Washington Heights - Then and Now
Posted on January 25, 2016

Bohemia Blog by Agent Heidi Moreira






I worked for a firm in midtown before joining Bohemia Realty Group. Most of the clients I worked with clearly said they didn’t want to go above 96th street.  I understood that Upper Manhattan had built a bad reputation many years ago, but I moved to Washington Heights about 4 years ago and fell in love with the rich culture, unbelievably tasty food, and low cost of living.  So why are so many people still trying to stay away? Maybe it’s because in the late 80s and early 90s Washington Heights was once known as the city’s Murder Capital.  It was scarred by police corruption and ruled by gangs for many years.




A major incident that most locals won’t forget is the July 1992 Riot that began on W 162nd Street and St. Nicholas Ave.  The outrage began when a police officer, Officer O’Keefe, shot and murdered Jose “Kiko” Garcia who lived on W 162nd Street and worked in a corner bodega.  The actual event that took place is controversial, with conflicting stories from locals, eyewitnesses and police.  The riot followed when O’Keefe walked away free of any wrongdoing.  Locals described this event as, “the world seemed to turn upside down.” Masses of people walked in the streets throwing bottles at the police chasing them away, dozens of cars were being set on fire, stores destroyed, bystanders and police were injured and a death reported. Many people who lived in NYC during that time said that crime wasn’t only in Washington Heights, but in all of NYC. 




Since then, the city has taken several steps to protect its citizens and officers.




In 1994, the police department split the patrol area that once manned that location into two, creating the 34th precinct north of W 179th street and the 33rd precinct south of it.  Statistics from the precincts show that the crime rate has dramatically decreased in the years that I have followed.  Since the second precinct came along, Washington Heights has completely changed.  It’s not the same place it was back then.  I moved here in my early 20s and have never had a bad experience.  If anything, all of my experiences have been positive!




As a resident of Washington Heights, I feel it is one of the safest areas of Manhattan – and I hope you come to experience it too!




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