neighborhood, ground was broken in 2018 by developer Youngwoo & Associates for the Radio Tower & Hotel on Amsterdam Avenue between 180th and 181st streets. The tower, designed by MVRDV, 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. Expected to be completed in 2021, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood.[107][108]


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

Washington Heights is on the high ridge in Upper Manhattan that rises steeply north of the narrow valley that carries 133rd Street to the former ferry landing on the Hudson River that served the village of Manhattanville. On this elevated valley is the highest terrestrial point in Manhattan, an outcropping of schist 265 feet above sea level in Bennett Park.[109]

Once considered to run as far south as 135th Street, west of Central Harlem,[13][110]:294 in the modern day Washington Heights is defined as the area from Hamilton Heights at 155th Street to Inwood at Dyckman Street.[56]:139[b]


Hudson HeightsEdit

Hudson Heights is generally considered to cover the area west of Broadway or Overlook Terrace and north of 181st Street or 179th Street,[113][114] although some extend its southern boundary as far as 173rd Street.[115][116] The name was created by the Hudson Heights Owners' Coalition in 1992 to promote the northwestern part of the neighborhood.[113] Elizabeth Ritter, the president of the group, said that they "didn’t set out to change the name of the neighborhood, but [they] were careful in how [they] selected the name of the organization."[117] "Hudson Heights" actually began to be used as a name for the section of the neighborhood a year later.[118]

Hudson Heights' name has been adopted by numerous arts organizations and businesses. Newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal,[119] The New York Times,[120] and The Village Voice[121] have used the name in reference to the neighborhood, as have The New York Sun[122] and Gourmet magazine.[123] The name also has its detractors, however. Led Black of the Uptown Collective blog disparaged the name in his 2018 post titled "Hudson Heights Doesn't Exist," asserting that despite the Broadway divide, "both sides are and will forever be Washington Heights."[124] Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City,[125] also argued that the name's intention was to "conceptually separate the area from the rest of Washington Heights," and that "use of the name could diminish a sense of shared interest on both sides of Broadway." [56]:205

Castle Village, a housing co-op with 1,762 residents, 65.6% of whom are White.[100]

Demographically, as of the 2010 Census, nearly every census block in the area of north of 181st Street and west of Bennett Avenue is majority White, in addition to around half of the adjacent blocks between Bennett Avenue and Broadway.[100] The demographic divide between northwest Washington Heights and the rest of the neighborhood has been created by a variety of factors. One of the largest is the frequently-discussed practice of redlining: in 1938, appraisers for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation rated only the area north of 181st Street and west of Bennett Avenue "grade A – best"; the northeast and southwest areas received "grade B – still desirable," while the area south of 181st Street and east of Broadway, of which every block was majority Black or Hispanic/Latino in 2010, received "grade C – definitely deteriorating."[56]:20[126] Another factor, seen in the greater presence of owners rather than renters in the northwest,[127] is that many rental buildings became co-ops throughout the 1970s and 80s, including the large Castle Village complex, creating a higher wealth barrier for new residents.[56]:137[128] The remaining rentals are also hard to afford: market rents are higher north of 181st Street and east of Broadway,[129] and rent-stabilized units – of which there are already fewer[130] – are disappearing more quickly, a phenomenon extending to the southwest as well.[131]

Fort GeorgeEdit

Named for the Revolutionary War's Fort George (New York), the Fort George sub-neighborhood runs east of Broadway from 181st Street to Dyckman Street.[26][132] The largest institution in Fort George is Yeshiva University, whose main campus sits east of Amsterdam Avenue in Highbridge Park.[133] A branch of the Young Men & Women's Hebrew Association is in the neighborhood,[134] and George Washington High School sits on the 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.[135] The M3, M100 and M101 bus routes primarily serve the area.[136]

Elevation changesEdit

Stairs running from the end of Pinehurst Avenue down to West 181st Street

Because of their abrupt, hilly topography, pedestrian navigation in Upper Manhattan is facilitated by many step streets.[137] The longest of these in Washington Heights, at approximately 130 stairs and with an elevation gain of approximately 65 feet,[138] connects Fort Washington Avenue and Overlook Terrace at 187th Street.[139]

Pedestrians can use the elevators at the 181st Street subway station, with entrances on Overlook Terrace and Fort Washington Avenue at 184th Street[140] and similarly at the 190th Street station to make the large elevation change. Only the 184th Street pedestrian connection is handicap accessible. When originally built, fare control for both of these stations was in the station house, outside the elevators, which meant that they could only be used by paying a subway fare, but both had fare control moved down to the mezzanine level in 1957, making the elevators free for neighborhood residents to use, and providing easier pedestrian connection between Hudson Heights and the rest of Washington Heights.[141] There is also a pedestrian tunnel and free elevator connection at the 191st IRT station.


