What we're about


This is a group for people either new to New York City, or have called the city home for awhile and are interested in discovering new neighborhoods and learning more about the city's fascinating history, architecture and culture. Most of our activities are professionally-guided walks of 3 - 5 miles within a NYC neighborhood that has distinct and unique qualities. They usually last from 2 to 4 hours. We sometimes have an optional social hour afterwards for a meal and/or a beverage at a local restaurant (except during COVID-19 for safety reasons). Barring any COVID-19 restrictions, during the summer months we usually combine a walk with a free outdoor concert, often in the evenings. During the winter we'll have shorter outdoor walks coupled with a museum visit ( if permitted under COVID-19 guidelines for indoor activities).

I also organize theme tours to add some spice and variety to honor holidays or famous New Yorkers. Our events are usually free with a voluntary donation of a dollar or two. When we have museum visits there may be an admission charge.

I started this group because I am a native New Yorker and have a successful dual career as a professional tour guide and real estate agent and I am affiliated with the prestigious Corcoran Group, which was started by pioneering entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran. I had a 25-year career as a social worker, including work in the South Bronx and throughout Brooklyn, and served on the teaching faculty of Columbia University, Fordham University, New School University, Hunter College and NYC Technical College.

I have a B.A, in English and a Master's Degree in Social Work, and have also been an exhibited visual artist with a focus on experimental and landscape photography. I love to introduce people to new neighborhoods and explore their past, present and future and also welcome the opportunity to learn from others. With the fast-pace of life here it is easy to overlook the hidden treasures and iconic buildings that we pass by every day. While I have a repertoire of touring a good 70 neighborhoods, I especially love Harlem (where I spent my formative years) due its many different areas, amazing history and beautiful architecture. Other favorites include the West Village, Lower Manhattan (where the City's history began), Flatiron/Gramercy, Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Long Island City, the East Village and Washington Heights.


Your participation in the activities of Exploring NYC History and Neighborhoods acknowledges that you are solely responsible for your own assessment of your abilities and your physical fitness and health to participate in that activity.

As I have resumed in-person tours, proof of full vaccination is required to participate. You should also be physically fit and be able to walk several miles at a moderate pace. Given the added importance of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important that participants are capable of being keenly observant of their surroundings.

There are always inherent risks that can cause or lead to injury, property damage, illness *including the coronavirus*, emotional trauma, disability or death to participants or others when participating in an activity. Some, but not all of these risks include: hazardous and unpredictable ground, water or weather conditions, traffic conditions, misjudgments made by the leader or a participant, the potential that a participant or others may act carelessly or recklessly, etc. etc.

Hank Orenstein and Exploring NYC History and Neighborhoods cannot assure a participant’s safety or eliminate any of these risks. The participant is voluntarily participating in our activities with knowledge of these risks, and therefore the participant must accept full responsibility for the inherent and other risks (both known and unknown) of these activities, and for any injury, damage, death or other loss suffered by the participant.

By joining any event conducted by Hank Orenstein/Exploring NYC History and Neighborhoods, the participant agrees to release and indemnify Exploring NYC History and Neighborhoods and/or Hank Orenstein with regard to any and all claims, liabilities, suits, or expenses (including reasonable costs and attorney’s fees) for any injury, property damage, illness including the coronavirus, emotional trauma, disability or death to participants or others in any way connected with the participation in an activity.

Upcoming events (3)

History and Street Art Tour of Bushwick, Brooklyn

Ange Noir Cafe

RSVP's begin Saturday, August 28th at 5:00pm. Space set aside for new members and first timers- please no repeats from prior year Bushwick tours.

This tour will indulge in the neighborhood's history along with the street art and the current lifestyle with its numerous restaurants, bars and unique social and cultural venues.

Required: Proof of full vaccination via phone or card. Bring water to drink, snacks, and as a suggestion a hat for the sun (no shade in spots - no tall buildings). Given the Delta variant, wearing a mask is recommended.

The artists community in Bushwick is resuming their open studios weekend September 17-19. Given that our tours emphasize safe outdoor activity, I will leave it up to you to attend indoor art events at the end of the tour. The emphasis during the tour will be the outdoor art.

Be prepared and fit enough to walk a good 5 miles - level terrain. Be sure to check your travel route in advance as there are often subway line changes on weekends. Allow extra time!

The Ange Noir Cafe where we start our tour is a perfect place to for breakfast, coffee, snacks and to use the restroom. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. The owner Vanessa has welcomed our group for many years. Make sure you arrive by 10:20am if you plan to purchase food or drink. We will aim to begin our walk at 11:00 am.


Tour overview:

The tour will indulge in the neighborhood's history along with the street art and the current lifestyle with its numerous restaurants, bars and housing scene.

Bushwick, one of New York's "street art capitals" and an incubator of creative entrepreneurship, was one of the original six towns of Brooklyn, comes from the Dutch word“boswijck,” meaning “town in the woods.” Chartered by Director General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant in 1661, Bushwick was settled in the nineteenth century by tobacco and grain farmers from France, Scandinavia, England, and Holland. In the mid 1800′s a majority of the immigrants in Bushwick were German, so by 1890, Bushwick established a brewery industry, including 14 breweries operating in a 14 block area called “Brewer’s Row” and Bushwick was dubbed the beer capital of the Northeast.

