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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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