No other tour guide covers as many Brooklyn neighborhoods as I do. (Yes, I still have more to explore.) And few specialize in Brooklyn.
Why am I a tour guide? I like exploring cities, and I trying to understand what we see (or what we would've seen in the past). And I like to cover more ground than most tours do.
In the 1990s, I began leading family/friends on informal tours of Brooklyn. My goal: to lead the type of energetic, interesting tours I'd take myself, with a sense of urban history, a dash of architecture and urban planning, plus general curiosity about current events, attractions, and controversies. After founding New York Like a Native in 2000 with one tour, I've added numerous neighborhoods, following visitor requests and my curiosity. I've expanded to a few neighborhoods in Queens and Manhattan.
Yes, there are other good guides available.
What differentiates me? I specialize in Brooklyn (and have specific experience to enhance the tours I offer outside Brooklyn). I book nearly all tours directly with clients, not via a third-party. If you book with me, I'm your guide, not a surprise sub-contractor.
I've led tours for college and graduate/law student groups (CUNY, NYU, Pratt, Hobart & William Smith, MIT, Stanford, Univ. of Richmond, McGill, York, etc), the Municipal Art Society, the urban affairs magazine City Limits, library groups, State Department visitors, urban planners, seniors groups, singles organizations, temple/Jewish groups, a Polish-American cultural festival, family reunions, and many individuals, couples, and small/large groups.
I'm a licensed NYC tour guide (with an exemplary score on the exam, though it's not too relevant to my tours). I'm a longtime member of the Guides Association of NYC. Here are my basic tips for Brooklyn visitors.
I've been a journalist for 30+ years; I now write about urban issues for local (including Brooklyn) and national publications. Since 2005, I've written an influential watchdog blog, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report, about the controversial real estate development that includes the Barclays Center. I recently started a Substack newsletter, Learning from Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. I'm working on a book about the project, and I offer tours/lectures about it.
I try to keep up: I interviewed author Suleiman Osman to explore How Brownstone Brooklyn Emerged. I wrote that Distorting Downtown Brooklyn's Past Can Only Obscure Its Future. even dissected the myth that "one in seven Americans" can trace their roots to Brooklyn. I interviewed author Thomas Campanella about his book Brooklyn: the Once and Future City. Here are some of my freelance articles about real estate development issues.
Born in Brooklyn and educated at public schools on Long Island, I studied political science at Yale, though an architecture class taught by the legendary Vincent Scully--plus a recognition of New Haven's complex (and troubled) history--catalyzed my interest in urbanism. I returned to Brooklyn in 1991 after some detours: journalism in West Virginia, a fellowship for journalists at Yale Law, a stint in South Africa.
Over the decades, I've lived in four Brooklyn neighborhoods, sought apartments in far more neighborhoods, and explored Brooklyn and beyond, especially western Queens and the Lower East Side/East Village in Manhattan.
Comments from tour participants
“I greatly appreciated the time and effort you took. Obviously, your kindness and passion for what you do shows in the quality of the tour. When I come back to New York, I will book your services again.”— Reid Acree, Salisbury, NC
“His knowledge is intimate and impressive.”— Up Magazine (WestJet), June 2014
“Williamsburg is such a diverse neighborhood, and it even becomes more so with Norman. You could wander through the streets without noticing the hidden treasures that Norman points out. It’s a great workout, too.”— Phil Encz, New York
We all had a great time and everyone is singing your praises as a tour guide.”— Joan Hume, Westport Public Library, CT
“We benefited and learned a lot from your depth of knowledge about the area. Apart from the fabulous brownstone buildings, my next favourite part was your flexibility that allowed us to ‘pop in’ to the Brooklyn Museum and see The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.”— Annette Conroy, Canberra, Australia
“Thanks so much for the excellent walking tour. The whole gang was impressed and had a great time. We’ll spread the word to others coming to the city in the future.”— Jim Fritzler, Hastings College, NE
More comments from press/visitors
“Norman gave us an intimate and informed private tour of Brooklyn—neighborhoods, architecture, history, food, and more—and did it in a way and time that worked best for our schedule.”— Dan Volkmer, Portland, OR
“The New York Like a Native tour guide talks and walks fast, and expects you to hurry up and do the same. Not always easy, but you cover a lot of ground....”— New York Daily News, 6/22/03
"As the family was led by Brooklyn know-it-all Norman Oder..."--New York Daily News, 7/11/13