web analytics
October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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
Agam Luria, from a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley, was identified as one of the four Israelis killed in the Nepal blizzard.
Israeli Sherpa ‘Pony Express’ Saved Hundreds in Nepal Blizzard
Latest Indepth Stories
Map of Syria-Turkish border area, pinpointing Kurdish border town of Kobani, just taken by ISIS terror forces Oct 7, 2014.

Turkey and Iran the 2 regional powers surrounding the ISIS conflict gain from a partial ISIS victory

The Rosenstrasse area of Berlin, where Jewish husbands of non-Jewish German wives were held.

Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.

NY rally against Met Opera's 'Death of Klinghoffer' opera. Sept. 22, 2014.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Guess who's behind the door?

Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.

While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

If Hamas is ISIS, the world asks, why didn’t Israel destroy it given justification and opportunity?

That key is the disarming of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza – as the U.S., EU, and others agreed to in principle at the end of Operation Protective Edge.

We have no doubt there are those who deeply desire to present themselves as being of a gender that is not consistent with their anatomy, and we take no joy in the pain and embarrassment they suffer.

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
FE_PR_100112_22Learning_CableTV425x282

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Ben Cohen

If you remember, in 2006, a Jewish kid in Paris, Ilan Halimi, was abducted, beaten, and held hostage for three weeks… These are the kinds of people attending these Gaza solidarity rallies.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

Formerly an attorney at the prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose for 40 years – six of those years as its chairman – Fagin holds degrees from both Columbia and Harvard Universities. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to the Jewish community.

The message is that Zionism, which used to be great, is today very institutionalized and [consists of a] bunch of people who are just squabbling over titles and budgets.

For Steinsaltz, the Rebbe was no less than “the greatest man I have ever met,” as he writes in the preface to his book.

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: