TEDxGowanus Featured on TEDCity2.0

TEDCity2.org relaunches with talks from Ed Woodham and Leah Selim 


In 2012 the TED Prize, for the first time, went not to a person but to an idea: The City 2.0. Recognizing that the future of humanity is deeply intertwined with the future of urbanity, TEDCity2.0 is exploring deep questions about the evolution of work, transportation, inequality, consumption, and all of the ways in which cities influence the lives of its inhabitants and the world.

TEDxGowanus is proud to announce that two of our speakers are featured on the newly relaunched TEDCity2.org website.  Please watch, re-watch, and share these wonderful talks by Ed Woodham and Leah Selim.  We are also happy to see that Leah Selim is featured on the TED Blog for her talk on Gastrodiplomacy.

Why did Anthondy Bourdain eat warthog anus in Namibia? This and other fascinating insights about how food has is not just culture but also diplomacy in Leah Selim's talk.

Why did Anthondy Bourdain eat warthog anus in Namibia? This and other fascinating insights about how food has is not just culture but also diplomacy in Leah Selim's talk.

This talk is not just beautiful, funny, and insightful, it is also powerful.  Ed Woodham shares how his organization,  Art in Odd Places , works to awaken the public... and how that lead to a personal awakening where he least expected it.

This talk is not just beautiful, funny, and insightful, it is also powerful.  Ed Woodham shares how his organization, Art in Odd Places, works to awaken the public... and how that lead to a personal awakening where he least expected it.

A trip to Film Biz Recycling

Photo credit: Emily Pidgeon

Photo credit: Emily Pidgeon

Photo credit: Ryan Lash

Photo credit: Ryan Lash

Photo credit: Emily Pidgeon

Photo credit: Emily Pidgeon

Walking into Film Biz Recycling is like entering the collective mind of New York City’s production designers.  The giant warehouse on President Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn is home to such a huge selection of items, it’s nearly overwhelming.  This is the place where film, television and theater productions of all sizes are invited to recycle their props and scenic staging.  Their mission has been to divert this art and artifacts away from landfills and in turn foster new productions in need of these items at a lower cost.  FBR generously donated the entire stage design for TEDxGowanus.  During a walk-through/shopping spree last week, we took our scenic designer, Vinny Vigilante, into the shop to pick out items for the stage.


When Vinny began sorting through the maze he kept his inspirations of “Community, Memory and History” on his mind.  With the depth of the inventory, it’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy shop. “It’s a great inventory, it’s rare to find so many unique things in one place.  I wish I knew about FBR earlier in my NYC theater career,” Vinny said.


As we prepared for the production of TEDxGowanus it was so heartening to meet Eva Radke, the Founder of Film Biz Recycling.  Right away, she was thrilled with the goals of TEDx and gave us full access to the inventory.  Eva couldn’t be a better champion for this neighborhood of Gowanus and it’s great she shared that love with everyone through this event.



Speaker Profile: Joseph Alexiou

Joseph Alexiou

Photo Credit: Sean Gannet

Photo Credit: Sean Gannet

Joseph Alexiou is a TEDxGowanus all-star, serving as a host, a speaker, and even our Gowanus Instameet tour guide! A third generation New Yorker, after college Joseph moved from Long Island to Brooklyn, nearby to the Gowanus Canal. Trained as a journalist, Joseph started investigating the history of the canal and the neighborhood. Today he is well known for a popular lecture on the history of the Gowanus Canal he presents regularly at the Brooklyn Brainery. He will be bringing his much-loved presentation to the Brooklyn Historical Society in March. 


Q: How did you become interested in the Gowanus Canal?

My first apartment was right around the corner from the Gowanus Canal. As it became part of my daily routine to see it, I began to wonder where it came from, why it was there—and what was happening to it now.


Q: What's a favorite part of the Gowanus neighborhood that not many people know about? Or would be surprised to learn?

Joseph leading our TEDxGowanus Instameet. Photo Credit: @ktsandgentlemen

Joseph leading our TEDxGowanus Instameet. Photo Credit: @ktsandgentlemen

There are so many things, but Brownstone Brooklyn, with all of its brick and stone, probably wouldn't exist without the canal—all of the building materials were shipped through it. So was was the coal that heated stoves, which also made the gas that lit up streetlamps and homes.

Q: What's something you'd like to see in Gowanus or for the Canal in the future? (i.e. cleaned up water, new businesses popping up, historical preservation, etc.)

I'd like to see a clean canal, some restored wetlands, many new businesses and spaces for those businesses. I'd like to see new, thoughtful construction that goes with the neighborhood, as well as total repurposing of the unique architecture that isn't being used now.


