Its boundaries extend approximately from 155th Street and the Macombs Dam Bridge viaduct to 160th Street, between Edgecombe Avenue and the river.
A deep escarpment descends 175 feet from Edgecombe Avenue to the river, creating a sheltered area between the bluff and river known as Coogan’s Hollow.
For 73 years, the hollow was home to the Polo Grounds sports stadium.
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The promontory is named for James J. Coogan (1845–1915), a real estate developer and one-term Manhattan Borough President, who owned the land during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The earliest known published reference to “Coogan’s Bluff” appeared in The New York Times in 1893.
From 1890 until 1963, the bluff overlooked the Polo Grounds, a professional sports venue that served as the home field for Major League Baseball’s New York Giants from 1891 until the franchise’s move to San Francisco at the end of the 1957 season.
Sportswriters commonly used Coogan’s Bluff as a sobriquet for the Polo Grounds—as Chavez Ravine now refers to Dodger Stadium and China Basin to Oracle Park—although the ballpark was actually situated in Coogan’s Hollow, the bottomland between the bluff and the river.
The Bushman Steps, located just west of Coogan’s Bluff in Sugar Hill/Hamilton Heights, led from the 155th Street subway station to the Polo Grounds ticket booths; the John T. Brush Stairway, on West 157th Street between St Nicholas Avenue and Edgecombe Avenue, then carried fans the rest of the way down to the stadium.
The two stairways are the only intact structures that remain from the Polo Grounds era.
The Brush Stairway was named in honor of the owner of the Giants franchise from 1890 until his death in 1912. The identity of the Bushman Steps’ namesake has apparently been lost.
The 15.15-acre hollow, bordered by Frederick Douglass Boulevard, West 155th Street and Harlem River Drive, is currently home to the Polo Grounds Towers housing complex: four 30-story buildings containing a total of 1,616 apartments.
The complex was completed on June 30, 1968, and is run by the New York City Housing Authority. Attached to Tower #2 is the Polo Grounds Community Center, run by Children’s Village, which hosts such programs as the Polo Grounds Youth Conference.
A plaque on the property marks the approximate location of the home plate within the demolished ballpark.
Coogan’s Bluff can be reached via the New York City Subway’s 155th Street station, on the IND Concourse Line (B and D trains).
City bus routes Bx6, Bx6 SBS, M2 and M10 service the area as well.
Nearby points of interest
The Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan still standing (built-in 1765 and now a museum) is located nearby, in Washington Heights.
Immediately across the Harlem River, in the Bronx, is Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees.
Photo credit: 1) On Coogan’s Bluff during Merkle’s Boner game at the Polo Grounds, September 23, 1908. 2) The John T. Brush Stairway from Edgecombe Avenue, at Highbridge Park. 3) The John T. Brush Presented By The New York Giants Stairway at Highbridge Park.