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Lots of New Yorkers fell in love with taking long walks during the pandemic. Now, some of them have made it their jobs.
Kenneth Chin quit his career as an accountant in January to focus on walking around neighborhoods — Times Square one night, Jackson Heights the next day, then Williamsburg — and livestreaming what he sees on YouTube.
“New York City really is a city that’s full of life and endless things to do; there’s always new opportunities, new things opening up,” said Chin, 33, whose ActionKid channel has 266,000 subscribers and more than 84.8 million views.
“People are realizing that, ‘Wow, I can actually really showcase my city in a way that I enjoy it and show it to my audience,’ ” he added.
Livestream walking tours of New York City have become incredibly popular since the start of the pandemic, as people around the world have been eager to see something beyond their own backyards. Viewers tuned in for the curiosity factor of an empty city, then kept coming back as the hustle and bustle returned.
Chin, who started livestreaming his walks in 2019, has gained 149,000 subscribers and averaged around 4 million views per month since March 2020. He’s made almost 3,000 videos and some — walks around Fifth Avenue, Times Square and Downtown Brooklyn — have notched up a million or more views.
He said a single livestream can pull in a hundred dollars or more just from viewer donations. Filming around a mostly empty Times Square this past New Year’s Eve, Chin earned $2,000 after taxes from donations and advertisements.
Sifat Razwan, 23, a student at Queens College who runs the NYC Walking Show, can make between $400 and $1,000 or more for videos that rack up 100,000 views. Although Razwan, who has more than 43,000 subscribers, does not pursue livestreaming full time, he acknowledges that “whatever I’m making is quite enough for me.”
He typically sticks to tourist spots like Central Park, Roosevelt Island and Coney Island.
“I think people really like my enthusiasm, how I talk, how I share my experiences,” Razwan told The Post.
In addition to hitting the expected spots of Little Italy and Brooklyn Bridge, Chin often takes viewers to less touristy neighborhoods, like East New York and the Hole, a Queens neighborhood that is some 30 feet below sea level and suffers from dire flooding.
Commenters sometimes call him out for describing an area as “sketchy.” One posted about Chin’s “NYC Most Dangerous Neighborhoods?: Walking Brownsville & East New York, Brooklyn via Sutter Avenue” video: “ppl from the hood are just ordinary ppl trying to make it day by day with the little they have.”
Dramatic weather conditions bring in lots of viewers for Chin and Ariel Viera, whose Urbanist channel has more than 43,000 subscribers.
“I think people just want to feel close to the city, despite them being thousands of miles away, [so] when a large snowstorm happens it’s like a major event to them,” said Viera, who appears on camera as he samples food in Astoria’s Little Brazil or rides an East River ferry. He also interacts with commenters while he’s walking around and streaming.
“I tell people stories about the history, we chat about the architecture, we speculate about what this building used to be,” said Viera, who is in his 30s and does this full time. “On a tour, I’m researching anywhere from three to 10 hours or more if I’m deeply interested in the subject.”
Karla Murray, 52, a photographer who runs the James and Karla channel with her husband, said they also draw viewers from as far as Australia and Germany.
“Some say that they don’t think they’ll ever be able to come to New York,” Murray said. “A woman who’s on dialysis everyday, she can’t possibly travel, but she watches it because she just loves New York and she loves these small little independent stores in the places where she’s from, and she sees it as an extension of what’s happening in her own country or town.”
The streamers are hopeful the trend will outlive pandemic boredom.
“When [viewers] say to us, ‘Oh, this is so nice, I feel like I’m eating the meal with you, or walking in Central Park with you’ … we love that, because that’s what we’re trying to achieve through these walks,” Murray said. “We’re trying to bring a little piece of New York to them, wherever they are.”
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