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.[142] Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Washington Heights was 151,574, a change 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).[143] 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).[100]

The entirety of Community District 12, which comprises Washington Heights and Inwood, had 195,830 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 81.4 years.[93]:2, 20 This is about the same as the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.[144]:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are children and middle-aged adults: 33% are between the ages of 25–44, while 25% are between 45 and 64, and 19% are between 0–17. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 10% and 13% respectively.[93]:2

As of 2017, the median household income in Community District 12 was $56,382,[145] though the median income in Washington Heights individually was $45,316.[4] 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.[93]:7



The Uptown Arts Stroll is an annual festival of the arts that highlights local artists. Public places in Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill host impromptu galleries, readings, performances and markets over several weeks each summer.[146]

Bennett Park is the location of the highest natural point in Manhattan, as well as a commemoration on the west side of the park of the walls of Fort Washington, which are marked in the ground by stones with an inscription that reads: "Fort Washington Built And Defended By The American Army 1776." Land for the park was donated by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the publisher of the New York Herald. His father, James Gordon Bennett, Sr., bought the land and was previously the Herald's publisher.[147] Bennett Park hosts an annual Harvest Festival in September and a children's Halloween Parade – with trick-or-treating afterwards – on Halloween.

In contrast to other neighborhoods in Manhattan, several of the north–south thoroughfares are mostly residential with few street-level businesses, including Fort Washington Avenue, Cabrini Boulevard, Overlook Terrace, Bennett Avenue, Sherman Avenue, and Wadsworth Avenue. However, many small shops are located on 181st Street and along Broadway, as well as St. Nicholas Avenue and Audubon Avenue.[148] Nagle Avenue, near the northern end of Washington Heights, has a YM&YWHA (Jewish Community Center) which provides numerous afterschool programs and other services to the community.[149] There is a small shopping area at 187th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue in the Hudson Heights sub-neighborhood. The area around New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center has many restaurants and businesses.

One of the major annual events of Washington Heights is the Medieval Festival, a collaboration between the NYC Parks Department and the Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation.[150] The event is located in Fort Tryon Park, primarily on Margaret Corbin Drive from the park's entrance up to The Cloisters.[150] Typically taking place at the end of September, the event has taken place at the park since 1983.[151] The event is free, relying on a mix of private and public sponsors as well as donations. The event draws an average of 60,000 people.[152] Common attractions at the Medieval Festival include music, fencing, jousting, theatrical performances, costumes, and a variety of vendors selling Medieval-themed crafts.[153]

Ethnic makeupEdit

Today the majority of the neighborhood, which was designated "Little Dominican Republic" along with Inwood in 2018,[154] is of Dominican birth or descent (the area is sometimes referred to as "Quisqueya Heights"), and Spanish is frequently heard spoken on the streets.[155] Most of the neighborhood businesses are locally owned.[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., frequently moving between countries and often investing money back home.[157]:183 Clear evidence of how connected Washington Heights Dominicans still are with their home country is in the local protests that took place on February 22, 2020 over the postponement of elections in the Dominican Republic and the possibility of underlying corruption.[158]

Before the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in 2001, according to an article in The Guardian, the flight had "something of a cult status in Washington Heights." A woman quoted in the newspaper said "Every Dominican in New York has either taken that flight or knows someone who has. It gets you there early. At home there are songs about it." After the crash occurred, makeshift memorials appeared in Washington Heights.[159]

Historically the home of many Irish Americans as well as German Jews, the neighborhood also has a sizable Orthodox Jewish population. In the decade leading up to 2011, the Orthodox community in Washington Heights and neighboring Inwood grew by more than 140%, from about 9,500 to nearly 24,000, the largest growth of any neighborhood identified in the Jewish Community Study, an increase largely fueled by an influx of young Orthodox Jews.[160][161]


The Audubon Mural Project paints the neighborhood with images of birds depicted by John James Audubon in his early 19th century folio The Birds of America.[162]

Heralding the arts scene north of Central Park is the annual Uptown Arts Stroll, in which artists from Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill are featured in public locations throughout upper Manhattan each summer for several weeks.[146] As of 2008, the Uptown Art Stroll is run by Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance.

The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA), led by Executive Director Sandra A. García Betancourt, was founded in 2007 to support artists and arts organizations in Community District 12. Their stated mission is to cultivate, support and promote the work of artists and arts organizations in Northern Manhattan. In 2008, NoMAA awarded $50,000 in grants to seven arts organizations and 33 artists in the Washington Heights/Inwood art community. NoMAA sponsors community arts events and publishes an email newsletter of all art events in Community District 12.[163]

Founded in 2008 by theater artists Mino Lora and Bob Braswell, the People's Theatre Project is an important cultural institution for youth in Northern Manhattan, and especially Washington Heights and Inwood.[164][165] The organization as a whole uses its ensemble-based theatre pieces to advocate for social justice issues. Many of their pieces, such as "Somos Más" from 2019, focus on the immigrant experience, and have toured around New York City.[166] In 2014, with funding from the US Embassy, they collaborated with Dominican youth on a piece for Santo Domingo's International Theatre Festival.[165]