Q: What's next for you following TEDxGowanus? We hear there's an exciting book in the works. Anything else we can look forward to seeing from you?

The biggest thing to look forward to for me is my book on the history of the Gowanus Canal. Between that, and TEDxGowanus, I think a vacation will be in order. But once I'm back I'll start doing walking tours of the Gowanus area—I'm a licensed NYC Sightseeing Guide!


Speaker Profile: Leah Selim

Leah Selim

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Leah Selim is a co-founder of Global Kitchen, a social enterprise that hosts immigrant-led cooking classes to promote cultural exchange and awareness through food. While working towards her Master’s in Food Systems at NYU, she became fascinated by how food, identity, environment and politics intersect, focusing her research on international food systems and sustainable agricultural practices. Leah currently works as an editorial consultant for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and holds a BA in English and Psychology from the University of Virginia.


Q. Tell us about Global Kitchen. What is it? How did it come to be?  

Global Kitchen is a social enterprise that hosts immigrant-led cooking classes in the NYC area. We operate out of a rented commercial kitchen space in Midtown West and have held cooking classes featuring a number of cuisines, including Guyanese, Ethiopian, Senegalese, Malaysian, French, Filipino, and Bengali. It started as an idea that my co-founder and friend from graduate school, Ryan Brown, proposed at a social entrepreneurship class at Stern. His team (including the third co-founder, Pete Freeman) eventually won a business competition through the class, and they decided to pursue the idea further, which is where I came on board. We've been operating for a little over a year and average about 2-3 classes per month at this point, with the hopes of increasing the frequency and adding more instructors in the future.

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Q: Though Global Kitchen is located in another neighborhood, how do you see the organization and the work it's doing impacting a community like Gowanus? 

Like just about every neighborhood in New York City, Gowanus is racially and culturally diverse, with native New Yorkers, Americans, and immigrants living in the same areas. An organization like Global Kitchen connects people from different backgrounds through our classes, both in terms of the attendees and the chef instructors. A class like ours can introduce community members who may not have met otherwise (I've seen it happen in just about every class!). Global Kitchen also connects a smaller community, like Gowanus, to a larger community of immigrant diaspora groups living in the New York City area.


Q: What's been the reception to Global Kitchen so far? 

We've had really positive feedback from everyone who has attended our classes, and several repeat customers. Our chef instructors are also always thrilled to be able to share the cuisine of their home countries with curious New Yorkers. It's been inspiring and incredibly fulfilling to see the reactions from both sides - it feels like we are tapping into a human connection that people were seeking but weren't sure where to find.

Q: In your talk, you'll be discussing using cooking & food as a tool to connect people from diverse backgrounds. How do you see this helping to inspire community in the long run? 

As the world becomes more globalized, we're increasingly surrounded by people and cultures that are different from our own. Food can be used as a tool to both express ourselves and our backgrounds to other people, so that we can better understand each other and build friendships and connections. Sharing food is also a communal act that creates a space for the exchange of ideas, which is essential to helping communities grow.

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Photo courtesy of Global Kitchen 

Food can also inspire community among people of similar backgrounds who are now living in a culturally diverse landscape--people who may have immigrated from a different region who want to maintain a connection to their roots. In this case, sharing traditional food and cooking techniques can reinforce a common heritage among community members and strengthen their sense of identity.

Q:  What does the future hold for Global Kitchen? 

We of course would like to increase our number of classes and instructors to bring in more cuisines and customers. We are also interested in holding more larger-scale events, which we've done once before for our launch party last January. Otherwise, we are open to growing organically by responding to what our chefs and attendees are interested in seeing more of, and we'd like to expand our online content to reach a wider audience outside of New York.


Q: What's your favorite type of food? Favorite dish? 

Most people think this is really weird, but I actually LOVE soups and stews more than anything else. My favorites are probably noodle soups from Southeast Asia (I love spicy, curried flavors) and I have a special place in my heart for pho -- which was ubiquitous in my hometown of Annandale, VA. I've still never tasted better pho than the cheap bowls I used to get in the unassuming Vietnamese restaurants dotting all of the suburban strip malls in Northern Virginia.

Speaker Profile: Ed Woodham

Ed Woodham

Photo Credit: Hrag Vartanian

Having lived in just about every neighborhood in Brooklyn, Ed Woodham is a staple in the New York arts scene.  In 1996, Woodham founded Art in Odd Places, a grassroots movement that presents visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces. AiOP also produces an annual festival along 14th Street in Manhattan, NYC from Avenue C to the Hudson River each October.


