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

3.04 of 5 stars 3.04  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  19 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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I like ambitious blog projects and the way they always seem to nosedive. This is the pattern :


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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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.
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.
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...more
Desiree Rose
May 27, 2014 Desiree Rose is currently reading it
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.
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
Very good! I can imagine myself following the authors footsteps. Relevant footnotes I keep bookmarked.
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.
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.
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.
Mills College Library
306.09747 H481 2013
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