Sports and leisureEdit


Hilltop Park during a 1903 game

Five clubs in American professional sports played in the Washington Heights area: the New York Giants baseball club, the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, and the New York Giants and New York Jets football teams. The baseball Giants played at the Polo Grounds near 155th Street and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard from 1911 to 1957, the Yankees played there from 1913 to 1922, and the New York Mets played their first two seasons (1962 and 1963) there as well as the football Giants (1925–1955) and New York Jets (1960–1963). The Mets and Jets both began play at the Polo Grounds while their future home, Shea Stadium in Queens, was under construction.[167]

Before the Yankees played at the Polo Grounds, they played in 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.[168] On May 15, 1912, after being heckled for several innings, the baseball great 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.[169] One of the most amazing pitching performances of all time took place at Hilltop Park; on September 4, 1908, 20-year-old Walter Johnson shut out New York three times in a three-game series.[170] The park is now the Columbia University Medical Center, a major hospital complex, which opened on that location in 1928.[171]

Washington Heights was the birthplace of former Yankee star Alex Rodriguez. Slugger Manny Ramírez grew up in the neighborhood, moving there from the Dominican Republic when he was 13 years old and attending George Washington High School, where he was one of the nation's top prospects. Hall-of-Fame infielder Rod Carew, a perennial batting champion in the 1970s, also grew up in Washington Heights, having emigrated with his family from Panama at the age of fourteen. The New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig grew up on 173rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and attended PS 132 at 185 Wadsworth Avenue; the Yankee captain lived in Washington Heights for most of his life.[172]


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.[173] Starting in January 2012, the Millrose Games have been held there, after having been held at the second, third, and fourth Madison Square Gardens from 1914 to 2011.[174] Other activities meet at the Armory as well. High schools and colleges hold meets at the 2,300-seat auditorium at the Armory regularly, and it is open to the public for training, for a fee. Also at the Armory is the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, along with the Charles B. Rangel Technology & Learning Center for children and students in middle school and high school; the facility is operated by the Armory Foundation, which was created in 1993. The Armory is the starting point for an annual road race, the Coogan's Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K, which was founded by Peter M. Walsh, co-owner of Coogan's Restaurant.[175] The race happens in March and sanctioned by the New York Road Runners.[176]

Mountain bike races take place in Highbridge Park in the spring and summer. Sponsored by the New York City Mountain Bike Association,[177] the races are held on alternate Thursdays and are open to professional competitors and amateurs. Participating in these races is free, but the All-City Cross Country Classic requires a registration fee because prize money is awarded. The bike path along the Hudson River draws cyclists from along the West Side and elsewhere. Connection to the George Washington Bridge means Manhattan cyclists have easy access to biking up the New Jersey Palisades and northward along 9W.

Extreme swimmers take part in the Little Red Lighthouse Swim, a 5.85-mile (9.41 km) swim in the Hudson River from Clinton Cove (Pier 96) to Jeffrey's Hook, the location of the Little Red Lighthouse.[178] The annual race, sponsored by the Manhattan Island Foundation, attracts more than 200 competitors. The course records for men and women were both set in 1998. Jeffrey Jotz, then a 28-year-old from Rahway, New Jersey, finished in 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 36 seconds, while then-31-year-old Julie Walsh-Arlis, of New York, finished in 1 hour, 12 minutes, and 45 seconds.

Local politicians, sports enthusiasts, and community organizers have organized the "Uptown Games" for children at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory.[179] The event has an aim of "teaching kids at an early age what a pleasure it is to be physically active", according to one of the 2012 organizers, Cliff Sperber, of the New York Road Runners Association.[180]

Points of interestEdit


Washington Heights has some of the largest parks in northern Manhattan, which collectively has over 500 acres (200 ha) of parkland.[181]

Landmarks and attractionsEdit

Columbia-Presbyterian, the first academic medical center in the United States, opened in 1928.[189] Now known as NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University, lie in the area of 168th Street and Broadway, occupying the former site of Hilltop Park, the home of the New York Highlanders – now known as the New York Yankees – from 1903 to 1912.[190] Across the street is the New Balance Track and Field Center, an indoor track and home to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.[191]

The cloister from Bonnefont-en-Comminges, at The Cloisters

A popular cultural site and tourist attraction in Washington Heights is The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park at the northern end of the neighborhood, with views across the Hudson to the New Jersey Palisades.[182] This branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is devoted to Medieval art and culture, and is located in a medieval-style building, portions of which were purchased in Europe by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1925, brought to the United States, and reassembled, opening to the public in 1938.[192]

Audubon Terrace, a cluster of five distinguished Beaux Arts institutional buildings, is home to another major, though little-visited museum, The Hispanic Society of America.[193] The Society has the largest collection of works by El Greco and Goya outside the Museo del Prado, including one of Goya's famous paintings of Cayetana, Duchess of Alba. In September 2007, it commenced a three-year collaboration with the Dia Art Foundation. The campus on Broadway at West 156th Street also houses The American Academy of Arts and Letters, which holds twice yearly, month-long public exhibitions, and Boricua College.

