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Famed Washington Heights Race Continues Without Its Namesake Bar

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 1, 2013 10:59am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — On Sunday, thousands of runners and spectators will descend upon Washington Heights for the annual Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K run. However, this year's race will be different, because for the first time, the race's namesake won't be involved.

Peter Walsh, owner of Coogan's Restaurant and the founder of the run, has stepped aside as organizer after last year's race, citing increased city fees forced him out.

According to Walsh, in 2010 the New York Police Department began charging fees to organizers of sporting events that use city streets. Walsh said the department wanted him to pay almost $50,000, which he said was higher than what he paid in year's past.

"There was no way we could afford it," he said.

Walsh announced his intentions to step away last September, leading some to fear that the 15-year-old race which runs along Fort Washington Avenue from West 173rd Street to Fort Tryon Park and back would be canceled for good.

However, the New York Road Runner's Club, the organizers of the New York City marathon and a race partner in year's past, offered to take over.

"I have a very positive feelings about Road Runners saving this," Walsh said. "They could've just walked away."

Even though he won't be organizing the race, Walsh said Coogan's will still hold its annual after-race party, where it offers free food and beer to race goers after they complete the loop.

Walsh, 66, said he started the race back in 1998 as a way to celebrate the positive changes that were happening in the neighborhood at the time. But after all the years, the Yorkville resident said that he felt ready to give the race up.

Walsh insists that he has no hard feelings toward the police about the fees. In fact he said he's making good use of his free time. Walsh and his band, PW Coogan's and Macombs Dam Bridge, are recording an album, which he hopes to release later this year.

"I took all the songs I wrote when I was younger and I went back to them," Walsh said. "I wrote some new ones, too."