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44 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
It takes all kinds - and stirs 18 octobre 2013
Par David Wineberg - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
My favorite description of New York City is that it is very convenient to the United States without actually having to live there. William Helmreich examines the extent to which this is true in a remarkable tour of the city, that saw him cover more than six thousand miles - on foot - up and down every street there is. The result is a book with a totally appropriate title: The New York Nobody Knows.

When I was a reporter, I marveled at my privileged status. I got to go places and speak to people I would otherwise not only not have access to, but who would be suspicious if I tried. This book empowered Helmreich to accost anyone, anywhere. So he saw New York like no one else has. He found that people in sports bars also have automatic icebreakers asking the score, and dog walkers have it because of their pets. My favorite of his discoveries is that "many people don't pay attention to what you say, as long as you say something". It got him into numerous places and revealing conversations with total strangers.

New York is different than pretty much any major city in the world, because it is the proverbial melting pot. Races, colors, religions and nationalities have to live and work side by side in cramped quarters, and they do to an extent that is simply not replicated anywhere else. For anyone outside the city, this will be a revelation. For those who live it, it is acknowledgment and confirmation of a work in process. As former mayor David Dinkins told Helmreich, New York was the only major American city to not break out in riots after the Rodney King incident in LA. New Yorkers look at things differently, and this book makes that really come alive.

New Yorkers don't expect comfort and are resilient, he says. They may congregate by common interest, be it bocce or church or homeland or food. Some neighborhoods are fiercely united. Some districts have gangs. Some people mix. Some sit it out. It all combines to give the city a wealth of character, characters, variety, and depth.

Helmreich spends a lot of effort on gentrification as an issue: the situations it causes and changes. But gentrification is just a function of change. New York is constantly changing, renewing some neighborhoods while others slide. There is no stasis and no normal. Come back in ten years and the neighborhood will be different. Fugeddaboudit. New York City is very much a living, evolving being. Gentrification is a just another phase.

Oddly, with all his perspectives and perceptions, broken out and neatly collected into dozens of categories with examples from all corners of this vast agglomeration representing all the world, Helmreich missed possibly the most destructive trend going. For all his love of ethnic delis and foreign groceries and mid block churches, New York has turned precipitously to mass market national chains. For a hundred years, you could shop till you dropped in New York in unique New York stores, without ever encountering a national chain. Shoppers came by their millions to experience it. Now, it's all but impossible to avoid them. There are eight Starbucks in just 21 blocks (one mile) on Columbus Avenue, pretty much every other block. There are Home Depots and Old Navys and Best Buys and JC Pennys. New York is being homogenized, and not for the better. It is becoming a just another American city, not simply convenient to the United States, but undifferentiated from it. That's the real issue.

Despite this glaring omission, The New York Nobody Knows is an excellent snapshot of a miraculous city.

David Wineberg
25 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Engaging Study of the City and its Inhabitants 15 octobre 2013
Par Liebo - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
William B. Helmreich has accomplished a rather remarkable feat. Over the course of four years, the graduate professor of sociology at City University of New York has covered all 6,000 miles of New York City's streets by foot. While his book includes the subtitle, "Walking 6,000 Miles in the City," his pedestrian (here I am obviously referring to the noun rather than the adjective) accomplishment is not the focal point of The New York Nobody Knows. Instead, he presents a detailed and insightful examination of the various sociological aspects of the city. He bolsters his analysis by drawing from his experiences walking New York's streets as well as from his day job as an academic. Helmreich's book is an engrossing and very informative sociological study of New York that is especially strong when covering the less-popular boroughs that are far less popular in the literature about the city. It was published by Princeton University Press and is certainly a valuable resource for any student of the field but The New York Nobody Knows is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning more about the city and its various and often colorful inhabitants.

The book is ordered thematically rather than geographically, further demonstrating that Helmreich's purpose is not to merely outline his four years of constitutionals. Instead, it is organized thematically. Helmreich looks into sociological subjects such as immigration, gentrification, and crime as they relates to New York. He devotes some time to the built environment, but he mainly concerns himself with getting to know the people of the city. Helmreich often stopped various people on the street for interviews, including in the more dangerous areas such as East New York and South Bronx. These impromptu conversations really enrich the book as they are able to provide additional perspective, and Helmreich's sit-downs with former mayors Dinkins, Giuliani, and (soon-to be former anyway) Bloomberg are highlights as the author is able to spend quality time with all of them. The book is filled with compelling anecdotes from his travels and the various characters he encounters, such as a converted Orthodox Jew from Colorado who shills special kosher cheese to Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and what they can tell us about the city. In addition, he did plenty of homework in the bibliographical department and he draws from a plethora of other studies when making his points.

