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Hudson Heights, Manhattan, 10033



Hudson Heights is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, located within the larger area known as Washington Heights. Its modern roots can be traced to the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was known as Fort Tryon. In the last decade, artists, families and young professionals have been moving into the area and changing it. Gentrification and urban renewal have made the neighborhood more diverse than it was in the mid 1990s. In addition, crime has decreased from high levels of that time.


Hudson Heights’ history includes a Revolutionary War battlefield, a Rockefeller estate, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and three names in the 20th Century. It is bounded to the north by Fort Tryon Park, to the west by the Hudson River, to the east by Broadway and to the south, arguably, either by West 181st Street or J Hood Wright Park at 173rd Street. The highest natural point on Manhattan, at 265 feet (81 m), 5 inches, is in Bennett Park.


Before European explorers and settlers, the Lenape Indians lived on the island they called Manhatta. Just to the north of Hudson Heights, in what is now Inwood Hill Park, the Lenape tribe exchanged the island for 60 Dutch Gilders in a deal with Peter Minuit in 1626. He named the island New Amsterdam. The area north of central Manhattan was called Niew Haarlem until the British took the upper hand in the Revolutionary War. They renamed the area Lancaster, and gave it a northern border near what is now 129th Street The ridge that overlooks the Hudson River was once inhabited by the Chquaesgeck Indians. Later it was called Lange Bergh (Long Hill) by Dutch settlers until the 17th century; it is known as Hudson Heights today.


In the 1700s, only the southern portion of the island was settled by Europeans, leaving the rest of Manhattan largely untouched. Among the many unspoiled tracts of land was the highest spot on the island, which provided unsurpassed views of what would become the New York metropolitan area.


When the Revolutionary War came to New York, the British had the upper hand. General George Washington and troops from his Continental Army camped on the high ground, calling it Fort Washington, to monitor the advancing Redcoats. The Continental Army retreated from its location after their defeat on November 16, 1776, in the Battle of Fort Washington. The British took the position and renamed it Fort Knyphausen in honor of the leader of the Hessians, who had taken a major part in the British victory. Their location was in the spot now called Bennett Park. Fort Washington had been established as an offensive position to prevent British vessels from sailing north on the Hudson River. Fort Lee, across the river, was its twin, built to assist in the defense of the Hudson Valley.


Not far from the fort was the Blue Bell Tavern, located on an intersection of Kingsbridge Road, where Broadway and West 181st Street intersect today, on the southeastern corner of modern-day Hudson Heights. On July 9, 1776, when New York's Provincial Congress assented to the Declaration of Independence, "A rowdy crowd of soldiers and civilians ('no decent people' were present, one witness said later) ... marched down Broadway to Bowling Green, where they toppled the statue of George III erected in 1770. The head was put on a spike at the Blue Bell Tavern ... "


The tavern was later used by Washington and his staff when the British evacuated New York, standing in front of it as they watched the American troops march south to retake New York.


By 1856 the first recorded home had been built on the site of Fort Washington. The Moorewood residence was there until the 1880s. The property was purchased by Richard Carman and sold to James Gordon Bennett Sr. for a summer estate in 1871. Bennett's descendants later gave the land to the city to build a park honoring the Revolutionary War encampment. Bennett Park is a portion of that land. Lucius Chittenden, a New Orleans merchant, built a home on land he bought in 1846 west of what is now Cabrini Boulevard and West 187th Street. It was known as the Chittenden estate by 1864. C. P. Bucking named his home Pinehurst on land near the Hudson, a title that survives as Pinehurst Avenue and South Pinehurst Avenue, as well as The Pinehurst Apartments.


At the turn of the 20th century the woods started being chopped down to make way for homes. The area was settled by Irish immigrants in the early years of the century.


The cliffs that are now Fort Tryon Park held the mansion of Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, a retired president of the Chicago Coke and Gas Company. He purchased 25 acres (100,000 m2) and constructed Tryon Hall, a Louis XIV-style home designed by Gus Lowell. It had a galleried entranceway from the Henry Hudson Parkway that was 50 feet (15 m) high and made of Maine granite.


