New York is a city of cities. In lower Manhattan, one step on Mulberry Street takes you from the center of Chinatown to the heart of Little Italy. Once in Ridgewood, Queens, I asked directions from an older man waiting for the light to change. “Je ne parle que Polonais,” he said, in what you may recognize as French. The next minute I was in Bosna Burger – a Bosnian restaurant on the corner of Putnam and Forest if you ever want the best pita bread hamburger of your life.
It might not seem like it to one-story dwellers, but New Yorkers have a strong sense of home, neighborhood, and pride of ownership. We rent our apartments, but this is our block. We are, if nothing else, homesteaders laying our claim to corners with language, food, family, and art. You can live your whole life in ten square blocks and never really miss a thing.
I, for one, live in Park Slope and work just a short walk away in Prospect Heights. My husband’s grandparents live in Stuyvesant Town, as do his aunts and uncles, and until recently, so did his cousins. I heard a story of a woman who moved from 5th Avenue to 6th and when she visited her old bodega, the owner cried in disbelief, “I never thought I’d see you again!”
But, for all the good and great things about this sort of city living, we are often cut off from each other, isolated in our pockets of similitude and comfort. We rarely venture beyond what we know. And really, there’s little reason to when everything we need is a few steps away. But what if we went not because we needed to, but because we wanted to? Because we wanted to know more than we knew about the people we live with and the city we live in?
Walking New York, is not a tour of monuments or architecture or history. It is adventure of people, of space, and of the knots in the knit of New York City. Every week, I’ll go for a long ramble through a neighborhood in one of the five boroughs (even Staten Island) and report back to you, who I hope to be my dear readers, what I saw, who I met, and in general, where we are. So, come on. Let’s go for a walk.