Manhattan's oldest remaining house, the Morris–Jumel Mansion, is located in the landmarked Jumel Terrace Historic District, between West 160th and West 162nd Street, just east of St. Nicholas Avenue. An AAM-accredited historic house museum, the Mansion interprets the colonial era, the period when General George Washington occupied it during the American Revolutionary War, and the early 19th century in New York.[194]

The Paul Robeson Home, located at 555 Edgecombe Avenue on the corner of Edgecombe Avenue and 160th Street, is a National Historic Landmark building. The building is known for its famous African American residents including actor Paul Robeson, musician Count Basie, and boxer Joe Louis.[195]

Other notable Washington Heights residents include Althea Gibson the first African American Wimbledon Champion, Frankie Lymon of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" fame, Leslie Uggams who was a regular on the Sing Along with Mitch Show. Other musicians who resided in the area for significant periods of time were jazz drummers Tony Williams and Alphonse Muzon and Grammy award-winning Guitarist Marlon Graves.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated during a speech at the Audubon Ballroom, on Broadway at West 165th Street. The interior of the building was demolished, but the Broadway facade remains, incorporated into one of Columbia's Audubon Center buildings. It is now the home of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.[196] Several shops, restaurants and a bookstore occupy the first floor.

At the Hudson's shore, in Fort Washington Park[197] stands the Little Red Lighthouse, a small lighthouse located at the tip of Jeffrey's Hook at the base of the eastern pier of the George Washington Bridge that was made famous by a 1942 children's book.[184] It is the site of a namesake festival in the late summer. A 5.85-mile (9.41 km) recreational swim finishes there in early autumn.[198] It's also a popular place to watch for peregrine falcons.[199]

The United Palace, made a landmark in 2016, hosts a number of cultural and performing arts.[200] Originally a theater, it was bought by Reverend Ike and became a church for the United Church Science of Living Institute.[201]

Local newspaperEdit

Manhattan Times is a free English / Spanish bilingual community newspaper serving Upper Manhattan, with a focus on Washington Heights and Inwood.[202] It was founded by Luís A. Miranda Jr., Roberto Ramírez Sr., and David Keisman in 2000.[56]:205 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.[203]

The newspaper features stories about events and other developments of interest to residents, with advertisements for local businesses in addition to public service announcements from the City government.[204] The newspaper has also backed many community events such as the Bridge / Puente project in May 2006, where residents and local politicians joined hands to form a symbolic chain along the entire length of Dyckman Street,[56]:206 and the Uptown Arts Stroll, a highlight of local artists hosted by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance.[205]

Police and crimeEdit

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.[206] The neighborhood south of 179th Street is served by the 33rd Precinct, located at 2207 Amsterdam Avenue,[207] while the 34th Precinct, located at 4295 Broadway, serves the north side of the neighborhood along with Inwood.[55] The 34th Precinct ranked 23rd safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010,[208] while the 33rd Precinct ranked 24th safest.[209] The precinct was split in 1994 to increase police presence in Washington Heights at a time of very high crime rates,[74] but crime has fallen drastically since then.[209][210] As of 2018, with a non-fatal assault rate of 43 per 100,000 people, Washington Heights and Inwood's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 482 per 100,000 people is higher than that of the city as a whole.[93]:8

In 2019, the 34th Precinct reported 6 murders, 22 rapes, 226 robberies, 283 felony assaults, 122 burglaries, 557 grand larcenies, and 62 grand larcenies auto. Crime in these categories fell by 80.6% in the precinct between 1990 and 2019, and by 42.0% in the precinct since 1998, four years after the 33rd and 34th precincts were split.[68] Of the five major violent felonies (murder, rape, felony assault, robbery, and burglary), the 34th Precinct had a rate of 583 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019, compared to the boroughwide average of 632 per 100,000 and the citywide average of 572 per 100,000.[69][211][212]

In the same year, the 33rd Precinct reported 4 murders, 11 rapes, 146 robberies, 202 felony assaults, 114 burglaries, 264 grand larcenies, and 38 grand larcenies auto in 2019. Crime in these categories fell by 53.2% between 1998 and 2019, and by 35.5% between 2001 and 2019.[67] Of the five major violent felonies (murder, rape, felony assault, robbery, and burglary), the 33rd Precinct had a rate of 620 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019, compared to the boroughwide average of 632 per 100,000 and the citywide average of 572 per 100,000.[69][211][212]

As of 2018, Community District 12 has a non-fatal assault hospitalization rate of 43 per 100,000 people, compared to the boroughwide rate of 49 per 100,000 and the citywide rate of 59 per 100,000. Its incarceration rate is 482 per 100,000 people, compared to the boroughwide rate of 407 per 100,000 and the citywide rate of 425 per 100,000.[93]:8