Q: What was New York like in the 80s? Were you involved in the gallery side of the art world?

I could care less about the gallery world back then. I was more interested in experiencing New York City and its nightlife. The city was edgier then. I would ride the subway to Far Rockaway and be surrounded by gangs. I’d have to get up and move to another car and hopefully not get robbed or stabbed. Those were the mean streets of New York, but with that danger also came more excitement. It was the heyday of graffiti and hip-hop – lots of boom boxes, and clubs like the Pyramid, Paradise Garage, Danceteria. The clubs and the streets were where art, fashion, and music all mixed and people would gather around them. For instance, in the 80s, when a break-dancer threw down a piece of cardboard, the energy that came through the body and the sounds of the neighborhood; that’s what art in the streets is about. It’s like that Bill Cunningham quote: “The best fashion [and art and music are] in the street.”

Photo Credit:     See-ming Lee

Photo Credit:  See-ming Lee

Q: How have things changed since then?

I’m involved in the gallery and museum worlds now, but I still find them to be very elitist, especially in the United States because of the education system. In this country, not very many people feel comfortable going into a gallery or museum. It’s like you have to be a certain level of privilege and education to go into those spaces and understand what it is. The streets have a very different way of communicating and exploring art in its myriad of forms.

Q: Is that where Art in Odd Places came from?

Yes, Art in Odd Places is about taking art out of the gallery and into the streets to make it more accessible to the public. With a festival-like atmosphere, AiOP provides a supportive community for artists to take art from their studio and try something new in front of an audience. Some projects don’t work out, but that’s okay, that’s what AiOP is – a place for experimentation. There aren’t many opportunities like that, especially now that art is so commoditized.


Ed speaks in our third session of TEDxGowanus. To see the full speaker lineup, visit our homepage


Speaker Profile: Eymund Diegel

Eymund Diegel

Eymund Diegel moved from South Africa to the Gowanus neighborhood almost twenty years ago. Beginning with his first job at what was unofficially called the “Shit Management Plan,” Eymund has specialized in thinking about materials that move through the air and water of urban environments. Since then, Eymund has remained deeply passionate and curious about what lies beneath the Gowanus neighborhood. 

Today, Eymund is the chair of Public Laboratory, a citizen science group partnered with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy's Grassroots Aerial Photography program. He works with other local residents tying digital cameras to kites and balloons to map and reconstruct the Gowanus Canal's "ghost stream" network. But with this crowd sourced technology, he’s found much more than just underground streams.


Q: Eymund, why do you feel so connected to the Gowanus and why did you start mapping here?

People should care about their backyards. The moment you make a connection to home, you start caring.  Unfortunately New York City homes are often interior spaces, and they never really think of the external public space. For me, it was as important to find and understand the space around me.

The thing that started the stream mapping study, which I’ll be exclusively talking about (at the TEDxGowanus event), is when we took pictures of the frozen canal in the winter. We found the spots that were the coldest underneath the bridge were not melted, had no ice. That was completely counter intuitive to what we thought. We realized that the ice was melting because the water was warmer there, and we had to figure out why. Turns out, there’s a stream coming out from the ground melting the ice, leaving a thermal signature of the old ghost stream.


Q: What’s something you’ve found that really surprised you from your aerial mapping?

Photo Credit: Andrew Aliferis

Photo Credit: Andrew Aliferis

Once I found photographs of graffiti on old industrial buildings. But what I found was that all these buildings only had graffiti on one side. I couldn’t figure for the life of me why they were only graffiting on one side of the building. Then I turned around and realized that the Smith/9th St subway station has a perfect visual arch that curves around the Gowanus. Anyone into graffiti tagging selects their facades based on the visual angle of the passing subway train, so they can show off to their subway buddies. That was an example of a surprise identification, a thing I’d never thought about.

Q: Where do you find beauty in the Gowanus?

One other thing unique about the Gowanus is that you can see twice as much. What I mean by that is the water reflects the sky. If you are a photographer or an artist, you have the light of two worlds. You have the light of the world that you’re living in, and the light of the world that’s reflected in the water. You go on to the canoe and you go on to see all these amazing colors and lights that people like from an artistic point of view. And so in that sense, the open space of the water makes it a unique visual environment that you won’t get in the skyscrapers or the Upper East Side. From an aesthetic point of view, Gowanus is beautiful because you have so much change and the plain visual beauty of nature itself.

