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

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  140 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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 decide
...more
Hardcover, 449 pages
Published October 20th 2013 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Paul Bryant
I like ambitious blog projects and the way they always seem to nosedive. This is the pattern :

MY YEAR OF BALZAC

21st June 2011. Well here is the first entry of my Balzac blog in which I record my crazed attempt to read ALL of Balzac’s Comedie Humaine in one year! Yes, all 91 novels. It can be done! I Hope! Wish me luck and may my coffee never run out.
Started La Maison du chat-qui-pelote – only 150 pages! Easy peasy.

24th June. Finished La Maison and now on to The Ball at Sceaux whch is a mere 60 p
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Lis
This had the potential to be a great book on urban studies and parts of it certainly were interesting. There were paragraphs that really caught the essence of NY for me, and the concept of only being able to know New York by pounding the pavements ring true, however I have some problems.

The main problem is that a lot of Helmrich's observations seem entirely anecdotal, without any frameworks from history or anything else for that matter. He'll take an anecdote from say a Hispanic guy on a street
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Kuva
Fairly engaging in some ways, but pretty disappointing and even a little disturbing overall. It seems like a good idea, to take an in-depth, long-term, and personal journey through every neighborhood in New York. But the resulting observations and conclusions Helmreich offers are very superficial, usually unsurprising, and often condescending. He says some shockingly racist things and in a very offhand way. He repeatedly expresses surprise that he isn't robbed by black people, when in fact he as ...more
Mark McGranaghan
A man walks every street in NYC - more than 6,000 miles - and writes about his experience.

The book's focus is ethnographic interviews of residents that the author encounters on his walks. The author also draws on data from previous studies and his own observations to discuss issues like community, immigration, and gentrification in NYC.

At times the book loses its grounding and drifts into pure speculation about what the author's seeing. Overall the book is a bit rambling. The last chapter just r
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Viridian5
This idea, of walking all five boroughs of New York City to get a better view of its people, is excellent. Too bad I ended up wishing so hard that someone else did it and wrote it.

In books like this, people generally take one of two paths: separating themselves out of the narrative to present facts and interviewees' stories or becoming a part of the narrative. William B. Helmreich takes the second option, but he's not an engaging narrator. He states many of his opinions as facts. His views on p
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Clarke
A fantastic sociology study/report on New York City. Not only did I learn a lot more about NYC, but it adjusted my perceptions on parts of the city where news reports had long since tarnished them.
Jonathan Horowitz
It didn't quite seem to know what it should be. The guy walked 6,000 miles in NYC over the course of five years, but then uses that information to write broadly about ethnicity, gentrification, politics, foods, businesses, and plenty more. The book works when it's about the amazing and interesting things he discovered, witnessed, and engaged with on his walks, but seems to overreach when it deals with the more sociological aspects (many of which seem fairly obvious, but maybe that's just from ha ...more
Michael Lewyn
The deep themes of this book struck me as fairly obvious: the city is safer and better off than it was 20 years ago, and most neighborhoods have improved due to some mix of immigration and gentrification. (I note, however, that if I hadn't lived in New York yet, I would probably find the book more interesting). What was really helpful about this book was its description of individual places and neighborhoods; Helmreich mentions numerous places that I was unaware of, and that I would like to visi ...more
Allan
This book was always going to appeal to me, given my interest in all things NYC. It is basically a sociological study that Helmreich has researched by spending 6 years walking 6000 miles through the city, travelling along every block within the 5 boroughs.

What the reader gets is a feel for the different areas of the city tied together with studies of bigger themes, like crime, religion, ethnicity, gentrification etc. Helmreich mixes accounts of interactions with New Yorkers he encountered on hi
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Matt
William B. Helmreich has accomplished a rather remarkable feat. Over the course of four years, the graduate professor of sociology at City University of New York has covered all 6,000 miles of New York City's streets by foot. While his book includes the subtitle, "Walking 6,000 Miles in the City," his pedestrian (here I am obviously referring to the noun rather than the adjective) accomplishment is not the focal point of The New York Nobody Knows. Instead, he presents a detailed and insightful e ...more
Heather Reyes
'This is New York. Get over it.' The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6000 Miles in the City.

What is the real New York? The iconic sights and shopping? The brownstones of a Woody Allen film? The projects and gangs? Or was Walt Whitman closer to it over a century ago when the real city forced him to contain 'multitudes'?

