Off the Map

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Residents of Washington Heights and Inwood are accustomed to tourists and other fellow New Yorkers thinking that “uptown” means the stretch between 96th and 125th streets, as if anything further north is part of upstate New York.

After years of watching their neighborhoods get cut out of tourist maps of Manhattan, however, some local residents of what they call the “real” uptown are taking city agencies to task.

In mid-January, members of Community Board 12, which covers Manhattan above 155th Street, unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Department of Cultural Affairs and New York City & Co., the city’s tourism agency, to withhold public funds from any company that excludes Washington Heights and Inwood from its maps of Manhattan.

These maps “undermine tourism in the neighborhood,” says Zead Ramadan, the community board chair. “They undermine great institutions such as the Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park and sites of significant Revolutionary War battles.”

On top of all that, he adds, “They send the message that people don’t want to go uptown.”

The problem is certainly real. An informal survey of 10 New York City travel guides showed that none include maps that extend above 145th Street, and almost all are limited to attractions south of 110th. One online map, Citymaps.com, claims to show “a full view of the island of Manhattan,” but the map ends at 113th Street.

The private firms say they will include northern Manhattan when they see some money from uptown venues. “No attractions from up there advertise with us,” explains The New York City Travelguide’s publisher Peter Flower. “If they gave us money, I would put them on the map.”

City and state agencies say they would like to be as inclusive as possible, but, says Henry Rissmeyer of the MTA, which sells maps to travel guides that cut off at 150th Street, a map of the whole city would be unreadable. “It would be possible to produce a map of the whole island, but the question is whether it would be functional,” he adds.

Still, Ramadan is determined to send a message. “These private companies are missing out on some of the most important attractions in the city,” he says. By excluding northern Manhattan, “they are undermining the tourism initiatives and keeping vital information from people.”