Our community of contributors is the core of Untapped Cities. Globally, our 600+ person team of adventurous explorers, writers, storytellers, photographers and illustrators inspire us to keep discovering new places for our readers. The Untapped Cities offices are in Manhattan at the Centre for Social Innovation, inside the iconic Starrett Lehigh Building.
Michelle Young, founder: Michelle is a graduate of Harvard College in the History of Art and Architecture and holds a master’s degree in urban planning from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she is an Adjunct Professor of Architecture. She is also a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, Pre-College Division. She is the author of Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide, New York: Hidden Bars & Restaurants, and Broadway. Michelle appears regularly as a guest speaker in documentaries, on television, and at conferences on urban issues. She was featured on Netflix’s Stay Here, PBS’ 10 That Changed America, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know from Stephen Dubner of Freaknomics Radio, Huffington Post Live, and the documentary DINER EN BLANC, The World’s Largest Secret Dinner Party. She was also a speaker at the United Nations conference, Gateways Portals to the City: Infrastructure for Sustainable Urbanization, and was an organizer of the Rockefeller Foundation conference, “Jane Jacobs Revisited: A Bellagio Conference.” Originally from New York, she has traveled to over forty countries and is always looking for the next adventure. Contact her here.
Augustin Pasquet (co-founder, head of business development): Augustin hails from Paris, and has lived in Nigeria, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Brooklyn, where he currently resides. He is a graduate of ESSCA Business School in France with a major in marketing and worked for seven years in sales and brand marketing for L’Oreal in both Paris and New York City. He is the co-author of Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide, a book unearthing 125 of the borough’s most surprising places. Augustin’s photography has been published in Travel & Leisure, Brooklyn Magazine, Time Out New York, as well as in the books New York: Hidden Bars & Restaurants, and Broadway. He has been a guest speaker on television, radio shows and conferences speaking about about topics ranging from the secrets of Grand Central Terminal to the remnants of NYC’s Cold War era nuclear shelters. Contact him here
Justin Rivers, Chief Experience Officer & Tour Guide, NYC: Justin started his career as a New York city middle school English/Language Arts teacher on the Lower East Side dragging his students to historic sites across the city in an effort to bring NYC’s lesser known stories to life. That’s how he became co-creator of The Wonder City, a graphic novel that re-imagines New York City’s entire history. He was also the playwright and producer of The Eternal Space, an off-Broadway play that centered on the demolition of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station. It was with this production and one simple tweet that he fell head over heels for Untapped Cities whom he partnered with for his Remnants of Penn Station Tour. Now Justin is the Founding Director of the Character Connection Initiative, a non-profit organization that connects character education and mindfulness to middle school curricula. He also runs the Underground Tour of the NYC Subway, the Tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam, the Secrets of the Brooklyn Bridge Tour, the Tour of the Secrets of Coney Island and the Art in the NYC Subway Walking Tour. Contact him here.
Susan Xu, Editor: Growing up in Queens, Susan quickly found interest in the diversity and dynamism of New York City. She’s infinitely curious about urbanism and topics surrounding it, including art, food, people and infrastructure. She holds a BA in Anthropology and Business and Liberal Arts, but can mostly be found writing and drawing. Contact her here.
Benjamin Waldman, History Columnist: Benjamin is an attorney, tour guide, and freelance writer who has been living in New York City since college. An American History major, Benjamin is interested in all things New York and spends his free time wandering around the City. He works as a tour guide for the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and has written articles for The New York Times, The Columbia Magazine, and Curbed.
Jeff Reuben, Architecture Columnist, NYC: Jeff is a city planner, works for a consulting firm in New York City, and lives in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. His interests include architecture, urban history, photography, travel, running, exploring city neighborhoods on foot, and drinking craft beer. (All his other interests make him very thirsty). The topics he writes about for Untapped Cities seem to find him rather than the other way around as he crisscrosses New York and other cities. He loves sharing these stories with Untapped’s readers.
Julia Vitullo-Martin, NYC: Julia Vitullo-Martin is a Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association and Director of the Center for Urban Innovation. Her work focuses on development issues such as planning and zoning, architecture and housing, waterfront regs, environmental review, building and fire codes, and historic preservation. She has been widely published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Review of Books, New York Post, New York Daily News, Monocle, Forbes, and Fortune, as well as academic journals. She has authored and edited three books, including Breaking Away: The Future of Cities.