In 1917, Billings sold the land to John D. Rockefeller Jr. for $35,000 per acre. Tryon Hall was destroyed by fire in 1925. The estate was the basis for the book "The Dragon Murder Case" by S. S. Van Dine, in which detective Philo Vance had to solve a murder on the grounds of the estate, where a dragon was supposed to have lived. Its remains have never been found.


Wealthy landowners were rare among early residents. Most were immigrants, many from Ireland in the early years of the century. The patron saint of immigrants, Mother Cabrini, is entombed at her shrine near the northern end of Fort Washington Avenue, where a high school bears her name. Mother Francesca Saverio Cabrini, American's first saint, was beatified in November 1938. She founded the Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart. The name of the street on the west side of the school and shrine was changed in 1939 from Northern Avenue to Cabrini Boulevard.




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 … ." (The olive green areas of the census map, right, correspond to Lowenstein's description; the date of the data is unknown.)


Lowenstein considered Fort Tryon as west of Broadway, east of the Hudson, north of W. 181st Street, and south of Dyckman Street (that is, including 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 …" His description correlates with the Fort Tryon area (what today is called Hudson Heights).


References to the old name survive in the Fort Tryon Jewish Center (on Fort Washington Avenue between W. 183rd and W. 185th Streets (there is no W. 184th Street on Fort Washington Avenue)), the Fort Tryon Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing (on W. 190th and Overlook Terrace), the Tryon Tower apartment building on Pinehurst Ave., and in the pages of the Not for Tourists Guide to New York City . A modern reference was planned in the name of a condominium under construction on Overlook Terrace, which when completed will be the first high-rise condominium ever built in Hudson Heights. But the previously planned name, Fort Tryon Tower, has now been changed to One Bennett Park, for two reasons: There was a concern that since the project now has an entrance on Ft. Washington Avenue adjacent to the entrance for the Fort Tryon Jewish Center, that having a similar name might infer that it's associated with the Jewish Center, which it's not. But more importantly, the developers learned that there were no unassigned street numbers available on Ft. Washington Avenue for this new entrance. So with both issues at hand, the developers chose a new name that could also be considered an address: One Bennett Park, appropriate since the park's main entrance is directly across the street from the project's entrance.


During the war Hungarians and Poles moved in next to the Irish. Then, as Naziism grew in Germany, Jews fled their homeland. By the late 1930s, more than 20,000 refugees from Nazi Germany had settled in Washington Heights .


In the years after World War II, the neighborhood was referred to as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson for the dense population of German and Austrian Jews who had settled there. A disproportionately large number of Germans who settled in the area had come from Frankfurt-am-Main, possibly giving rise to new name. No other neighborhood in the city was home to so many German Jews, who had created their own central German world in the 1930s.


So cosmopolitan was that world that 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. The newspaper became known as a "prominent intellectual voice and a main forum for German Jewry in the United States," according to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. "It featured the work of great prominent writers and intellectuals such as Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Stefan Zweig, and Hannah Arendt. It was one of the only newspapers to report on the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II."


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. After the war, Aufbau helped families that had been scattered by European battles to reconnect by listing survivors' names. 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.


The 1985 film We Were So Beloved tells the stories of neighborhood Jews who escaped the Holocaust. When their children grew up they tended to leave the neighborhood and, sometimes, the city. By 1960 German Jews accounted for only 16% of the population in Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson.


The neighborhood became less Jewish into the 1970s as Soviet immigrants moved to the area. Later, 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 150s and 160s.) In the 1980s African-Americans started moving in, followed shortly by other groups. "Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson" no longer described the area.




"Hudson Heights" began to be used in the early 1990s. Neighborhood activists sought a new name to replace the outdated reference to German heritage, in keeping with the practice of naming neighborhoods in northern Washington Heights (e.g., Fort George, to the east of Hudson Heights, and Sherman Creek, to the north of Fort George). In selecting Hudson Heights, some have criticized it as artificial, even though the German-speaking population is negligible at best.


