**** The New York Nobody Knows

Chinatown, New York

(photo: wikimedia.org)

By William B. Helmreich, a CUNY sociologist, who writes about his 6,000-mile walk along almost every block of New York’s five boroughs. He spends a lot of real estate talking about how that’s the only “real” way to see the city—no need to convince me! It’s a fascinating exploration of various themes, including gentrification, ethnicity, and community activity. The result is a kind of compendium of urban diversity, rather than the more usual portrait of individual neighborhoods. Absolutely fascinating.

The author is a genial-looking sort who is apparently game to talk to just about anyone about just about anything, especially their local community. He is perpetually impressed with the gumption of the people he meets, and his genuine curiosity prompts responses worthy of pondering.

Buying a bottle of water on a hot day from a young Hispanic street vendor, Helmreich asks, “How do you keep these bottles cold out here?” “Well, first I freeze them at home. That way they stay cold a long time.” “Where are you in school?” “I just graduated high school.” “What are you gonna do next?” “I’m going to Monroe College.” “For what?” “I’m going to be a rich businessman. It’s a great college.” New York spirit. Helmreich loves it, and so will you.