We featured Betsy Bober Polivy and Manhattan Sideways six years ago, in the first issue of W42ST magazine. At that point, her “crazy idea to walk the entire original Manhattan grid — from 1st Street to 155th” had reached 53rd Street.

Manhattan’s grid system is iconic, a show of far-reaching forethought and elaborate city planning rarely seen since Roman times. However, while the original grid system envisioned the streets as vital thoroughfares leading to the riverside, it is instead the avenues that are the focus of commerce. In contrast, the treasures of its side streets, just footsteps away, remain largely undiscovered.

Allen Dickon, manager of McKinney Welding Supply on W52nd Street between 11/12th Ave.

It was this that inspired Betsy to begin her project, Manhattan Sideways — the roads less traveled. Started on a whim, she soon realized the reach her project could have and its potential to invigorate smaller businesses by broadening people’s horizons in even their most immediate locale.

Betsy says, “Because people tend to take the same route each day — be it walking, riding the subway, or hopping on a bus — New Yorkers have no idea what is one block away. Many say I’ve got to explore my own neighborhood more.”

Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery.

Now Betsy has produced a coffee table book — Walking Manhattan Sideways — Side Street Businesses That Have Stood the Test of Time. “I decided at the beginning of the pandemic that I had to push and complete this book,” says Betsy. “My mission has always been to advocate for the small businesses, and there has never been a time that they needed our support more than now.”

The Manhattan Sideways website (sideways.nyc) is filled with many of Betsy’s experiences — and the stories of those individual businesses — but she “felt compelled from the beginning to write a book.”

FLASHBACK: Pics from W42ST Issue 1. (clockwise, from top left) Cakes ‘N Shapes; Sam Vasili Shoe Repair; Suzy Darling from The Pocket Bar; VIA on W57th Street nearing completion; The Belvedere Hotel; Stiles Farmers’ Market on W52nd Street.

“I wanted to memorialize the inspiring men and women that I met along the way. Whether they have already closed their businesses or will, ultimately, not be able to survive COVID-19,” she says. “I felt it imperative to recognize these wonderful people. Walking Manhattan Sideways is filled with extraordinary photography and their touching stories.”

The book features some interesting and popular local businesses like Chez Josephine, Steve’s Editing Barber Shop, Patsy’s Italian Restaurant, Hecht Sewing Machine & Motor, Barbetta, Gallagher’s Steakhouse, Frankie & Johnnie’s, and Blatt Billiards.

You can pick up your copy at Sullivan Street Bakery (on W47th between 10/11th Ave, from bookshops around the city, or place an order online here.

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