Many more Russian speakers live there now; Spanish-speakers vastly outnumber the Russophones; and English is the lingua franca. Given the current fashion of making acronymns from neighborhood names, had Hudson Heights not been adopted, the area may have become known as FrOTH.


Most historical alternatives for a title are not ideal; the original name of the land is taken by the neighborhood's main street, Fort Washington Avenue. Of the five early owners of property here, Bennett Park claims one name, Chittenden Avenue claims another and Pinehurst Avenue (and South Pinehurst Avenue) a third. The others, Moorewood and Carman, perfectly fine names themselves, carry little resonance today. There is no record indicating if Fort Tryon, the name before Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson, was considered. If it had, its would have been identical to the nearby park and the historic site.


It may have been suggested by a beautiful line written in 1992 by James Bennet: "... a community ... where breezes from the Hudson blow across the rocky heights that helped give the area its name." By the next year, the first use of the name was recorded when neighborhood activists formed the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition.


Today the name has been adopted by organizations such as the Hudson Heights String Ensemble and businesses including Hudson Heights Little Miracles Day Care. Newspapers from The New York Times to The Village Voice print it in reference to the neighborhood. The New York Sun uses it in articles about the neighborhood, as did Money (magazine) in its November 2007 article naming Hudson Heights the best neighborhood to retire in among all of New York City's five boroughs. (Tudor City came in second.) Gourmet magazine did too, in its September 2007 article about dining in Washington Heights.




Hudson Heights is home to the highest natural point in Manhattan, located in Bennett Park. It is 265 feet (81 m) above sea level, or a few dozen feet lower than the torch on the Statue of Liberty. A viewpoint is at the western tip of Plaza Lafayette, which runs along West 181st Street between Haven Avenue and Riverside Drive. The only movie theater above 125th Street in Manhattan is in Hudson Heights, the four-screen Coliseum Cinema on West 181st Street at Broadway.


It is among the neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan that join in The Art Stroll, the annual festival of the arts. Public places in Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill host impromptu galleries, readings, performances and markets over several weeks each summer.


News of Upper Manhattan is published weekly in The Manhattan Times, a bilingual newspaper. Its annual restaurant guide, which comes out in Spanish and English (like the newspaper) highlights the burgeoning restaurant scene. (www.ManhattanTimes.org)


It is important to note, though, that some long-time residents of the area do not call it Hudson Heights, and instead refer to it as Washington Heights.[citation needed] Of course, other sources continue to use the pre-World War II name, Fort Tryon (see above).


The neighborhood is mostly residential, but it also has strips of commercial activity along West 187th Street and West 181st Street and Public School 187, which houses kindergarten through eighth grade. Nearly every structure was built before World War II, which in New York real estate parlance is referred to as pre-war. Art Deco was the style of the time. Façades in Art Nouveau, Neo-Classical, Tudor and Collegiate Gothic styles also dot the streets. Many of the apartment houses are co-ops and a few are condos; the remainder are still available for rent.


The largest residential complexes in the area were started by real estate developer Dr. Charles V. Paterno; Hudson View Gardens opened in 1924 and was originally started and sold as a housing cooperative. The Tudor-style complex was designed by the architect George F. Pelham, who also designed The Pinehurst, which opened in 1908, on Fort Washington Avenue at West 180th Street. Dr. Paterno is remembered by the Paterno Trivium, erected in spring 2000 at the intersection of Cabrini Boulevard, Pinehurst Avenue and West 187th Street.




His son, George F. Pelham Jr., was the architect of Castle Village, on the other side of Cabrini Boulevard. This series of five buildings was finished in 1939 and converted to a co-op in 1985. Another large cooperative is the 16-story Cabrini Terrace , the highest building in the neighborhood. Members of the board of Cabrini Terrace successfully lobbied the legislature to change the law that grants tax credits to homeowners who install solar panels. Previously, apartment buildings were excluded. Cabrini Terrace inaugurated its solar panels at a ceremony on January 24, 2008.


