The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City [NOOK Book]


As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called "Last Stop." They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs--an...

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The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City

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As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called "Last Stop." They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs--an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch. Their stories and his are the subject of this captivating and highly original book.

We meet the Guyanese immigrant who grows beautiful flowers outside his modest Queens residence in order to always remember the homeland he left behind, the Brooklyn-raised grandchild of Italian immigrants who illuminates a window of his brownstone with the family's old neon grocery-store sign, and many, many others. Helmreich draws on firsthand insights to examine essential aspects of urban social life such as ethnicity, gentrification, and the use of space. He finds that to be a New Yorker is to struggle to understand the place and to make a life that is as highly local as it is dynamically cosmopolitan.

Truly unforgettable, The New York Nobody Knows will forever change how you view the world's greatest city.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From 2008 to 2012, City College of New York sociologist Helmreich systematically walked almost every street in the city, including those in the four outer boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Helmreich (What Was I Thinking?) traverses the wide world located in a city whose population appears to come from every nation on the planet. His gaze is wide—sometimes “doing ethnography,” sometimes taking a nostalgic look at places he lived—and he engages with issues such as immigration, gentrification, and ethnic identity. The result comes close to providing an “everything you wanted to know, but didn’t know who to ask,” as the author visits parks, projects, schools, restaurants, and stores, observing the city’s active life (parades, street musicians, chess players) and still life (shop signs, street art, community gardens, building facades). Along the way, Helmreich chats with sundry people as well as the city’s last four mayors. Rigorous scholarly and journalistic research underpins his work. Though the narrative meanders, this is appropriate in a book that takes readers through the “balkanized collection of towns” that constitute New York City. The book’s maps (one of the entire city, and one for each borough) and a useful neighborhood glossary make the journey yet more vivid. 30 halftones, 6 maps. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"In the genre of 'books tallying mammoth heroic self-imposed feats' comes William B. Helmreich's engaging account of how he logged 6,000 miles on foot through all the boroughs of NYC, accumulating many insights into the eternal, multi-ethnic metropolis."--Barnes and Noble Review

"If Walt Whitman contained 'multitudes' within himself, this fine book contains multitudes more--the beating, dynamic heart of New York is here."--City-litcafe

"Helmreich's shoe leather was worth it; the book is a thorough study."--Grace Lichtenstein, PopMatters

"[E]ngaging . . . easily-read and nicely-paced."--Tommy Barker, Irish Examiner

"This exploration of New York City is built from the souvenirs of a formidable journey. Sociologist Helmreich presents the city as a richly diverse place whose residents are eager to share insights and opinions. At its best, the volume reflects the author's willingness to listen, to observe, and to be amazed. . . . [T]his is an original study, and one that will inspire others to set out to walk, and talk, their way across the city."--Choice

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Helmreich (sociology, CUNY Graduate Ctr.; What Was I Thinking? The Dumb Things We Do and How To Avoid Them) set himself a formidable task: he walked every block in New York City over a four-year period, producing what he calls an "ethnographic study" comprised of vignettes based on interviews with hundreds of residents on sidewalks, streets, and even in private homes. The result: a magisterial work that examines how people live in this large, complex, and evolving urban landscape. He finds that the city is as dynamic as ever, benefiting in large part from the influx of immigrants. He also cites the dramatic changes, both positive and negative, wrought by gentrification. Most interestingly, he assesses how people of different races, religions, and income statuses can coexist peacefully in "Balkan-like" communities. But chronic problems such as poverty, unemployment, and the lack of affordable housing continue to afflict many. The book is replete with references to additional scholarly studies and statistical analyses that do make it seem a bit dense at times. No matter; it's an enthralling portrait of a metropolis that Helmreich clearly loves. VERDICT This is a landmark achievement, for those wanting to dig deeper than The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson. Highly recommended to sociologists, urban demographers, New York historians, and all walking enthusiasts in the city.—Richard Drezen, Jersey City
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-20
Native New Yorker and CUNY sociology professor Helmreich (What Was I Thinking?: The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them, 2011, etc.) investigates all five of the city's boroughs on foot, tracking the robust and ever-changing entanglements between New York and its inhabitants. Spanning four years, 6,000 miles and nine pairs of shoes, the author's chronicle traces a richly detailed ethnography--and the first sociological study of the city as a whole--in his exploration of one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. Anchored by hundreds of personal stories collected from every corner of every neighborhood, this unique book provides an intimate look at how the city is at once a united populace of proud New Yorkers and also a collection of distinct communities that retain small-town values. Myriad factors, including gentrification, immigration, sense of belonging, public spaces and crime rate, play a role in how these communities form and disperse, sometimes within a single day--for example, the communities of workers who commute into Manhattan from outer boroughs or the communities of children who come together to learn from educators and each other. At the same time, a sentiment like post-9/11 solidarity supersedes localized boundaries and brings the city's residents together as one. Helmreich argues that the dynamics behind these constantly evolving human choreographies make New York a city unparalleled in its historical and contemporary impact. From a housing complex in Crown Heights to a garden in Staten Island to a restaurant in Kew Gardens, every space--and every person--contributes to a city that is "the epitome of the twenty-first century." The author exudes great love and admiration for his hometown on every page, and this collection of anecdotes brings New York to life with unprecedented humanity and detail. This book is pure joy; even the most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker will learn something new about this vibrant city.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400848317
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/20/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 278,108
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

William B. Helmreich is professor of sociology at the City University Graduate Center (CUNY) and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York. His many books include "What Was I Thinking? The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them."
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Maps xvi
1 Introduction 1
2 Selling Hot Dogs, Planting Flowers, and Living the Dream: The Newcomers 21
3 Diners, Love, Exorcisms, and the Yankees: New York's Communities 71
4 Dancing the Bachata, Playing Bocci, and the Chinese Scholars' Garden: Enjoying the City 137
5 Tar Beaches, Sidewalk Carvings, Irish Freedom Fighters, and Superman: Spaces in the Big Apple 169
Illustrations following page 215
6 From Washington Heights to Hudson Heights, from Soho to Soha: Gentrification 231
7 Assimilation, Identity, or Something Else: The Future of Ethnic New York 296
8 Conclusions 346
Notes 369
Neighborhood Glossary 395
Bibliography 401
Index 437
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