According to NYPD data from 2019, the highest concentrations of felony assaults in Washington Heights were on 168th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, where there were 17, and near the intersection of 178th Street and Broadway, where there were 14. The highest concentrations of robberies, on the other hand, were near the intersection of 181st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, where there were 9, and on 155th Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, where there were also 9.[69]

Fire safetyEdit

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

Washington Heights is served by three New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fire stations:[213]

  • Engine Company 67 – 518 West 170th Street[214]
  • Engine Company 84/Ladder Company 34 – 513 West 161st Street[215]
  • Engine Company 93/Ladder Company 45/Battalion 13 – 515 West 181st Street[216]

In addition, FDNY EMS Station 13 is located at 501 West 172nd Street.[217]


Main entrance of the Presbyterian Hospital, now NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital

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 were 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).[93]: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.[93]: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 7.5.[93]:9 Thirteen percent of Community District 12 residents are smokers, similar to the city average of 14%.[93]: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.[93]:16 Additionally, 24% of children are obese, more the citywide average of 20%.[93]: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%.[93]:13 For every supermarket in Community District 12, there are 13 bodegas.[93]:10

The overall life expectancy of Community District 12 is 84, 2.8 years greater than the citywide average.[93]:20 This is likely because its rates of premature death from cancer (39.1 per 100,000), heart disease (26.1 per 100,000), and accidents (5.6 per 100,000) were significantly lower than the citywide rates, although the drug-related death rate (9.6 per 100,000) was similar and the suicide death rate (7.2 per 100,000) was higher.[93]:18

The NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center is located in Washington Heights at 168th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue. Built and opened in the 1920s, and known as the Columbia–Presbyterian Medical Center until 1998, the complex was the world's first academic medical center. The campus contains the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school of Columbia University. 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.[218][219]

Post offices and ZIP CodesEdit

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).[220]

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

  • Audubon Station – 511 West 165th Street[221]
  • Fort George Station – 4558 Broadway[222]
  • Fort Washington Station – 556 West 158th Street[223]
  • Washington Bridge Station – 518 West 181st Street[224]


Community District 12 generally has fewer college graduates and more high school dropouts than 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.[93]: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.[144]:24 (PDF p. 55)

Washington Heights is part of District 6, along with Inwood and Hamilton Heights.[225] 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.[226]

Of all students in the cohort set to graduate in 2019, 74% in District 6 did so by August 2019, compared to 77% citywide.[227] The district rate is significantly lower for males (69%), English Language Learners (52%), and Students with Disabilities (49%).[228][c] In 2019, an average of 39% of District 6 students from grades 3 to 8 received a 3 or 4 on the State Test (combining ELA and Math), compared to 47% citywide.[229][230] Test scores were divided starkly by race, with 73% of White students passing, compared to 36% of Hispanic / Latino students and 34% of Black students. Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners also had lower pass rates, at 16% and 9% respectively.[231][232]


Public schoolsEdit

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:[226]

  • PS 28 Wright Brothers (grades 3K-5)[233]
  • PS 189 (grades 3K-5)[234]
  • PS 48 PO Michael J Buczek (grades 3K-5)[64]
  • PS 128 Audubon (grades 3K-5)[235]
  • PS 173 (grades 3K-5)[236]
  • PS 4 Duke Ellington (grades 3K-5)[237]
  • PS 8 Luis Belliard (grades 3K-5)[238]
  • PS 115 Alexander Humboldt (grades PK-5)[239]
  • PS 152 Dyckman Valley (grades PK-5)[240]
  • Dos Puentes Elementary School (grades K-5)[241]
  • PS 132 Juan Pablo Duarte (grades K-5)[242]
  • PS/IS 187 Hudson Cliffs (grades PK-8)[243]

Unzoned elementary and elementary/middle schools include:

  • Castle Bridge School (grades PK-5)[244]
  • Professor Juan Bosch Public School (grades K-5)[245]

Zoned middle schools include:

  • JHS 143 Eleanor Roosevelt (grades 6-8)[246]
  • MS 319 Maria Teresa (grades 6-8)[247]
  • MS 322 (grades 6-8)[248]
  • MS 324 Patria Mirabal (grades 6-8)[249]

Unzoned middle and middle/high schools include:

  • Harbor Heights (grades 6-8)[250]
  • Community Math and Science Prep (grades 6-8)[251]
  • IS 528 Bea Fuller Rodgers (grades 6-8)[252]
  • City College Academy of the Arts (grades 6-12)[253]
  • Community Health Academy of the Heights (grades 6-12)[254]

The former George Washington High School, built in 1923, takes up an entire block between Audubon and Amsterdam avenues, stretching slightly past West 192nd and 193rd streets. It became the George Washington Educational Campus in 1999 when it was split into four smaller schools:[255]

  • The College Academy (grades 9-12)[256]
  • High School for Media and Communications (grades 9-12)[257]
  • High School for Law and Public Service (grades 9-12)[258]
  • High School for Health Careers and Sciences (grades 9-12)[259]

