IT loves New York, but knows that there's a lot more to see of the city beyond the boundaries of Times Square. Negotiating the streets and subways can be tough, especially in the outer boroughs, where there aren't as many recognizable landmarks to help with navigation. That's when the knowledge of a neighborhood tour guide can be invaluable. IT editor Janelle Nanos recently wandered through Queens with Jack Eichenbaum, an urban geographer and tour guide, as he planned out an upcoming tour of Astoria. Dr. Eichenbaum, a professor at Hunter College, has been giving tours of Queens for 27 years, and his unique knowledge of geography influences the way he gives his tours.
In a piece in the New York Times, Janelle described his style:
There are no double-decker buses on Dr. Eichenbaum’s tours, no visits to Times Square. “This isn’t about tourists,” he said.
It is the lay of the land that dictates the tours. He focuses on how geography shaped the city instead of just history. “History is anecdotes, a bunch of separated facts,” said Dr. Eichenbaum, who grew up in Bayside. “I’m a scientist. I rely on what you can see.”
One recent Saturday, he was planning the route for a forthcoming tour of Astoria. In sneakers and with a clipboard in hand, he blazed along side streets at a quick pace, talking about the pathways that led newcomers to the area a century ago, how ferries took Germans from Yorkville and Italians from East Harlem across the East River to Queens. “Everything leads back to the rivers and the boats,” he said, pausing for a moment to allow a straggler to catch up. “I’m a wonderful walker,” he apologized, “but I’m a terrible stander.”
He is quite the walker, but he's a wonderful guide as well. His upcoming tour of the Number 7 train (a fan favorite) is this October 27th. Visit his website to contact him for more information.