We begin our tour in the ultra-cool section of the neighborhood known as "Morgantown". Amid all the street art is the Bushwick Open Studios, an annual event in which hundreds of visual artists open their studios (and the occasional live-work space) to the public. There are several warehouse buildings with many studios making it easy to experience a lot of art within a short time - purely optional given COVID.

The tour will end convenient to the L train at Jefferson Street. There are also plenty of options for lunch or brunch and to check out the artist's studios.


Hank Orenstein
Licensed NYC Sightseeing Guide

Take Two: Hell's Kitchen Walking Tour -- and Live Jazz at Pier 84!

Columbus Circle Traffic Circle

Repeating this tour as we had a long waiting list and there were many who wanted to attend. Five spots set aside for first timers and new members. The reason people are already pre-registered is that I provided an opportunity to members who were stuck on the waiting list for the prior August 25th tour.

Must bring proof of full vaccination by phone or card. Given the Delta variant wearing a mask is encouraged.

Meeting Place: Columbus Circle: sitting area by the statue- facing the Time Warner Center. Restrooms inside: up the escalator. Please take care of business prior to the tour.

After a fun and interesting guided walk through the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, we'll arrive around 7:30pm at Pier 84 @ 44th Street and the Hudson River, just south of the Intrepid Museum. There are restrooms, a bar and a short order restaurant. Other food options a few blocks away at 11th Avenue (with outdoor seating). https://gothamwestmarket.com/

The live jazz starts at 7pm and runs until 8:30pm. This is the last music event at Pier 84 for the season.

Tour description:

Hell's Kitchen has a very colorful history: like the Five Points downtown the area was once a haven and hangout for notorious Gangs of New York, along with dockworkers, factory workers -- even urban cowboys -- as well as immigrants from Ireland and Germany back in the 19th century. There were slaughterhouses, breweries, bordellos, lumber yards, tanneries and rail yards.

Madison Square Garden was located in Hell's Kitchen from[masked]. You may be surprised at what the site looks like today. Vital cultural institutions include the Irish Arts Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (and School) and the famous Actor's Studio, which has trained many of our great performers over the years. Many parts of the area have undergone transformation -- with new housing, countless restaurants, off-Broadway Theatre and nightlife -- but it still has plenty of older tenement-style housing and a bit of its former character and grit. There's even a tavern that's been serving since 1868! Before we're done we will be sure to tell the story of how Hell's Kitchen got its name!

Plenty of pop culture too! We'll visit the site of the birthplaces of Seinfeld and NYC's first comedy club which helped launch the careers of many performers.

Cheers from Hank[masked]

(Pictured above; Mickey Spillane's bar-restaurant, owned by the son of the Irish mobster: the rough and tumble history of Hell's Kitchen lives on). Photo by group member Valentyna.

Getting to Know Astoria, Queens: The History, The Culture and the Lifestyle!

RSVP's begin Saturday, September 18th at 5:00pm. Space is set aside for up to 5 new members and first timers.

Be fit enough to walk 5-6 miles!

Required: Bring proof of full vaccination via phone or card. Bring a picnic lunch or snacks, water to drink. A hat for the sun is recommended. Given the Delta variant, wearing a mask is encouraged.

Restrooms: at our meeting place at Athens Square Park, later at Costo or and at Socrates Sculpture Park and Astoria Park during our lunch break.
Note: good coffee shop across from our meeting place - Astoria Coffee.

Tour Overview

Astoria is known for its unique mix of cultures, peoples, and small businesses. Located on the northwest corner of Queens, New York and is surrounded by the East River on its north and west sides. Bordering Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside, Astoria has become a popular residential area for because of its fast commute to Manhattan, its relatively inexpensive rent, and the varied dining and nightlife it offers.

Named for John Jacob Astor, at one time the wealthiest man in America by the 1840's, Astoria was first known as Hallett's Cove, after British immigrant William Hallett who was a local landowner in the 1600's. By the 1800's areas near the East River became popular with wealthy merchants and industrialists who had large houses and mansions built. We'll visit this area - known as Old Astoria as well as the Steinway Piano Factory area which dates back to the mid-1800's when German industrialist Henry Steinway had it constructed along with a village for his workers.

Along with the a survey of the neighborhood's food and ethnic culture, including Greek, Middle Eastern and Latin American, the neighborhood also boasts several parks and museums. We'll also take in the unique Socrates Sculpture Park, the more traditional Astoria Park (picnic lunch break), and check out the Welling Court mural project.

You will come away with lots of ideas to return to enjoy the many restaurants, quirky shops and bakeries. The tour will end convenient to the N train at Ditmars Boulevard.

Photo above of the Steinway mansion (1927) from the Digital Archives of the Queens Public Library/Collection of the Eugene Ambruster Drawings and Photographs.


Your organizer,

Hank Orenstein
Licensed NYC Sightseeing Guide

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