Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights, Manhatttan

Introduction and Location

The neighborhood with the George Washington bridge in the background (left), the location of the neighborhood in Manhattan on a map (right)

Washington Heights is bordered to the North by Inwood (Hillside Avenue) and to the South by Harlem (155th Street). It touches the Hudson and Harlem rivers on its sides. Washington Heights and Inwood have the highest population of people from the Dominican Republic outside the country itself. The area, which is very well known due to it's historical and modern relevance, has its own flair that distinguishes itself from the rest of Manhattan. The cultural vibrance of the area is all thanks to the Dominican influence.

History of the Neighborhood

Washington Heights, 1986

During the American Revolutionary War, the continental army set up camp in the area, calling it Fort Washington (after George Washington). They set up camp in Washington Heights because it is higher in elevation than the rest of Manhattan. In the early 1900s, Irish immigrants starting moving into the Heights. They were followed by an influx of European Jews fleeing Nazism along with other refugees from WW1. However, the Heights really became what it is today after the Dominican migration starting in the 1960s. With the arrival of Crack in the mid-eighties, the area became dangerous. Now, it is one of the safest neighborhoods in Manhattan.

"...the neighborhood then witnessed an influx of Dominicans after the 1960s. It was then that the Dominicans became the majority in the neighborhood and here they established one of the most recognized ethnic enclaves throughout the city." --Brennan ortiz

Establishment of the Enclave

The 1960s and 70s were dominated by the Dominican population. After the depressing chaos that started in the 1980s, things were finally beginning to improve. The 2000s were the first decade of genuine urban renewal. There is a strong belief that the inclusive spirit of the area is what led the neighborhood's revival. At the same time, the makeup of the neighborhood is not the same as it was in the 60s and 70s. Gentrification and crime pushed many Dominicans out of the neighborhood. The Dominican population is still very large, and the culture is still dominant. Washington Heights survived a major economic downturn.

appearance of Washington Heights

Dancing is a common site to see in Washington Heights

Geographically, Washington Heights is distinguished from the rest of Manhattan by its hilly landscape. The commercial section is populated by "mom and pop specialty shops, Dominican cuisine locales, along with more recognized chain retailers." (Ortiz) The neighborhood also stands out in part because of all the nearby greenery and nature. Art is an important part of the culture as well, as the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (founded in 2007) made it their goal to promote arts from Inwood and the Heights. The Dominican culture is apparent from the Bachata music blaring out into the streets, usually accompanied by people dancing and spectating.

Artist Dister Rondon started painting murals in the Heights as an anti-gentrification project


With gentrification, many may think that the neighborhood is losing it's appeal. However, I can't think of a better time to come to the area than now. The property value is mostly lower than the rest of Manhattan, and the government is working with the community to keep their current renaissance alive and well. Despite the wages being lower than the average of Manhattan, the neighborhood reached a record high population in 2013. Things aren't perfect, but I couldn't think of a better time for Dominican immigrants or anyone else who's interested in living in Manhattan to move to the ethnic enclave of Washington Heights, Little Dominican Republic.

Works Cited

Barlow, Jennifer. "In the Heights." Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Barron, Laignee. "Meet Uptown's Radical Tagger." NY Daily News. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, 26 July 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

DiNapoli, Thomas P., and Kenneth B. Bleiwas. An Economic Snapshot of Washington Heights and Inwood. Rep. no. 2-2016. State of New York Comptroller, June 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Hsu, Jennifer. "'I Love My Hood': One Artist's Attempt to Reclaim The Heights." WNYC. Know Your Neighbor, 17 July 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Map of Washington Heights. Digital image. Google, 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Michaud, Jon. "Walking the Heights." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Ortiz, Brennan. "NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods: Little Dominican Republic in Washington Heights, Manhattan." Untapped Cities. Untapped Cities, 04 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2017.

Realty, Esra. Washington Heights. Digital image. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Smith, Jack. Washington Heights, 1986. Digital image. Getty, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

Young, Michelle. Untapped Cities. Digital image. Untapped Cities, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

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