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Why One Man Walked Every Block of Every NYC Borough

Anonymous crowd of people walking on city street

When one looks at a map of New York City, it seems as though its grids and blocks will go on forever.

This didn’t stop one man from conquering all 120,000 city blocks — more than 6,000 miles — of New York City, walking over virtually every square foot of the five boroughs.

According to CBS New York, William Helmreich, 69, was able to achieve this feat in just four years. All it took was one step at a time, putting all 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments of one foot in front of the other.

“It is a little meshuga,” Helmreich said. “But in order to do something interesting, you sometimes have to be crazy.”

His astounding achievement raises one major question. Why spend several years of your life walking, enduring intense heat, rain, snow and sleet all the while?

“I do it because I love the city,” the lifelong New Yorker explained. “The city’s fascinating to me. It’s the world’s greatest outdoor museum. When you walk a whole city, block by block, you have an acute sense of both the differences and the similarities of each part of the city.”

Helmreich, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, recently chronicled his epic journey in a book entitled “The New York Nobody Knows.” The book offers snapshots of his beloved city, from its most well-known tourist attractions to its best-kept secrets. The craziest thing he saw during his walk, he said, was a man walking four pitbulls in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, two boa constrictors wrapped around his neck.

Shockingly, Helmreich isn’t even the only person to have traversed the five boroughs on foot. According to the New Yorker, Matt Green has also walked more than 6,000 miles throughout New York City’s urban expanse, chronicling his voyage in photos taken with his smartphone. He posts the photos he takes on his walks to the aptly-named blog ImJustWalkin.com. Unlike Helmreich, Green walks full-time; donations fund his adventure in lieu of a job.

While Helmreich and Green have never met, it’s clear these two men have one thing in common: a deep, abiding love for discovering all that New York City has to offer.