web analytics
January 26, 2015 / 6 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Six Thousand Miles And Nine Pairs Of Shoes Later: An Interview with Professor William Helmreich

William Helmreich

William Helmreich

For his latest book, City College’s William Helmreich walked 120,960 blocks – in other words, nearly every block of New York’s five boroughs. It took him four years and nine pairs of shoes, but the result is The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City (Princeton University Press) – the first sociological study of America’s greatest city, as New Yorkers are wont to boast.

In a recent interview, Professor Helmreich spoke about his new book – an excerpt of which appeared in the November 22 edition of The Jewish Press) – as well as two of his earlier works on the yeshiva world and Holocaust survivors in America.

The Jewish Press: Despite walking 6,000 miles, you actually did not cover New York City in its entirety. Which unfortunate city blocks missed your attention?

Helmreich: I walked all but about 300 miles. In other words, out of 6,350 miles, I walked 6,000. I’m working on the other 350 now.

There are a couple of areas in Staten Island that missed my attention, like Bay Terrace and New Dorp. There were also a couple of little pockets in Marine Park…. I guess you can say 98 percent of the city was walked.

Walking 6,000 miles must not be easy. What inspired such an endeavor?

My father was much the inspiration because when I was a kid he devised this game called “Last Stop.” We would take a subway to the last stop and then walk around the neighborhood. It was a cheap way of entertainment and it also taught me what a fascinating place New York City is.

In addition, my area [of expertise] is urban sociology, and I realized that no sociologist had ever done a study of New York, or any large city for that matter. There’s a book about Canarsie, about the Upper West Side, about 10 blocks in Greenwich Village, but apprehending a large city is much more complicated.

When I decided to write about New York, I thought I would find 20 blocks or so that represented the city – say, 13th Ave. in Boro Park or Broadway in Manhattan. But I soon realized that in a city of 120,000 blocks, I wouldn’t be able to justify or explain why 20 streets really accurately represents all of New York. So I concluded that I would have to do the entire city.

Your father was a walker as well, correct?

He walked 7-8 miles a day well into his 80s, and he lived to be 101. He died three weeks shy of his 102nd birthday in his apartment with his brain intact, so I guess it was a good idea.

What are some of the most interesting things you learned about New York while writing this book?

For one, I found that the city is a lot friendlier than people think. I rarely found anyone who refused to talk to me. People were uniformly friendly.

It’s interesting you say that because people sometimes characterize New Yorkers as sharp edged and brusque.

They have that sharp-edge, wise-guy sense of humor, but at the same time, once you get beyond that, which takes about a minute, they will be friendly. They’ll make a wisecrack, but that’s the way New Yorkers are. In another city, if a person responded that way you would think they were rude, but here it’s sort of the New York attitude. And if they make a wisecrack and you reply with a wisecrack, it’s totally different.

When older Jews reminisce about New York, they sometimes fondly recall such old Jewish neighborhoods as Brownsville and Pelham Parkway. What happened to these areas?

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Six Thousand Miles And Nine Pairs Of Shoes Later: An Interview with Professor William Helmreich

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hassnain Aliamin , one of four Muslim teenagers who attacked a Jew in Gateshead.
‘Let’s Go Jew-Bashing’ Muslims Hauled into British Court
Latest Indepth Stories
The Striped Hyaena

Israel has some wild places left; places to reflect and think, to get lost, to try to find ourselves

British Flag

The British government assured Anglo-Jewry that it is attacking the rising levels of anti-Semitism.

Golan map

Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.

Social Media pic

Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.

Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians

Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Inspired by the Perek Shira pasuk for “small non-kosher animals” we named the bunny “Rebbetzin Tova”

The abuse following publication proved a cautionary tale: no one followed in Peters’s footsteps

Plainly, there is no guiding hand dictating choices across the board.

How many sites that tell you to check your politics at the door have 10,000 likes?

In this particular case, the issue was whether the Arkansas prison system could prohibit, for security reasons, a devout Muslim’s maintaining a beard of a certain length as a matter of religious practice.

While we recognize the Republican Jewish Coalition is hardly a non-partisan outfit, a snippet from a statement the group released is worthy of note:

“These are good matzah balls,” my aunt Robertine would say, but her sister Irma would counter “No, not compared to Mama’s. They were always so light yet they never fell apart.”

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Resnick-012315-Artist

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

Richard Dukas

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

You can’t say “Jewish French,” “Jewish British,” “Jewish Italian.” They are “French Jews,” “British Jews,” and “Italian Jews” – because they’re seen as Jews first and residents or citizens of their countries second.

Another thing they have been covering up is the nature of the building that was attacked. To this day people refer to it as a consulate or an embassy, but it wasn’t.

The reality is that civility is less important than clarity, and right now only very few people on the Left are interested in having a civil conversation about the merits of particular policy solutions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/six-thousand-miles-and-nine-pairs-of-shoes-later-an-interview-with-professor-william-helmreich/2013/12/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: