Matt Green has been essentially homeless for nearly four years as he embarks on his latest remarkable journey: Walking every street in all five boroughs of New York City.
In 2010, the 33-year-old gave up his job as a civil engineer and began a cross-country hike from Rockaway Beach in Queens to Rockaway Beach in Oregon.
Two years ago he decided to walk every street in New York City. So far, he’s walked more than 4,400 miles out of an estimated 8,000.
“Instead of seeing a million places for just a minute each, I’m going to spend a million minutes exploring just one place,” Green, a Richmond, Va.-area native, writes on his website.
But when I joined Green for a portion of his walk on the Upper East Side of Manhattan earlier this week, he clarified: “That’s more something I like about the walk than the exact reason why,” he said. “We demand ‘why’ of people too much.”
My brief journey with Green took me from the northeast corner of East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue up to Museum Mile, and down 87thStreet to St. Joseph’s Church between 1stand York Avenues. It took about 45 minutes to cover that ground, accounting for stops so Green could snap photos on his camera phone for his blog.
“A lot of the time, I don’t know what I’m taking a photo of until I go home and look it up,” Green said. “There’s all kinds of writing in the city you can plug into the Internet.”
Green doesn’t currently have a home base: He crashes with friends or with people who have reached out to him after following his quest online.
He said processing photos and sleeping are the two biggest obstacles to completing his goal. He averages 250 miles per month, and expects it will take him until 2015 to completely cover New York City. Green also takes breaks “to do more things with humans instead of just walking around and looking at them.”
He said he took most of the summer off because he doesn’t like to walk in the heat, and spent a weekend officiating a friend’s wedding after getting ordained online through the Universal Life Church.
When Green walks, he wears light layers, carrying only a water bottle. He doesn’t want to add too much weight, since he said his feet take enough of a beating supporting his body weight on concrete all day. He uses public bathrooms during the day and eats his meals at his friends’ places.
Green has been living off savings from his engineering days and some small donations made through his website. While he’s losing money doing the walk, he said going back to a steady job doesn’t sound appealing at this point.
Green said former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern is an “important character” for him.
He read that Stern is an animal nut who loves the tortoise and hare design on this Park Avenue building. Stern was also responsible for a lot of the prominent animal art in the city’s playgrounds.
“He’s just a great, old eccentric guy,” Green said.
“A lot of people feel like they have to conquer the city in some sense,” Green said, “The only way to do that is to simplify it. This walk embraces the fact that New York is such a bewildering place.”
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