Robert Brenner, Tour Guide & Contributing Writer, NYC: Robert Brenner is a docent for the Municipal Art Society of New York, a member of the Guides Association of New York City, a licensed New York City tour guide, and an (almost) lifelong New Yorker. A survivor of the 1970s, he specializes in the offbeat and the unusual. He has a B.S. in technical writing from Carnegie-Mellon University, and a certificate in creative non-fiction from the Graduate Center at CUNY. His writing has appeared in New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many other publications, and he teaches at the New York City College of Technology in downtown Brooklyn. Robert runs the Remnants of Gritty Times Square Tour.
Gabriela Hammond, Tour Guide, NYC: Gabriela was raised in a small town outside Philadelphia, PA and had always dreamed of moving out to New York. She is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she majored in Drama. Besides performing, she loves sharing this amazing and fascinating city with both locals and tourists alike. Her absolute favorite thing to do is eat, which makes living in the city both a blessing and a curse- but she loves every second of it. Gabby leads the Underground Tour of the NYC Subway and the Tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam.
Alan Cohen, Tour Guide, NYC: Diverse neighborhoods, the food, public art, architecture, and cultural institutions are sources of endless delight and fascination for this native of Brooklyn and Manhattan resident. Alan, a retired psychologist and college professor, has been exploring those layers most of his adult life. He became a tour guide for the Central Park Conservancy and a licensed New York City sightseeing guide because he loves to share New York’s beauty and its stories. Alan is enjoying this time of his life by being a docent at the Museum of the City of New York, giving tours in Central Park, taking history courses at NYU and trying to learn Spanish. Working with Central Park colleagues, he has created a website and blog about the art in Central Park: centralparkinbronze.com. Alan leads the 400 Years in 1 Mile Walking Tour and the Public Art Walking Tour in Lower Manhattan.
James and Karla Murray, Tour Guides, NYC: James and Karla are husband-and-wife New York based professional photographers and authors. Their critically acclaimed books include Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, New York Nights, Store Front II – A History Preserved: The Disappearing Face of New York and Broken Windows: Graffiti NYC. Their latest publication, Store Front II- A History Preserved has been nominated by the Guides Association of New York for “Outstanding Achievement in NYC Book Writing” 2017 GANYC Award. The authors’ landmark 2008 book, Store Front, was cited in Bookforum’s 20th Anniversary issue Dec/Jan 2015 as one of the “Exemplary Art Books From The Past Two Decades” and heralded as “One of the periods most successful New York books.” James and Karla also run the Food Tour of the East Village’s Historic Storefronts.
Mandy Edgecombe, Tour Guide, NYC: Mandy’s passion for the environment, its health and history, and how humans interact with it, stems from her childhood spending time at Mammoth Cave NP and going to a school named after Margaret Mead. After receiving a degree in the Geosciences at New Jersey City University, she began seasonal work at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island NM as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service. This led to working for the non-profit Save Ellis Island giving and developing public tours for them. Most recently, she spent the 2016 season as a Park Ranger at Governors Island National Monument. Mandy leads the Underground Tour of the NYC Subway and the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal.
Thomas Rinaldi, Tour Guide & Photographer, NYC: Thomas Rinaldi’s photographs have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the New York Observer, Westchester Magazine, CNN Online, and elsewhere, and have been exhibited at the Municipal Art Society of New York and are currently on view in an exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany. He is the author of New York Neon and leads the Tour of West Village’s Vintage Neon Signs.
Jeff Dobbins, Tour Guide, NYC: A long-time New Yorker, Jeff has led tours of NYC for over two decades. He has also created numerous walking tours for tour companies and independent clients. As a freelance writer, Jeff has written over one hundred and fifty articles about NYC history and culture for publications including Yahoo News, Nomadic Matt, Bohemian Traveler and his own website, Adventures in Culture. His photography has appeared in magazines, photo exhibitions, and is featured at the Museum of the City of New York. Jeff had a long career in New York’s theater industry as a performer, writer, lyricist, and manager of Broadway and Lincoln Center theaters. His passions are theater, opera, travel, and NYC culture and history. Jeff leads multiple Untapped Cities tours, including the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal, Untold Stories of 9/11 Walking Tour, the Secrets of Central Park and the Underground Tour of the NYC Subway.