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.
William B. Helmreich is professor of sociology at the City University Graduate Center (CUNY) and City College of New York. His many books include What Was I Thinking? The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them.
"The delight is definitely in the details in William B. Helmreich's The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City. Professor Helmreich, a sociologist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, invites readers on a romp through largely unexplored neighborhoods that is as entertaining as it is enlightening."--Sam Roberts, New York Times
"Helmreich 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. . . . 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, Library Journal starred review
"An excellent introduction to one of the most ethnically diverse and vibrant cities in the world, and a model of urban sociology."--Christian 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."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"To know a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes. To truly know New York, you may have to walk 6,000. Or, you can just read Helmreich's account of visiting every inch of the city. His journey from the Bronx to Staten Island allowed him to mingle with plenty of fellow flâneurs, like Mayors Bloomberg and Ed Koch."--New York Observer
Table of Contents:
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
Neighborhood Glossary 395