Walking Manhattan, Block by Block
When Professor William Helmreich (City College, The Graduate Center, CUNY) was a child, his father made up a game called “Last Stop.” They’d take a subway train to the end of the line and start walking around. That childhood pursuit turned into a lifelong passion. Helmreich walked 6,000 miles around New York City for his award-winning 2015 book, The New York Nobody Knows. He followed that up with a book about Brooklyn, and has just come out with another, The Manhattan Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide.
The book is organized by neighborhood with maps, but this isn’t your typical tourist guidebook. Instead, The Manhattan Nobody Knows includes hundreds of interviews with the people Helmreich encountered as he explored the borough, block by block. “The whole point of this book is to show people the New York they don’t really know,” he said in an interview. “My purview isn’t the restaurants and hotel recommendations. I’m interested in the veteran who lives in a cave in Inwood Hill Park, and in the man working in the smallest shoe repair shop on Grand Street.”
Helmreich walked 721 miles around Manhattan for this book. Over the last 60 years, he’s walked the city about 16 times for a total of around 10,000 miles. He averages 30 miles a week.
In the courses he teaches, he takes his students “on walks in different neighborhoods in the city. And then we go to a restaurant. These are students who come from all over the country. One of the reasons students take my class is that they know that they’re going to get to see the city from the ground up.”