Interview with Shorewalker Hike Leader, Gerry Matusiewicz
(by Christine Yost, January 31, 2015)
About five years ago, invited by a friend, Gerry very much enjoyed a group walk through lower Manhattan. Pleased by the walk and the sights, Gerry quickly became an avid walker. He looked into the many walking groups, tried a few, and found Shorewalkers particularly appealing. Shorewalkers features a wide range of walks to interesting shorefront areas and neighborhoods. Gerry enjoyed that no pre-registration was needed to go on a Shorewalker walk...the "just show up" policy made it easy to join a walk. Gerry also appreciates that Shorewalkers is a non profit, run-on-volunteer-power organization; as such, as Gerry says: a for-profit corporation could never do what Shorewalkers does the way Shorewalkers does it.
Through Shorewalkers, Gerry, often accompanied by his friend Mary, found that he was meeting a number of people from all over, with diverse backgrounds and interests.
With an interest in the history of New York City, where in one glance one can often view many decades/centuries of artifacts and structures, Gerry found himself taking Shorewalker walks and, over time, meeting Shorewalker members and hike leaders. The walks took Gerry to familiar areas as he grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey and went to school in Manhattan, at Cooper Union. Now living and working a couple of hours north of NYC, in Poughkeepsie, Gerry has become familiar with this northern area as well. While never having led walks before, he was intrigued and pleased when Shorewalkers' President, Cy Adler, said "would you like to be a hike leader?"
Wanting "to give back" and given a keen interest in history - as well as bridges - as Gerry describes, he "didn't need his arm twisted."
Gerry was pleased that many of the Shorewalker leaders were available for helpful conversations about developing and leading walks. And by taking several Shorewalker walks Gerry learned by example and became comfortable with the idea of becoming a Shorewalker leader. He quickly proposed two new walks. These two walks add generously to the Shorewalker calendar. On a good weather day, Gerry has been joined by up to 15 walkers to explore areas near Poughkeepsie.
While a majority of Shorewalker walks are in the city area, both of Gerry's walks are out of the urban area; as Gerry says "don't be afraid to leave the city!", there are a lot of interesting places and sights outside of the NYC area, and lots of beautiful natural areas as well. For many who live in the city, access to a car is not the norm; the subway and bus rule. Gerry's walks entail getting to the Metro North train (in the majestic Grand Central Terminal) to travel north to the start of the walk. Gerry researches the area of his walks and offers walkers history, insights, and descriptions of the natural environment. As an engineer (microchips a speciality) Gerry also describes the engineering wonders of the area. "The Walkway over the Hudson" walk which Gerry developed and leads for Shorewalkers features a unique bridge, Poughkeepsie Railway Bridge, built around the same time that the Brooklyn Bridge was built. The bridge is a steel cantilever bridge spanning the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie NY and Highland NY; the bridge was completed in 1889 and formed part of the Maybrook Railroad Line until taken out of service in 1974. It was recently converted to a pedestrian walkway "Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park" in 2009, the longest footbridge in the world.
One of Gerry's favorite walks is one that Bob Lazarro leads for Shorewalkers, from Wall Street in lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. The area, filled with history from the early days of development of New York City, is also fascinating to watch as it changes and evolves even today. In particular, changes are afoot in the area just below the Brooklyn Heights promenade, the new park area along the water's edge, with a tremendous view of downtown Manhattan. Where there were once shipyards, there is now an amazing park and public amenities. Gerry muses that that while he currently enjoys leading Shorewalker walks in the upstate area, one day with more time, he plans to also lead Shorewalker walks in the New York City area.
Please check the May through September 2015 Shorewalker calendar online listings for Gerry's upcoming walks.