The Gregorio Luperón High School for Science and Mathematics was founded in 1994 and serves students who have lived in the United States for two years or fewer and speak Spanish at home. It is located on the corner of 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.[260][261]

Washington Heights also has the unzoned Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, on 182nd Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Audubon Avenue. It was founded in 2006 and is now an elementary, middle, and high school, serving grades PK to 12.[262][263]

Charter and private schoolsEdit

Success Academy Washington Heights
The Mirabal Sisters Campus, housing KIPP Washington Heights, MS 319 Maria Teresa, and MS 324 Patria Mirabal

Success Academy Charter Schools has a location, serving grades K to 4, in the former Mother Cabrini High School building near Fort Tryon Park.[264] KIPP also has a location in the Mirabal Sisters Campus between Jumel Place and Edgecombe Avenue, serving grades K to 8.[265]

The independent WHIN Community Charter School serves grades K to 3 and shares a building with Community Math and Science Prep on Edgecombe Avenue between 164th Street and 165th Street.[251][266] School in the Square is another Washington Heights charter school, serving grades 6 to 8 and located on the corner of 179th Street and Wadsworth Avenue.[267]

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

St. Rose of Lima School in Washington Heights closed in 2019.[270] Area parents did not expect the development as a new principal had been recently appointed.[271]

Other private schools include:

Higher educationEdit

Yeshiva University Schottenstein Center
New York Public Library, Washington Heights branch

University education in Washington Heights includes Yeshiva University[279] and the primary campus of Boricua College.[280] 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.[281] These schools are among the departments that compose the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.[282]

CUNY in the Heights, a 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.[283] Located 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.[284][285]


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.[286]
  • 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.[287][288]:189

Religious institutionsEdit

Christian institutions include:

Hebrew Tabernacle of Washington Heights

Jewish institutions include:

Washington Heights also has one Muslim institution, the Al-Rahman Mosque, on the corner of 175th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.[310]


Bridges and highwaysEdit

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.[1][2] 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.[311] In 1963, the year it was built, Nervi won an award for the terminal's use of concrete;[312] an example of its unique use is in the huge ventilation ducts that look like butterflies from a distance.[313]:570

The Trans-Manhattan Expressway, a portion of Interstate 95, runs for 0.8 miles (1.3 km) from the George Washington Bridge in a trench between 178th and 179th streets.[314] To the east, the highway leads to the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, completed in 1963, which crosses the Harlem River to connect the GWB to the Bronx via the Cross Bronx Expressway.[315] 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.[316]:4 Crossing the river at 175th Street in Manhattan, the High Bridge is the oldest bridge in New York City still in existence.[317] Completed in 1848, it originally carried the Croton Aqueduct as part of the New York City water system and later functioned as a pedestrian bridge that had been closed to the public since the 1970s.[318] 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.[319] In June 2015, the High Bridge reopened as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge after a three-year rehabilitation project.[318]

The Henry Hudson Parkway, part of New York State Route 9A, runs near the Hudson River, cutting directly through the park area on the western edge of Washington Heights and dividing Fort Tryon Park from Fort Washington Park and the Hudson River Greenway.[320] On the other hand, the Harlem River Drive stays directly by the Harlem River for its course, leaving only the Harlem River Greenway to its east while Highbridge Park remains intact to its west.[321]


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.[322]

The 190th Street station contains the subway's only entrance in the Gothic style,[323] although it was originally built as a plain brick building.[28]:40 The station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.[324] The 190th Street and 191st Street stations have the distinction of being the deepest in the entire subway system by distance to ground level.[325] To help residents navigate the steep hills of the neighborhood's northwestern area, the IND 181st Street and 190th Street stations provide free elevator service between Fort Washington Avenue and the Broadway valley below.[326] On the northeastern side, the 191st Street station also has an elevator to St. Nicholas Avenue and a tunnel running to Broadway.[327]


The following MTA Regional Bus Operations bus routes serve Washington Heights:[136][329]

Notable peopleEdit

Notable current and former residents of Washington Heights include:

In popular cultureEdit



  1. ^ Although more modern sources do not dispute this point,[7][8] some older sources contend that Northern Manhattan was instead settled by a Wappinger band called the Rechgawawancks (sometimes called the Manhattans).[6]:40[9]:8
  2. ^ Some have also considered Washington Heights' southern boundary to be 158th Street.[111]:151[112]
  3. ^ Making up only 52 students total, the sample size of White and Asian students in the 2015 cohort is not large enough to calculate their graduation rates. The rates are very similar between Black and Hispanic / Latino students, however, at 73% and 74% respectively.[228]


