Hudson Heights in Upper Manhattan

Monday, 12 August 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City

George Washington Bridge, Hudson River and Hudson Palisades as seen from West 187th Street and Chittenden Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0

George Washington Bridge, Hudson River and Hudson Palisades as seen from West 187th Street and Chittenden Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0

Hudson Heights is a residential neighborhood of the Washington Heights area of Upper Manhattan, New York City. Most of the residences are in apartment buildings, many of which are cooperatives, and most were constructed in the 1920s through 1940s. The Art Deco style is prominent, along with Tudor Revival. Notable complexes include Hudson View Gardens and Castle Village, which were both developed by Dr. Charles V. Paterno, and were designed by George F. Pelham and his son, George F. Pelham, Jr., respectively.

The neighborhood is located on a plateau on top of a high bluff overlooking both the Hudson River on the west and the Broadway valley of Washington Heights on the east, and includes the highest natural point in Manhattan, located in Bennett Park. At 265 feet (81 m) above sea level, it is a few dozen feet lower than the torch on the Statue of Liberty.

At the northern end of the neighborhood, where Cabrini Boulevard meets Fort Washington Avenue at Margaret Corbin Circle, is Fort Tryon Park, conceived by John D. Rockefeller Jr., designed by the Olmsted Brothers, and given to the city by Rockefeller in 1931. The park contains within it The Cloisters – also conceived of by Rockefeller – which houses the Medieval art collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Similar to many other neighborhoods that are undergoing gentrification in New York City, this Washington Heights area was renamed by real estate brokers in the 1990s to sound more appealing to a different type of community than was attracted to the main part of Washington Heights. Like many New York City neighborhoods, the boundaries of Hudson Heights are not precise. One definition has it bounded by the Hudson River to the west, Broadway to the east, 173rd Street to the south, and Fort Tryon Park to the north, but another would limit the neighborhood to the top of the high ridge which physically separates it from the rest of Washington Heights. By this definition, Hudson Heights is bounded in the west by the Henry Hudson Parkway, in the east by Fort Washington Avenue, in the south by West 181st Street and in the north by Fort Tryon Park. The ridge the neighborhood sits on overlooks the river to the west and the Broadway valley to the east. In 2018, The New York Times defined it as being bordered by 173rd Street in the south, Bennett Avenue in the east, the northern boundary of Fort Tryon Park in the north, and the Hudson River in the west. Using the more restrictive boundaries, the neighborhood’s main north-south thoroughfares are Fort Washington Avenue (two-way), Pinehurst Avenue (one way south) and Cabrini Boulevard (formerly Northern Avenue, one way north). Riverside Drive runs intermittently along the bottom of the ridge to the west, while Bennett Avenue and Overlook Terrace do the same on the east, with Overlook Avenue climbing to the top of the ridge at West 190th Street. The east-west streets are all numbered, from West 181st Street to West 190th Street, but none of those streets, with the exception of West 181st at the southern end of the ridge, cross all the way through the neighborhood: they are all interrupted at one point or another, which makes navigation of the area difficult for those not familiar with its peculiarities.

In the years after World War II, the neighborhood was referred to as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson due to 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. When the children of the Jewish immigrants to the Hudson Heights area 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 overtly Jewish into the 1970s as Soviet immigrants moved to the area. 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 area. In the 1980s African-Americans began to move in, followed shortly by other groups. “Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson” no longer described the area.

