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Review for Big Apple Greeter, New York, NY, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I am a lifelong New Yorker and a travel editor. I became curious about how visitors actually experience my home city. I started volunteering with Big Apple Greeter 1 1/2 years ago. I've had so much fun showing visitors one of my favorite unknown neighborhoods, DUMBO, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. In a 20-minute walk from the York station on the F subway line, I show visitors 4 centuries of history and tell them the stories of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, George Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn, Walt Whitman's editorial stand against slavery at the Brooklyn Eagle, and the evolution of the area from Native American land to Dutch farm settlements to one of the biggest industrial producers in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to its current incarnation with pricey condos, New York's newest waterfront parks and upscale shops. We always stop at Jacques Torres for chocolate, and I point out little details like the Belgian blue paving stones underfoot, the old narrow-gauge railway tracks, the wooden water towers atop the old buildings, and my favorite NYC graffiti. I show them a view along the water where in one turn of the head they can see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Lower Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and I show them the Whitman poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" engraved in the railing on the pier where the first cross-river ferry was started by a Dutchman in the 1600s. It's history, architecture, and the grit and triumph of one neighborhood all in one short visit. Depending on their time and interest, I sometimes add in a trip to Coney Island to look at the beach and ride the Cyclone, or to visit the brownstone historic district in Park Slope, with the PS321 flea market and a stop at my favorite friendly pizza place, Pinos. Often my visitors decide to stay or come back to Brooklyn for more after our visit is over, which makes me feel great that I have introduced something special and memorable to their time in NY. Big Apple Greeter is one of those great freebies that anyone can try.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I know that I have opened the eyes of visitors to New York City to things they would never otherwise have experienced. I've hosted people from Australia, France, Germany, England, Malaysia, California, the Midwest and many other places, old and young. Often I take them on their first subway ride, and I always tell them - you don't have to spend a lot of money here to enjoy New York. My recommendations are always the amazing freebies: Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, Times Square - what more do you need?

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Recruit more volunteers! Find a way for high school juniors who are looking for community service projects to participate by showing visitors a slice of their neighborhoods! To make it safe, have kids sign up as teams, with teacher supervisors; preview an itinerary; let the kids rehearse with an experienced Greeter; and sign them up to do a specific number of greets for a semester.

Would you volunteer for this group again?


For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?


Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

I work as a travel editor. My experience as a Big Apple Greeter has impacted the advice we give in our travel stories as I see that often visitors need help with very basic things, but also appreciate offbeat suggestions.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?


When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Volunteer & As a volunteer, as noted above, I take visitors to New York on free neighborhood tours. .