The Washington Heights Riots of 1992 Remembered – Part 2

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

As I look back now on those days, I realized that what had begun, as a visceral response to the killing of Jose “Kiko” Garcia was really the culmination of the utter madness that Crack had wreaked on our neighborhood. Crack changed everything, Washington Heights went from a poor but mostly peaceful place to an outright war zone almost overnight. The lawlessness and outright thuggery had turned Washington Heights into the East Coast’s most active drug market in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The money that flowed into the neighborhood corrupted everything it touched.

This sad state of affairs could not continue, something had to give. By the same token, the police tactics being used against the community at large, not just the drug dealers, were only quasi-legal and were extremely heavy handed. There were many occasions when the cops would stop and frisk my friends and I for no apparent reason. It was a regular occurrence, we already knew the routine. We also knew not to mess with the cops, as you would either end up arrested or if you were lucky with a black eye.

Living in Washington Heights in those days, even if you were just a kid, felt like you were living under siege. That fateful night, 18 years ago, all those factors came into play and the entire neighborhood lost its collective mind.

Check out Part 1 of the Riots Remembered: Here

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  • SPEACH Gal
    July 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Great pics and even better story. Thanks for the memories (good, bad and ugly) associated with the riots!

    • Vladimir
      July 19, 2010 at 11:07 am

      “All those factors came into play.” This is a really accurate and intelligent assessment! Thank you. Most people forget that as much as we are individuals, we are also products of objective historical conditions that are bigger than our subjective choices. The riots weren’t a reactionary, singular call in the wild, but an allergic reaction that had come to a boil for a long time. The same goes for any mass event or movement; we are all subject to larger circumstances.

  • O. Nova
    July 13, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    This post is Dope!!!

  • Julia
    July 15, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I had left the neighborhood behind a year before.

    That night I called home to make sure things hadn’t spread up to where we were

    Remember my ma (who was furious that I had left nyc) saying, “Glad you are not here.” My heart sank when i heard those words.

    If I remember there was a book published in the mid 90’s – “Wild Cowboys”, chronicling this time. Tried to read it, but very biased toward law enforcement and really dry.

    Here’s the link though

    Great post, excellent blog.

  • uptownco
    July 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hey Julia – thanks for the compliments. Yeah, I felt the same way about the book, alot of good info but the slant was way off. I plan on re-reading it in the near future. Please let all your people know about the site.


  • Julia
    July 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Will do Led.

  • Irving AKA philly phil.Lendof
    July 16, 2010 at 6:56 am

    My senitments are exact. My friend you have spoken the truth and continue to amaze with your knowlegde and commetment to speaking and schooling people in what is right and wrong.

  • ThreeFingersBrown
    July 16, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Wow that shit is ill. Thank you for this post and the amazing photos chronicling a crazy time… I remember reading about this as a kid in Queens. My mom grew up on 175th and Broad but moved out to Jackson Heights in the 60’s. She was heartbroken to see what happened to her old hood. When I moved up here years later, she was scared shit, but I assured her that it wasn’t as nuts anymore.

    July 19, 2010 at 9:02 am

    […] on July 13, 2010 at 9:54 am | Reply THE RIOTS REMEMBERED – PART 2 « […]

  • uptownco
    July 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for the compliment Vladimir. What was happening in the Washington Heights of that era was so much bigger than any of the actual players in that drama. People want easy answers to tough questions but that is not reality.


    September 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

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

  • Houston Divorce Lawyer
    October 11, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Over time these stories will vanish into history like they never existed. America is good about erasing its undesirable history. As long as there are people like you around to keep this history alive it will never be forgotten. Please do not sharing these experiences, the children need to hear it.

  • Snipe
    December 11, 2010 at 12:36 am

    I need video of this

  • Red Fox
    December 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    ….Wow!!! Incredible.. I remember this vividly. I lived in St Nich (180), and the view from my window, I saw it ALL.. smh… The Red Fox Marketer~

  • Dj Boy
    December 31, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    “There were many occasions when the cops would stop and frisk my friends and I for no apparent reason. It was a regular occurrence, we already knew the routine.”
    Sounds a little too familiar nowadays

  • DRESKI 170
    February 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm


  • Angy
    February 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Wow you just brought this back full forth. I lived on 164th Street and Amsterdam during these times, and I remember hearing the news of Kikos death from my step-dad who was a childhood friend of his. These were crazy times, I had never sen a crack vial until I moved to 164th, the epidemic was running rampant during these times and I vividly remember the nights of these riots, my mom didnt allow us to go outside until everything calmed down.

    • admin
      February 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Yeah, the 160’s were pure fire back in those days. It was literally the epicenter of crack in Washington Heights. Those were definitely crazy times.


  • Fonseca Fotography
    May 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Amazing story and photos! Thank you for sharing. I moved to the Heights from the Bronx in the late 90’s. The 168th Street and Broadway photo with everybody in the streets is Crazy! #Melee

    • admin
      May 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Those were some real crazy days. Can you believe it was 20 years ago?

      Uptown Collective

  • Dhid
    February 17, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Kiko Garcia was my uncle I was just 3 years old when this all happened. It was great to come across this post and see for myself exactly what happens during that horrible time. Thank you

  • Ruby
    May 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I love this neighborhood and its people. Thank you for sharing this infomation thats lets me know my new home and neighbors better.

  • Tee163
    November 30, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I have actuall video from this day that i recorded myself ….it was crazy

  • Janini
    November 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I remember this when they kill dagoberto well the police drop him from the roof all hell broke loss it was already loss because they kill kiko now it was two person in less the 1 week. I was a little girl maybe 7-8 years old I still remember my mom took my grandfather construction work close that was navy blue she made a doll of pills and clothes and they burn it down in 172st. It was a crazy time I remember my two brother throwing things to the cops because they kill their best friends Dago. thanks for the post. I just show it to my mom.

    • Janini
      November 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      Clothes ^^

  • Darlene
    December 3, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Jose “Kiko” Garcia was my uncle. He was my fathers brother and until this day is a very sensitive topic for our family. It’s great to see all these pictures from that era.

  • James Bosley
    May 2, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    I wonder if any of the cops who had to respond to the riots were from the hood.
    Food for screenplay.