The Washington Heights Riots of 1992 Remembered – Part 1

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

The Washington Heights Riots of 1992

July 1992

As soon as we stepped out of the 1 & 9 train station at 191st street, I could feel the electricity in the air. This was not unusual in the Washington Heights of that era but this was something different. It seemed to be pulsating. Magnetically, that energy seemed to carry us all the way to 163rd street, which was the source of the emanation. For the most part, the streets en route to our destination were quiet but there was a bubbling anger underneath the surface. When we finally arrived at 163rd street, I couldn’t believe my eyes, the street cats were actually going at the cops. Bottles were being thrown, anything and everything was being set on fire and at the very beginning of the melee, the cops were being run off.

As we made our way back to our home turf, the 180’s and 190’s, the entire neighborhood seemed to combust. The flames of the riot were engulfing everything in its path. I actually saw a dude I grew up with, who is now a junkie, chasing on foot, a cop car down the hill on193rd street and St. Nicolas avenue. It appeared that the entire world had been turned upside down. At the time, I felt the urge to document what was happening, so I pulled out my cheap little camera and took the pictures you see below. I was a teenager in these pictures and could not completely fathom what was taking place all around me but I knew this event would have a profound effect on our neighborhood.

The Washington Heights Riots of 1992

Check out Part 2 of the Riots Remembered: Here.

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    July 13, 2010 at 9:54 am

    […] Check out Part 1 of the Riots Remembered: Here […]

  • Nelson
    July 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I remember coming home from my job that night. I was working at a factory in Jersey at that time. A van used to pick us up in the morn and drop us off in the eve on 181st.

    When I got out the van it was surreal. The streets were empty, littered with debris and some cars were either on fire or turned over on its side. The gates and windows to the some stores were broken and mangled. It felt like I was in a video footage of Beirut or Lebannon.

    Our community definitely changed after that day.

  • aj0010
    July 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Yup, our community changed because of the riots.

    We’re still being held back by the perception that we are a lawless community, one which turns out and wreaks havoc over the death of a known street dealer who was killed trying to wrestle a cop’s gun away from him.

    I’m thoroughly confused by what I’m reading as an expression of pride.

    How, exactly, was this anything to be proud of?

    Or am I completely misreading your post?

  • uptownco
    July 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Not only are you misreading this post, I have a hard time believing that you actually read it all. I was simply trying to convey what I saw on that fateful night as the teenager that I was at the time.


    • aj0010
      July 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      You’re right, I misread you; my bad for commenting before reading Part 2 of your post.

  • uptownco
    July 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    No worries…thanks for the comments.


    September 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

    […] also took a look at the Riots (Part 1 & Part 2 ) that rocked this neighborhood 18 years […]

  • Snipeproductions
    December 4, 2010 at 2:45 am

    I was about 4 years old living in harlem i remeber looking out the 12 floor window and seeing hundreds of African Americans running towards washington heights from 143st to 168th street to go fight the police. Vivid memories that i would never forget…

  • Street Action – Uptown Illuminated «
    December 28, 2010 at 10:04 am

    […] started a fire. No – not the traditional kind, and no, not anything like during the ’92 riots. This “fire” was different. It was in reaction to a new […]

  • Jhoan
    April 11, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Wow! I was 4 years old at the time. I didn’t know that this was happening out in the streets. It’s crazy to think that the L.A. Riots and this were happening at the same time. Did this stem from the The Rodney King video too? I know that that video alone started a national uproar.

    These pictures show The Heights in a whole new different light that I’ve never seen before. They’re pretty chilling to look at. On the other hand it’s important to know the history of one’s neighborhood in order to better appreciate it; it’s enlightening to say the least.

    • admin
      April 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

      Hey Jhoan – thanks for the comment. It is pretty crazy that these riots happened around the same time as the ones in L.A. but the Washington Heights Riots started because Kiko Garcia was killed by cops. That incident set off the Riots.


      • lmasuccess
        April 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

        How exactly did all this start? What’s the history behind Kiko Garcia?

        I was born and raised in Manhattan, as a baby I lived with my grandmother on 139th and Broadway, then eventually moved to the heights when I was around 9 or 10. I moved away in 1978 a year after Elvis died.

        The only riots I ever witnessed was the gang fights, which were pretty brutal. A lot of stabbings and death on my block, 169th and Broadway, across from P.S. 128.

  • Joaquin
    June 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    This was the summer I needed new gear to rock for summer school at GW’s and all im going to say is that thanks to KP Kongs (on 145th and bway) i had gear for all summer and fall without spending a nickle. I never new what started it but it did kinda felt good watching them cops driving away while throwing anything towards them….but local shops not Dominican did get hemed up, no one touched any DR stores around my way.

    • Exo-152
      November 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Word KP Kongs got hemmed up. I recall the tigeres from my block stippung any yellow cabs coming through,pulling the drivers out and smashing them joints against the buildings. We threw anything we could at cops.

  • Franceli Chapman
    October 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm


  • mari
    July 2, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I was in HS and I remember the corner guys warning everyone to stay indoors. It was anarchy! I sat on my fire escape and watched cars get flipped over, business looted and garbage cans set ablaze. No sign of RoboCop, the local crooked cop or any of his cohorts. The fear and anger was palpable.

  • The Transporter 191
    December 4, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I will never forget those days, I was putting in my share of work on my street 191.. it was a very intense riot and the things we did are better left unsaid. (For now) but i was proud because as far as i know… a minority rave from the dominican republic had put its foot down against the long running gang called tbe N.y.p.d.

  • Asia
    December 6, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I was only four and I remember the riot. It was disgusting wat those cops did to kiko. I remember him well too he was a friend of my parents. I think the cops should start thinking about what they’re doing now before something like this starts happening again now with all the recent media coverage on all these people being killed innocently by cops and the cops getting away with it