United Palace, a church and cultural center © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 The highest point in Manhattan is in Bennett Park © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Stairs connect Overlook Terrace and Fort Washington Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Shopping street - West 187th Street © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Hudson View  Gardens © Asaavedra32/cc-by-sa-3.0 George Washington Bridge, Hudson River and Hudson Palisades as seen from West 187th Street and Chittenden Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0
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George Washington Bridge, Hudson River and Hudson Palisades as seen from West 187th Street and Chittenden Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0
“Hudson Heights” began to be used as a name for the neighborhood around 1993. Neighborhood activists formed a group in late 1992 to help promote the neighborhood and after considering several names, settled on the one that became part of their organization’s name: Hudson Heights Owners’ Coalition. According to one of the group’s founders, real estate brokers did not start using the name until after the group was formed. The new name replaced the outdated reference to German heritage, which some have criticized, even though the German-speaking population is negligible at best. Although many Russian speakers still live there, Spanish-speakers vastly outnumber the Russophones, and English remains the lingua franca. Elizabeth Ritter, the president of the owners’ group, said, “We didn’t set out to change the name of the neighborhood, but we were careful in how we selected the name of the organization.” In 2011, Curbed New York published on article which used Hudson Heights as an example of “How to Gentrify a Neighborhood”, the first step of which was “Create a nickname to separate the area from its crime-riddled past.” Today the name “Hudson Heights” has been adopted by arts organizations such as Hudson Heights Duo and the Hudson Heights String Academy, and businesses including Hudson Heights Pediatrics and Hudson Heights Restoration. Newspapers from The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to The Village Voice use the name in reference to the neighborhood, as did The New York Sun before it went bankrupt, Money magazine in its November 2007 article named Hudson Heights the best neighborhood to retire to in New York City. “Hudson Heights” was used by Gourmet magazine in its September 2007 article about dining in Washington Heights, and by The New Yorker in May 2016 about a concert in The Cloisters.

Nearly every structure was built before World War II – which in New York real estate parlance is referred to as pre-war – many of them in the Art Deco style. Facades in the Tudor are also well represented, while others are in the Art Nouveau, Neo-Classical, and Collegiate Gothic styles. Many of the apartment houses are co-ops and a few are condos; the remainder are still rental buildings. 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, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Pelham also designed The Pinehurst on Fort Washington Avenue at West 180th Street, which opened in 1908. Paterno is remembered by the Paterno Trivium, erected in spring 2000 at the intersection of Cabrini Boulevard, Pinehurst Avenue and West 187th Street. Pelham’s 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. On May 12, 2005 a large, 65-foot high retaining wall separating the Castle Village complex from the Henry Hudson Parkway collapsed onto the northbound lanes of the parkway and the 181st Street northbound on-ramp. Portions of the wall were nearly 100 years old according to records indicating the wall was constructed between 1905 and the 1930s. The collapse lead to the on-ramp’s closure for over two and half years; the entrance was reopened in March 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. Another large cooperative is the 16-story Cabrini Terrace at 400 West 190th Street, the tallest building in the neighborhood. Members of the co-op’s board successfully lobbied the legislature to change the law that grants tax credits for the installation of solar panels in residences to include apartment buildings, which had been excluded. Cabrini Terrace inaugurated its solar panels at a ceremony on January 24, 2008.

A widely known museum in the area is The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses and displays its collection of Medieval art. In September, the park hosts the Medieval Festival, a free fair with costumed revelers, food and music. In its September 2007 issue, Gourmet described the Dominican restaurants in Washington Heights and Inwood, including many in Hudson Heights.

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

Bennett Park is the location of the highest natural point in Manhattan, as well as a commemoration on the east 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. 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.

Many small shops are located on West 181st Street at the southern end of the neighborhood, and all along Broadway near to its border. In the middle of the neighborhood itself, there is a small shopping area at West 187th Street between Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue.

Nearby to Hudson Heights lies the United Palace, a church, live music venue, and non-profit cultural center located at 4140 Broadway between West 175th and 176th Streets. It was built in 1930 as Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, a movie palace – one of five Loews had in New York City – designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb. Its lavishly eclectic interior decor was supervised by Harold Rambusch. The theater originally presented films and live vaudeville and operated continuously until closed by Loew’s in 1969. That same year it was purchased for over a half million dollars by the television evangelist Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike. The theater became the headquarters of his United Church Science of Living Institute and was renamed the Palace Cathedral. It was completely restored and still continues to be maintained by the United Church. The building was designated a New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on December 13, 2016.

Read more on The New York Times, 28 March 2019: Hudson Heights: A Hidden Gem, Gaining Popularity, CityNeighborhoods.nyc – Hudson Heights and Wikipedia Hudson Heights (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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