Beginning in the 1980s, some rental buildings in the area started converting to housing cooperatives or condominiums. In recent years, Hudson Heights has been an attractive area for homebuyers who want to stay in Manhattan but who can't afford downtown prices, or who want larger homes than those in the rest of Manhattan. The multiple co-ops and condos in the area formed the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition in 1993.


The area came to the attention of New Yorkers -- and West Side Highway commuters -- in May 2005 when a 75-year-old retaining wall facing the Hudson River on the property of the Castle Village co-op housing complex collapsed onto the highway (also called the Henry Hudson Parkway), causing consternation and traffic delays. The wall has been repaired, and access to the highway from the Plaza Lafayette (Riverside Drive (Manhattan) at West 181st Street) reopened in March 2008.




The most widely known institution in Hudson Heights is The Cloisters, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses and displays its collection of Medieval art, located in Fort Tryon Park. In September, the park hosts the Medieval Festival, a free fair with costumed revelers, food and music.


The Art Stroll, mentioned above under "Community," highlights local artists and their work every summer during June.


Also in the park is the New Leaf Cafe, which the 2006 Michelin Guide recommended as a "cozy getaway" where the kitchen has "creative instincts." In its September 2007 issue, Gourmet magazine described the delicious Dominican restaurants in Washington Heights and Inwood, including many in Hudson Heights.


Just south of Fort Tryon Park is the Catholic shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.


Bennett Park hosts the annual Harvest Festival in September and the children's Halloween Parade (with trick-or-treating afterwards) on All Hallow's Eve. The location of the walls of Fort Washington (New York) is marked in the ground by stones with an inscription on the west side of the park that reads: "Fort Washington Built And Defended By The American Army 1776." In addition, a tablet indicates that the nearby schist is the highest natural point on Manhattan island. 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.


The only New York City Transit subway entrance in the Gothic style is the exterior of the 190 Street station for the A (New York City Subway service) Train on Fort Washington Avenue at West 193rd Street. Both it and the West 184th Street exit of the 181 St Station stand out among entrances to the city's subway stations.


The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, at West 179th Street and Fort Washington Avenue (and therefore a bit south of the usual border), was designed by the Italian architect and economist Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed in 1963. From a distance, the huge ventilation ducts look like concrete butterflies. His bust sits in the terminal's lobby.


The George Washington Bridge, visible for miles from its entrance at 179th Street, earns this accolade from Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier): "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city." Beneath it, at the east stanchion, is the Little Red Lighthouse, where a namesake festival is held is in the late summer, and where a 5.85-mile (9.41 km) recreational swim finishes in early autumn . It is also a popular place to watch for peregrine falcons and the monarch butterfly migration .


For events in the neighborhood, residents look to The Manhattan Times, Washington Heights & Inwood Online , and an apartment building's happenings page.



The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel by Junot Diaz (2007), refers to Anglo women carrying yoga mats in the neighborhood as a harbinger of gentrification. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for letters in 2008.


Frankfurt on the Hudson, by Stephen M. Lowenstein (1989), explores the history of the neighborhood from the 1920s until the 1980s.


Wsshington Heights (2002).


Two scenes in Coogan's Bluff (1968), starring Clint Eastwood, were filmed in Fort Tryon Park, including a shoot-out at the Cloisters and a motorcycle chase in the Heather Garden.


The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegard Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward (1942) gives life to two of the best-know features of the neighborhood.


Notable current and former residents of Hudson Heights include:



Fort Washington Avenue



Cabrini Boulevard



Castle Village



Hudson River seen from 187th Street



Stairs on Pinehurst Avenue



View from east cross Broadway along 187th Street



View from east cross Broadway north of 190th Street



Looking south on Bennett Ave at 192nd street


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