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  362. ^ Broad, William J. "Joshua Lederberg, 82, a Nobel Winner, Dies", The New York Times, February 5, 2008. Accessed April 28, 2016. "Dr. Lederberg was born May 23, 1925, in Montclair, N.J., to Zvi Hirsch Lederberg, a rabbi, and the former Esther Goldenbaum, who had emigrated from what is now Israel two years earlier. His family moved to the Washington Heights section of Manhattan when he was 6 months old."
  363. ^ Sinclair, Tom. "Still a Marvel! Meet Stan Lee: The mind behind Spider-Man and Hulk. EW talks with the legend who rewrote the book on comics in the '60s, and planted seeds for today's biggest summer movies", Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 2003. Accessed June 7, 2007. "To fully understand how Lee, a poor Jewish kid from New York's Washington Heights, came to be the Munificent Monarch of the Mighty Marvel Universe, we must journey back through the mists of time, all the way to the first quarter of the last century, to reveal...the Origin of Stan Lee!"
  364. ^ MacGregor, Jeff. "Meet Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Genius Behind "Hamilton," Broadway's Newest Hit".
  365. ^ Swalec, Andrea. "Washington Heights Computer Science Expert Dies" Archived June 1, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, DNAinfo.com New York, August 1, 2011. Accessed April 25, 2016. "Computer science expert, City College professor and Washington Heights resident Daniel McCracken died Saturday of cancer, his wife, Helen Blumenthal, said in a statement Monday."
  366. ^ Dewan, Shaila K. "New Princes Of The Church: The Washington Prelate; Global View Of a Pastor For the Poor", The New York Times, January 22, 2001. Accessed April 25, 2016. "Archbishop McCarrick grew up in Washington Heights, in Manhattan."
  367. ^ Staff. "Festival Brings Month of Performances Uptown", Columbia University New York Stories, June 13, 2008. Accessed April 25, 2016. "During this year’s stroll, artist Knox Martin will be honored. Martin, born in Barranquilla, Colombia, has been a resident of Washington Heights for more than 75 years."
  368. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa. "In Search of New York at a Hip-Hop Summit", The New York Times, June 5, 2007. Accessed June 7, 2007. "Sometime around 6:30 the Washington Heights-raised rapper Mims ? better known as the 'This Is Why I'm Hot? guy' hit the stage to tell the crowd why he is hot. (It's related somehow to his flyness.)"
  369. ^ Andy Mineo, Reach Records. Accessed April 28, 2016. "A Syracuse native, Mineo is now more known as the kid from Washington Heights, New York City who is selling out major performance venues all over America and across the pond in Europe."
  370. ^ Feeney, Michael J. "Washington Heights singer Karina Pasian set to perform love song to city for 9/11 anniversary", New York Daily News, September 9, 2011. Accessed April 28, 2016.
  371. ^ Guzman, Sandra. "'Manny' Of The Year: Dominican Actor Perez Is Set To Star In A Dozen (!) New Movies" Archived December 18, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, The New York Post, August 8, 2007. Accessed September 23, 2007. "Perez, who was raised in Providence, Rhode Island, where most of his family still lives, decided long ago that he was not moving to Los Angeles to make it. He lives in and loves Washington Heights."
  372. ^ Herzog, Kenny. "Don't Call Me a Jobber: Former Stallion Jim Powers Remains Forever Young; Meet another of pro wrestling's preeminent "enhancement talents", a man who rode with Paul Roma (and was almost managed by Mr. T)", Rolling Stone (magazine), February 4, 2015. Accessed December 15, 2017. "James Manley, a.k.a. former WWE/WCW mainstay Jim Powers, is the first to admit that when he makes plans, they usually don't happen.... Manley was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in 1958, and was raised there by his aunt, uncle and grandmother.'"
  373. ^ Biography of Freddie Prinze Archived August 15, 2002, at the Wayback Machine, Museum of Broadcast Communications. Accessed January 3, 2007.
  374. ^ Rankin website bio Archived December 4, 2000, at the Wayback Machine, Accessed August 4, 2011. "Growing up in the multicultural hotbed of New York's Washington Heights neighborhood, he absorbed a broad array of musical influences, from AfroCuban to Top 40 to Jazz to Brazilian."
  375. ^ "Head of Production – Manny Ramírez, baseball player for the Red Sox – Statistical Data Included", Baseball Digest, August 2001 by Gordon Edes. "For a Dominican kid who grew up in the non-trendy side of Manhattan—that upper end of the island known as Washington Heights—Manny Ramírez tends to have his name dropped in the same sentence as the game's biggest stars, past and present, and isn't out of place in their company."
  376. ^ "Alex Rodriguez: he arrived in New York to cries of both 'Hallelujah!' and 'Is he worth it?' but after his bumpy, bruised beginnings in the Bronx, baseball's heavy-hitting superstar has hit his stride", Interview (magazine), July 2004. "The kid who was born in Washington Heights, New York City, and grew up in Miami had no doubts about handling the pressure in a town where movie stars are second-class citizens to top-tier ballplayers."
  377. ^ Russell, James R. "Notes of a Rebel Professor", Middle East Forum, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 17, 2020. "Among the 'little Eichmanns' working at the WTC when "the chickens came home to roost" were men and women from my old neighborhood, Washington Heights: Dominican immigrants who worked as janitors, as cooks at Windows on the World."
