How did this project start?
When the pandemic struck, I saw it as a challenge, to think what I could do that would not be just wild prognosticating about what would happen to the city. So I wrote to a bunch of people I knew, architects, historians and others, right before the lockdown. I asked, “What about taking a walk around town?”
You began simulating the walks after the city shut down in March. How did that work?
By the time we published the second walk, about Museum Mile, it had become impractical to walk around the city safely with someone, and it also sent the wrong signal. So I began doing the walks virtually: over the phone or via Zoom.
The truth is that virtual walks were in many ways easier to do because we could pack more into a conversation without having to deal with actually walking long distances or talking over traffic. That said, I was glad to return to walking, as I did around Chinatown, because it let me meet up with various people and because, well, actually walking the city is a joy.
You do address the pandemic in the Chinatown walk.
I had Chinatown in mind from the start because that neighborhood was, even before the lockdown, hard hit by a wave of xenophobia. I wanted to remind people not just how wonderful the neighborhood is but how central it is to New York’s historic identity and diversity.
You were born and raised in New York. How did this project change your perspective on the city?
I wanted even people who had walked these places before to see them through different eyes. For me, much of this environmental, pre-colonial and 19th-century history was news, and exhilarating and humbling because it reminded me just how much I don’t know but also how endless New York is.
That’s it for this briefing. Have a great week.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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