Native New Yorker and City College sociology professor William B. Helmeich took on a Sisyphean task: to walk nearly every block of all five boroughs as the only way to contain toda
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Bruce
Exceptional profile of New York City--all of it, not just Manhattan--by a sociologist and lifelong resident who set out to walk every block of it. The walks and the conversations he starts serve as the basis for discussion of a variety of topics related to urban life. There are chapters on gentrification, ethnicity, safety, and social life, for example. To be at once thorough, engaging, personal and scientific is really a remarkable achievement.
Aharon
My favorite sections include:

-That Time I Describe Myself as Almost Getting Mugged, But Based On The Telling It Seems Like I Was Just On The Same Sidewalk As Some Black Dudes

-Using Special Sociology Powers To Explain How It Might Be Rude To Laugh At Someone's Dead Father, Which Is a Valuable And Rare Insight

-Those 90 Pages Where I Paraphrase Census Materials

In the right hands a super-interesting idea can turn meh.
Terri
Weeell, it was between 2 and 3 stars because it was not terribly well written, a bit too random in its examples, and the pix should have been better quality and in color. Nonetheless, as a temporary Manhattanite I found some of the information fascinating. New York is a unique city and its people deserve to have their stories told. If you are tempted by this book, I would go for Humans of New York, The Golem and the Jinni, or Someone Knows My Name for interesting stories with a Big Apple setting ...more
Elizabeth
William Helmreich walked every street in New York City--all five boroughs--at least once. He's written a description of those walks and I thought I would be riveted, but he is a sociologist and writes in that vein. Although some of the descriptions are interesting, he spends too much time on demographics for it to appeal to me. However, if you are interested in that aspect of the city, you might like it.
Carl
A great sociological overview of NYC and the changes that have already occured and those still occuring with its denizens and its locales.

Works best in a surprisingly even handed chapter on the multifaceted issue that is Gentrification.

works less well when Mr. Helmreich reaches snap conclusions about his subjects based on somehwat limited interractions. Luckily these "gaffs" are few and far between.

An excellent sociological overview of New York City with generous dashes of New York Character mix
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Emily
This was a good read, big and complex and stuffed with information and anecdotes. I appreciate the way he addresses controversial topics like gentrification and segregation, reporting on a multitude of viewpoints and not looking for simple answers. I would have liked more stories and photos from the walks (not that there weren't a lot of stories from the walks, but I got impatient when it veered away from that and into sociology-textbook territory). And as a non-NYer I would have loved some more ...more
David Marans
Oh how I wanted to like this book! I am an urban explorer who had lived his many decades in the New York area (mostly within the New York City borders).

How promising it seemed to open a book by a distinguished expert of The City, one promising insights and previously hidden information.

Unfortunately, this repetitive, disjointed book failed to deliver. Granted, there were several enjoyable and occasionally memorable anecdotes. But it rambled on.
Jeramey
I was really excited when I learned of the concept of this book (person walks every block in the city). The actual implementation is not what I expected at all. In reality, the author could have walked very little of the city and written the same book.

If you're looking to get the feel for every area of New York City, this book doesn't accomplish that. It does have a decent discussion of race relations and gentrification issues as they relate to NYC.
David Moss
The details of the individual interactions were great, and the analysis of immigrant life was worth the read. This book definitely leaves open a lot of questions for further analysis, such as 'Who are the gentrifiers?', and 'How are the suburbs and exurbs of the entire metropolitan region interrelated with the city neighborhoods in the push and pull of places where one might choose to live?'
Rose
Parts of this book are very interesting, but organization is jumpy. There are neighborhoods listed on the map and not in the list of communities and vice versa. This book could have been wonderful and original but only shows bits of these qualities.
Jim Willse
Fascinating premise -- walk every block in NYC, and blend impressions with census and other trend data. Not sure how much is new to a native New Yorker, but there are nuggets throughout. Best read in chunks, maybe before getting on the subway to go explore a new neighborhood.
Desiree Rose
Feeling pretty bothered by the racist tone set in the introduction and first chapter, as well as the overly simplistic "this is how I 'made it' through 'tough' neighborhoods without getting mugged" anecdotes...but moving on to chapter two and hoping it improves.
Batya7
Very good! I can imagine myself following the authors footsteps. Relevant footnotes I keep bookmarked.
Karen Twinem
Interesting information on the poor, immigrants and gentrification in New York.
Mills College Library
306.09747 H481 2013
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