  378. ^ Renata-Christine. "", Medium (website), August 16, 2019. Accessed December 17, 2019. "26-year-old Merlin Santana was born and raised in Washington Heights in which is located on the upper west side of New York City. The neighborhood in which he resided as a child was poverty-stricken and overrun with crime."
  379. ^ Sandomir, Richard. "Daffy Days of Brooklyn Return for Vin Scully", The New York Times, October 5, 2006. Accessed April 28, 2016. "Scully’s lyrical voice has belonged to Los Angeles for so long that only older fans can recall Scully’s time with the Dodgers in Brooklyn from 1950 to 1957 after growing up in the Bronx and in Washington Heights. His last known address in New York was 869 West 180th Street; he took the subway to Ebbets Field during his first Dodgers season."
  380. ^ Cooper, Michael. "Scott Stringer Wins a Crowded Primary and a Likely Election as Borough President", The New York Times, September 14, 2005. Accessed January 29, 2020. "Mr. Stringer pledged last night to make the office meaningful, and to give Manhattan residents a bigger say in the planning of their borough. 'I'm going to work in every neighborhood, from Lower Manhattan to Harlem to Washington Heights, where I grew up,' he said in a telephone interview as he prepared to make a victory speech."
  381. ^ Boland Jr., Ed. "F.Y.I.", The New York Times, June 15, 2003. Accessed April 28, 2016. "An article about TAKI 183, which appeared in The New York Times on July 21, 1971, revealed that he was a 17-year-old who lived on 183rd Street in Washington Heights."
  382. ^ Grimes, William. "Tiny Tim, Singer, Dies at 64; Flirted, Chastely, With Fame", The New York Times, December 2, 1996. Accessed April 28, 2016. "Tiny Tim, whose real name was Herbert Khaury, was born in New York City and grew up in Washington Heights."
  383. ^ Grimes, William. "George Weinberg Dies at 87; Coined 'Homophobia' After Seeing Fear of Gays", The New York Times, March 22, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2017. "George Henry Weinberg was born on May 17, 1929, in Manhattan, where he grew up in Washington Heights."
  384. ^ Dr. Ruth: The Private Parts. Accessed December 27, 2006. "Dr. Ruth and her husband, Fred Westheimer, still reside in the same three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights where they raised their two children."
  385. ^ Kahn, Ashley. "Jerry Wexler: The Man Who Invented Rhythm & Blues: Aretha Franklin producer, Atlantic Records co-chief and music business pioneer dies at age 91", Rolling Stone, August 15, 2008. Accessed August 17, 2008. "He was born Gerald Wexler in 1917 to a working class family, and grew up during the Depression in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights."
  386. ^ A Brief Biography of Guy Williams Archived March 11, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, The Guy Williams Webshrine. Accessed April 30, 2016. "Guy was born Armando Catalano to Italian immigrant parents on 14 January 1924 in the Bronx, New York, USA. He grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan."
  387. ^ An Evening with Screenwriter/Novelist Rafael Yglesias Archived May 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Emerson College. Accessed 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."
  388. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "The View From Uptown: American Dreaming to a Latin Beat", The New York Times, March 10, 2008. Accessed April 28, 2016. "Mr. Miranda, as the owner of a corner bodega who dispenses good cheer along with café con leche by the gallon, is not just the brightly glowing star of In the Heights. He also wrote all the ebullient songs for this panoramic portrait of a New York neighborhood — Washington Heights — filled with Spanish-speaking dreamers of American dreams, nervously eyeing their futures from a city block on the cusp of change."
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  399. ^ "Pride and Glory (2008) - Plot Summary - IMDb". www.imdb.com. Retrieved April 9, 2020. A family of police officers - patriarch, two sons, and a son-in-law - deals with corruption in a precinct in Washington Heights. The Tierney family is comprised of [sic] many men who work for the NYPD: Francis Tierney Sr. is an Assistant Chief, his oldest son "Franny" Tierney Jr. is the commanding officer of the 31st Precinct in Washington Heights....
  400. ^ "The Saint of Fort Washington (1993) - Plot Summary - IMDb". www.imdb.com. Retrieved April 9, 2020. Matthew, a young schizophrenic, finds himself out on the street when a slumlord tears down his apartment building. Soon, he finds himself in even more dire straits, when he is threatened by Little Leroy, a thug who is one of the tough denizens of the Fort Washington Shelter for Men.
  401. ^ Carter, Michael. "The Cloisters in Popular Culture: 'Time in This Place Does Not Obey an Order'", Metropolitan Museum of Art, July 22, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2016. "At the film's end, however, Coogan returns to the Museum, where the fugitive has (inexplicably) managed to find a safe hideout. The movie's climax consists of a prolonged motorcycle chase through the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park."
  402. ^ Story Notes for The Brave One, AMC. Accessed April 14, 2020. "Some scenes in The Brave One were filmed on Ellwood Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan."
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Further reading

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