A bunch of us are from the heights. Well, I am a house music DJ, a veteran of the music biz, and when I mean a bunch of us, I mean a bunch of us house music DJs from The Heights, Washington Heights NYC. You have myself, Hex Hector, Chep Nunez (RIP), George Morel, Oscar P, David Lozada (RIP), Danny “Buddha” Morales, Julio Ton Rodriguez, Benji Candelario, and I sincerily apologize if I forgot anyone…
Washington Heights is a narrow strip of a neighborhood located at the upper portion of Manhattan that starts at the northern border of Harlem and ends around Dyckman Street or Inwood. The majority of Washington Heights (throughout my personal history) was pretty rough, gang ridden, and was a haven for drug dealing. And since the eighties, it was filling up with a lot of Dominicans, so after that, all you heard was Merengue and Bachata (two styles of music that stemmed from Salsa and other Latin styles of music) boomin’ out of those souped up little Toyota Corollas. And before Uber, one could argue that the Heights had the largest fleet of livery cabs that could take you anywhere local for about $5-$10, including da Bronx. Don’t get me wrong, racially the Heights is still a mixed neighborhood, but way less mixed than it used to be. Today, it is pretty much heralded as a Dominican neighborhood, and just like every other neighborhood in the city, there are patches of areas that have been laced with gentrification, so if you don’t see a Starbucks around you, you might still be in one of the rough parts. Hooray!
One thing the Heights will be is always busy. From the parks, the bodegas, the restaurants, pizzerias, the street vendors, and stores, you will never get a dull moment, and if you visit, you may be treated to a slice of the real New York City from back in the day.
One artist whose plight I admire is M. Tony Peralta. He is a native Dominican of the Heights, and his art/clothing captures that Spanglish street culture that glistens in the echoes of my childhood past. His website Peralta Project, glamorizes what his site refers to as Spanglish Dominicanism. His art is laced with iconic products and symbols that define the urban cultural richness of what Washington Heights had to offer. His Dominican Andy Warholesque pop-art style consists of Cafe Bustelo cans, Greco coffee pots along with some other saavy street clothing and jewelry. The Peralta Project merch should be near and dear to any tourist or Heights alumnus.