web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



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

William Helmreich

William Helmreich

Share Button

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?

Share Button

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.


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.

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
Blue Valley High School, Overland Park, Kansas, the school attended by 14-year-old shooting victim Reat Griffin Underwood.
Kansas Shooting Suspect a White Supremacist, Indicted for Murder
Latest Indepth Stories
Lebovic-041814

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Benveniste-041814

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

Dann-041814

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

Not one world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations.

The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty was a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.

Spies who caused American deaths and worked for enemy states received lighter sentences than Pollard.

Christie’s “good friend” is an Imam who supports murderers of Jews and defames Israel and Christians.

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Rabbi Zevulun Charlop

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Zalta with Mickey Mantle in 1990.

With the new baseball season underway, The Jewish Press chatted with Zalta in his Flatbush home about some of his other memories.

Rabbi Hammer recently spoke with The Jewish Press about his new book, Derash Yehonatan: Around the Year with Rav Yehonatan Eybeshitz (Koren), and his work in teaching Torah to secular Israelis.

Halpert doesn’t know why he was fired, and YU apparently won’t explain

There’s also the issue of accusing the Jews of being excessively materialistic and exploitative of non-Jews. You see a lot of that in far-left propaganda – that the Jews are overwhelmingly concentrated in the petty bourgeoisie, which in itself is an archaic class form, and thrives on tricking people and squeezing money out of them through illicit methods of trade.

Recently dubbed “the greatest living figure of chassidic music” by NPR, Shenker still composes several new pieces every year. He is currently recording an album of some of his Haggadah compositions, which he hopes will be out before Pesach.

Schanzer, who holds a doctorate from King’s College London, is currently vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and has testified before Congress on Middle East affairs on several occasions.

We want to hire couples who are going to reach out to singles to become their spiritual leaders and introduce them to someone of the opposite gender because there’s a lot of casual relationships but not nearly enough serious dating going on. This generation – even if they had rebbeim in yeshiva or seminary – they’re not connected anymore. There isn’t really anyone looking out for them at this point.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: