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

WILLIAM B. HELMREICH
Copyright Date: 2013
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt3fgwzv
Pages: 480
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fgwzv
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  • Book Info
    The New York Nobody Knows
    Book Description:

    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 Knowswill forever change how you view the world's greatest city.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4831-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    The ultimate aim of this book is to present a picture of the inner life, heart, and soul of New York City, to apprehend its spirit and make it come alive for the reader. I set out to do this by learning how the residents of the city experience their lives as people and as New Yorkers. The essence of the city is its people. By their actions and interactions they determine the shape it assumes, the flow of its daily life, and the aspirations and dreams it has. The relationships between those who live here, the joys and disappointments...

  2. 2 SELLING HOT DOGS, PLANTING FLOWERS, AND LIVING THE DREAM: The Newcomers
    (pp. 21-70)

    Every day thousands of vehicles squeeze into the bottleneck on 124th Street between Third and Second Avenues that leads onto the Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) Bridge. Traveling eastward the drivers of these vehicles are not likely to notice the remarkable mural that covers six stories of a tenement building wall, for you must face west to see it. CalledCentro de La Paz(Center for Peace), the mural was sponsored by the Creative Arts Workshop and painted by more than two hundred New Yorkers, many of them poor neighborhood youngsters. (See figure 1.) Their efforts were augmented by some...

  3. 3 DINERS, LOVE, EXORCISMS, AND THE YANKEES: New York’s Communities
    (pp. 71-136)

    Up near Fifth Avenue, opposite Marcus Garvey Park, is a place set up in a garage with a sign proclaiming, “Halem Bike Doctor.” (The missing “r” was a misprint that they decided to keep; see figure 5.) The bike doctor turns out to be Donald Childs, a man who actually uses a stethoscope to detect and diagnose why your bike is so unhealthy or, to put it simply, broken. He explains to me how he does his thing: “I listen for the bike’s ‘pulse,’” says “Little Donald.” (Everyone in the area, it seems, has a nickname—one, I’m told, that...

  4. 4 DANCING THE BACHATA, PLAYING BOCCI, AND THE CHINESE SCHOLARS’ GARDEN: Enjoying the City
    (pp. 137-168)

    On East Fifty-first Street between Third and Second Avenues I come across a most beautiful little park created by the Rockefeller family in 1971. Called GreenAcre Park, it’s privately owned but open to the public. It opens in the morning and closes at 7:45 PM. Its main feature is a stunning waterfall, where the water cascades over several large boulders. (See figure 14.) The water fairly roars as it rushes over the top of the rock formation. Off to the side is an ivy-covered wall and some potted plants. A number of trees dot the area, providing both luxuriant foliage...

  5. 5 TAR BEACHES, SIDEWALK CARVINGS, IRISH FREEDOM FIGHTERS, AND SUPERMAN: Spaces in the Big Apple
    (pp. 169-215)

    To enter the world of a Bronx or Brooklyn bus—it’s fair to call them spaces—is to join a world populated in large measure by the poor, the black, and the Hispanic, with an occasional Asian and an even rarer elderly white person who was apparently left behind in the various eras of white flight. Except for teenagers, nearly everyone looks tired, bored, and, in many cases, worn down or defeated by life’s hardships. Their clothes tend to be shabby, and children tug impatiently on their mothers’ dresses, pants, or arms and legs. There are people with canes, others...

  6. 6 FROM WASHINGTON HEIGHTS TO HUDSON HEIGHTS, FROM SOHO TO SOHA: Gentrification
    (pp. 231-295)

    One recent Mother’s Day, while driving on the Long Island Expressway around 7:00 pm, I noticed that the heavy traffic was coming from the island toward the city. Why? Because the urban gentrifiers were coming back from visiting their mothers. These mothers represent the earlier generations that, from the 1950s to the early 1970s, left the apartment buildings in the city for a piece of heaven in suburbia. During those decades, every Mother’s Day they made the reverse trek to seetheirelderly moms in the city. Now, in 2011, they were old and their children had moved to the...

  7. 7 ASSIMILATION, IDENTITY, OR SOMETHING ELSE? The Future of Ethnic New York
    (pp. 296-345)

    The following snapshot of a Queens neighborhood highlights the importance of ethnicity in New York City, as well as the United States in general. Ethnicity can mean race, religion, or national origin, or a combination of them, and it is affected by both culture and class, though which of the two is most important has long been debated. Richmond Hill, Queens, is a true amalgam of ethnic groups and includes Peruvians, Mexicans, Sikhs, Indians, and Pakistanis, with Guyanese (Hindus, Muslims, and Christians) possibly the largest group among them. The northern part, between Eighty-fifth Avenue and Jamaica Avenue, also has clusters...

  8. 8 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 346-368)

    The conclusions drawn in this book are based largely on the more than six thousand miles I walked through the streets and parks of New York City over a four-year period. During that time I observed the life of the street close up and participated in its daily activities. I hung out on street corners, attended community meetings, sat in parks, went to concerts, danced in nightclubs, and spoke with hundreds of people from every walk of life. In truth I’ve actually been walking this city since I was a young child, having been raised here. This gave me a...