Helmreich is incredibly knowledgeable about the city, having grown up in Manhattan and previously worked as a cabdriver as well as a sociological researcher on urban issues such as homelessness. He writes well and my interest did not lag at any point. There were, however, certain passages that read a bit dry and reminded me that this is a professor writing a book published by a university. Though the title was likely tacked on by an editor (neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Harlem get their fair share of ink and feature prominently in several sections (not that they shouldn't)) Helmreich does not gloss over the more obscure boros and neighborhoods. He draws many examples and anecdotes from neighborhoods in Staten Island and Queens which helps separate the book from other urban sociology books on the city more focused on more popular areas.

In Sum

One great thing about graduating college was that I could bypass informative articles and books on my academic fields without any guilt. I could really cherry pick the economics and urban policy literature to find works that actually interested me and abandon those that didn't. The New York Nobody Knows definitely falls into that "actually interesting" category. While I learned quite a bit about the city and its citizens, I also had a legitimately good time while doing so. The book is worth seeking out for any fans of Jane Jacobs or books such as Sidewalk by Mitchell Duenier and The Power Broker by Robert Caro.

33 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Awesomely conceived but only moderately successful in its execution 29 novembre 2013
Par Inquiring Mind - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I applaud the author for the audacity of his undertaking to walk the entire city, but I wish his reporting chops were as strong as his legs must be. Much of the book -- filled with dry sociological statistics and Wikipedia-style factual narratives -- felt like it could have been written by an academic sitting in front of a computer in Dar Es Salaam, i.e., someone who had never set foot in NY. The reader rarely experiences in these pages the amazing energy of a city which unfailingly electrifies the senses of anyone who walks even one NY mile, let alone the thousands he did. He fails to capture the living, breathing pulse of NY -- the incredible fashion statements that Bill Cunningham portrays in the Times every Sunday, the teeming crowds of Times Square and the Union Square Greenmarket, the NY attitude epitomized by Dustin Hoffman's "I'm Walkin' Here" rebuke to a taxidriver who nearly ran him over in the film "Midnight Cowboy", the grimly determined Wall Street suits, and so many other ineffably spontaneous moments that must have occurred during his 4 years of strolling. In his nearly 400 pages, Helmreich also missed several of the biggest NY stories of recent years; to cite just a few of the phenomenal changes I see in street life, Helmreich might have described: a) the explosion of Brooklyn from its former 'outer-borough' status to its current position as a serious rival to Manhattan for top creative talent in tech, food, tourism, entertainment, the arts, real estate, and much more; b) the revival of the Financial District and Ground Zero into the long-dreamed-of "Wall Street Village" of 24-hour living; c) the growth of bicycling as the top choice of more and more NYers for getting around town; d) NYU's physical expansion that threatens to devour much of Greenwich Village, e) the food-truck craze that has brought diverse cuisines from out of the restaurant to curbside offerings; f) the transformation of hotel lobbies from routine check-in functionality to gathering places for locals and visitors seeking close encounters with attractive strangers. In short, I would have preferred a more visceral report of what Helmreich had encountered in his 4 years of daily walks, rather than the armchair analysis he frequently provides. Despite my disappointments in what the book lacked, there is plenty of meat here to chew on that anyone interested in NY will appreciate.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A lot of NYC info, but it's not about walking the city 13 janvier 2014
Par A. F. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Helmreich's got a great idea--walking every street in New York City--and for that alone, he should get rave reviews. Unfortunately, this book is *not* actually about his walking around the city. The book is a series of general observations with (sometimes) one or two very small examples from his walks.

That still doesn't sound too bad except that everything with this guy is an overly-broad generalization: "People of various ethnic, religious, and racial groups attend concerts, comedy shows, dance performances, and the like" (p139); "Many immigrant groups do their best to retain their language even as they acclimate to America" (p329), "Battles over space show how it is a flashpoint for those with strong feelings" (p361).

It reminded me of high-school level writing, and it's boring.

The book would have been so great if Helmreich had relied more on his walks and conversations with people; using them, instead of the broad generalizations, as the framework for the book. NYC is unique, vibrant, alive; full of amazing stories and interesting people. Unfortunately most of that vibrancy is missing from these pages.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The New York Nobody Knows 3 novembre 2013
Par mychellem - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Sometimes I find myself reading books without understanding quite why. A title sounds interesting, so I pick it up. That's how I wound up reading The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich.

I've never been to New York and never expect to get there, but I know the feeling of driving through a place and wanting to get out to walk and explore, so I was happy to vicariously experience the city through Mr. Helmreich's observations. I found myself skimming through some of the statistics, but the stories about individual people and neighborhoods were fascinating.

The publisher provided me with an electronic review copy of this book.
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