Meet the Two Men Walking Every Block in New York City

Matt Green and William Helmreich
Matt Green and William Helmreich

Most residents only ever walk a tiny fraction of New York City’s 6,000 miles of streets. Except for sociological researcher William Helmreich and engineer Matt Green, who, independently of each other, set out to walk every single block in the five boroughs. In this 6-minute New Yorker documentary about these full-time perambulators, the two men meet for the first time and talk about their different approaches to this 6,163 mile journey. It’s an urban pilgrimage of sorts through a city that Green describes as “infinitely unknowable.” 

“It’s the world’s greatest outdoor museum,” Helmreich, who walks 120 miles a month, says of his hometown. Instead of taking a statistical survey, he wanted to get “a feeling of the heart and pulse of the city in which he grew up and has taught classes on for decades. “The great thing is that New Yorkers feel like they’re part of a small town, but they’re also part of an incredibly big city,” he says.

Green quit his job as an engineer to start walking full time, for 20 miles a day, charting his progress on a digital map. He couchsurfs for shelter and cat-sits for income. “I couldn’t just sit at my computer all day anymore,” he says.

“When you walk a whole city block by block, you have an acute sense of both the similarities and the differences of each part of the city,” Helmreich says. “All the stereotypes about different neighborhoods and people vanish,” Green says. In just six minutes, we see them pass by fishermen in the Bronx, a monk parakeet nest on a telephone pole, mulberry bushes and vegetable gardens, a Little Italy sausage salesman doing the macarena, and the Manhattan skyline as seen from Staten Island. Watch the video here.

[via The New Yorker]


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