The New York Nobody Knows

The New York Nobody Knows

The New York Nobody Knows by William Helmreich

I decided to read this book to learn more about New York beyond my externships, food adventures, and US Open trips. Given the premise that the author had walked 6000 miles around New York, I expected chapters on different geographic areas. But the book is actually organized by sociology topics like immigration and gentrification. I think it ended up losing a lot of potential since the topics were quite vague and the chapters mostly jumped around different anecdotes.

1) There are over 1 million Asians in New York, larger than LA and SF combined.

90% of these statistics about city demographics need a footnote explaining how the cities are defined.

2) Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island was once the largest municipal landfill in the world.

Now it’s being converted into a park.

3) The Green Acre Park, with its waterfall, was built by the Rockerfellers at 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd. 

How have I never seen it?

4) Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is famous for its Christmas lights.

I would need a car. Or it will be cold. Is it worth it?

5) Bingo was first invented in Italy in 1530 and called “The Clearance of the Lot in Italy”.

It came to America in the 1920s and was first called beano, after the beans players used.

6) Hudson Heights, part of Washington Heights, actively changed its name for better branding.

One of the best things about New York is the nomenclature for its different areas.

7) New York Housing Authority has a Section 8 program in which low income families pay up to 40% of their income for rent. 

NYCHA covers the difference between the fair market rent and the family’s portion.

8) Sukkot is the Jewish holiday (Feast of Booths), during which Jews eat all of their meals inside booths covered with plants.

Maybe I would have known this already if I had paid attention to the movie in Israel class.

9) The Flushing Remonstrance was signed in 1657 to protest the persecution of Quakers.

The Bill of Rights is monumental, but the concepts in it weren’t new.

10) 50% of American-born Asians married non-Asians.

What? That seems way too high.

All in all, this book was somewhat repetitive and I didn’t come away with any big ideas or changed views about New York. Yes I know there are a lot of immigrants and Brooklyn is gentrifying. The author was definitely shining New York in a positive light and also unsurprisingly spent a good chunk of the book talking about issues surrounding the Jewish population. If anything, I think I’m more likely to go explore the other 4 boroughs. New York isn’t just Manhattan.

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