20 years ago, this very month, Washington Heights went up in flames, anger and disgust. The Crack epidemic had changed the neighborhood for the worst and corrupted everything it touched. Washington Heights went from being a tough but working class neighborhood to an open-air drug market and a war zone almost over night. All those ingredients coalesced into a powder keg that exploded when the police killed drug dealer Jose “Kiko” Garcia. Kiko was immortalized by Nas with the line, “go to hell to the foul cop who shot Garcia” from the Hip-Hop classic Halftime.
On that fateful night the Riots began, I was just a teenager who decided to document the unfathomable events taking place before my eyes. This was our nadir, our lowest point but since then we have risen like a phoenix out of the ashes to become one of the most dynamic and interesting neighborhoods in New York City. That ascent is mostly attributed to the hard work, determination and vision of the very residents that lived through the horrific events of July 1992.
Present day Washington Heights is a different place. Washington Heights has become a beacon for the arts, culture and new businesses. There is an optimism that is palpable both east and west of Broadway. We are on the come up and this is just the beginning. Watch out world, Washington Heights is back and we are on the rise. The Uptown Renaissance is in full effect.