Close Up On: Washington Heights


Portions of this article have been updated.

Even as artists, actors, and other whites of modest means migrate north of 155th Street, Washington Heights remains a divided neighborhood. The newcomers are moving in north of 179th Street and west of Broadway in an area where Irish, Italians, Jews, and Greeks have lived since the early 1900s, when extended subway lines enticed developers to build apartments where country estates once stood. These streets are now filled with sturdy art-deco buildings, and restaurants and cafés are appearing, including that harbinger of gentrification, Starbucks. Realtors call this portion of the neighborhood Hudson Heights to break the stigma of the crack epidemic that hit in the early ’90s. After World War II, blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans settled in the southern and eastern portions. In the ’60s, Dominicans started arriving, and have assembled one of the largest populations outside of the republic.

Boundaries: Dyckman Street to the north, the Harlem River to the east, 155th Street to the south, and the Hudson River to the west

Main Drags: Broadway separates the neighborhood’s east and west sides. Fort Washington Avenue is a must-see corridor of art-deco apartment buildings.

Mass Transit: It’s about 20 minutes to midtown if you take the express A from Dyckman or 168th streets; 25 minutes if you take the B or the C locals from 155th Street or the local 1 Broadway line from 168th Street.

Average Rent: Studio, $900 and up ($900 to $1000); one-bedroom, $1,200 and up ($1050 to $1200); two-bedroom, $1,500 to $1,800 and up ($1375 to $1600).

Average Price to Buy: One-bedroom co-op, $200,000 ($99,500 to $217,500); two-bedroom co-op, $450,000 ($159,500 to $387,500); one-bedroom condo, $450,000 ($260,000 to $300,000); two-bedroom condo, $600,000 ($300,000 to $450,000). If you’re looking for a single-family house, look elsewhere.

Cultural Institutions: Washington Heights is home to the Cloisters, the world-renowned museum of medieval art overlooking the Hudson in Fort Tryon Park. A notable collection of Francisco Goya’s works, including The Duchess of Alba, is on display at the little-known Hispanic Society of America museum at 155th and Broadway.

Landmarks: The Audubon Ballroom Complex at 168th and Broadway marks the spot where Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 and is the site of a planned museum in his honor. The neighborhood also has a rich Revolutionary War heritage. The Morris-Jumel Mansion dates back to 1765, and George Washington actually slept there during the war. Later it became the home of Madame Eliza Jumel, who slept there with second hubby Aaron Burr. The cobblestone Jumel Terrace between 160th and 162nd streets east of St. Nicholas Avenue is another tourist favorite.

Notable Events: The` Medieval Festival held each October at the Cloisters is said to be one of the reasons why so many actors have “discovered” Washington Heights.

Community Organizations: Alianza Dominicana, 2410 Amsterdam Avenue, provides vocational and education training and has an extensive AIDS-counseling program. Because much of Washington Heights is parkland—including Fort Tryon Park, Bennett Park, Fort Washington Park, and J. Hood Wright Park—conservancies play an important role.

Famous Residents: So many famous people have lived here, you could break them into categories. The government officials: Henry Kissinger and Alan Greenspan; the entertainers: Tiny Tim, Milton Berle, and Leslie Uggams; the sexpert: Dr. Ruth Westheimer—who is a board member and former president of the Washington Heights YMHA.

Best Restaurants: Sink into velvety coolness at Bleu Evolutions, 808 West 187th Street. Or, if you’re in the mood for rotisserie chicken Dominican-style, head to El Malecón at the corner of 175th and Broadway.

Bars: Longtime residents recall the days when Washington Heights had an Irish bar on every corner. They’re coming back gradually. Consider Coogan’s at 169th and Broadway.

Local Politicians: Councilmen Miguel Martinez and Robert Jackson, state senators David A. Paterson and Eric T. Schneiderman, assemblymen Denny Farrell and Adriano Espaillat, and Congressman Charles Rangel, all Democrats

Crime Stats: Washington Heights straddles the 33rd and 34th precincts (the latter includes part of Inwood). As of September 4, 2005 they reported a combined total of 12 murders, 33 rapes, 382 robberies, and 287 felonious assaults. (Washington Heights straddles the 33rd and 34th precincts (the latter includes part of Inwood). As of July 7, they reported a combined total of 5 homicides, compared to 12 at this time last year; 36 rapes, compared to 28 last year; 275 felonious assaults, down from 267 last year; and 274 burglaries, down from 292 last year).