Photo Credit: Proteus Gowanus

Photo Credit: Proteus Gowanus

What I like are the grand old industrial brick buildings that are right on the water. The old NY City Water Works at the end of Butler Street is visually quite interesting. I like the 9th St factories because they’ve been cut apart and rebuilt so many times. You go in there and realize there are ten stories all vaulted and interlocked in one air space. So many things were made in one space, plastic dolls to silver plates, to dynamite. You can see traces of all of these stories going on at one time. 



Eymund will be speaking in the third session, #GowanusInspired, of our all-day event. Please see the full lineup here.

Event Program Guide Released

Full Agenda Announced

With TEDxGowanus a little over a week away, you can now see our full line-up of speakers and performances here.  

In addition to previously announced presenters, TEDxGowanus will also be bringing NYC Council Member Brad Lander, Natalie Loney from the EPA, and a performance by Blind Ear Music.

And we're thrilled to announce that the Coney Island River Rats will be executing a Live Dive of the Gowanus Canal!

No Tickets? No Problem! We are broadcasting LIVE all day onJanuary 26th starting at 12:15p at www.tedxgowanus.com!

SESSION 1: ORIGINS, 12:15—1:45pm

Joseph AlexiouThe most important swamp in American history

T.M. RivesWhat the sale of Manhattan doesn't tell us about Native Americans

Marlene DonnellyThe Case for Gowanus: National Registry of Historic Places

Andrew GustafsonWhy the Baseball Hall of Fame Belongs in Brooklyn

Kate OrffRebuilding eco-infrastructure: Marine Gardening with Blue Mussels

Proteus GowanusCollaborative Art and Historical Inspiration

Joselin LinderStopping a genetic disorder in its fourth generation


 Break 2:00—3:00


SESSION 2: IMMERSED, 3:00—4:40pm

Coney Island River RatsWhat does it take to dive a toxic site?

Ate AtemaStreet Creeks: A Call to Action

Natalie Loney, Inside a New York City Superfund

Monica ByrneChanging the Disaster Relief Paradigm

Calloway's SalonA delicious romp through debauchery and laughter with a tune or two

Rachel FershleiserWhy I <3 the Bookternet

Reggie OsséHip Hop: From Counter Culture To Popular Culture


Dinner Break 4:45—6:15



Leah SelimFood is more than culture, it's diplomacy

Pete RahoBringing back the American manufacturing sector

Councilmember Brad LanderDemocracy in Local Budgeting

Susannah DrakeDesigning a Sponge Park

Eymund DiegelUnearthing the Ghost Streams of Gowanus's past

Ed WoodhamPublic Art, Private Awakening

Blind Ear MusicMusical performance


Photo Credit: Jim in Times Square

Free Walking Tour and Meet Up!

This Sunday, January 12, join the organizing team and your fellow TEDxGowanus attendees and enthusiasts for a walking tour of the Gowanus, lead by historian and Co-Curator of TEDxGowanus, Joseph Alexiou.  Starting at the Flushing Tunnel, the tour will visit and cover the history of neighborhood landmarks the Green Building, Carroll Street Bridge, The Bat Cave, the Coignet Building and many more. 

This is a great way to start the conversations and relationships that will continue through to TEDxGowanus!

Bring your camera and smartphones! All images tagged with #GowanusInspired will be eligible for display during TEDxGowanus and on www.TEDxGowanus.com!

When: Sunday, January 12, 2014 @ 2:00pm (We're going with our Rain Date!)
Where: 233 Butler Street (between Nevins and Bond)
How Long: Approx. 1.5 Tour Followed by Meet Up at a Halyards


Photo Credit Above (Left to Right): Timothy Vogel, Robert S. Johnson, Gigi NYC

Sludgie Returns to Gowanus

Proteus Gowanus to Create Art Exhibit Inspired by Sludgie

TEDxGowanus is teaming up with an interdisciplinary gallery, Proteus Gowanus, to present an interactive exhibit featuring the skull of Sludgie the Whale.

In 2007 a baby Minke Whale found its way into the Gowanus Bay and tragically died a short time thereafter.  The neighborhood affectionately named the whale "Sludgie" and the she quickly became an iconic symbol of the area.  

After the whale's death, it was dissected by a team of experts to determine the cause of death and provide research samples for several labs in the area.  This video tells the story of Sludgie after she passed away.

Proteus Gowanus collaborating artists Sasha Chavchavadze and Christina Kelly and educator Angela Kramer will create an interactive installation that revolves around the tragic death of a baby minke whale in the Gowanus Canal, drawing parallels to the life and death cycle that has permeated the canal throughout its history. The installation will include: the whale's skull; an artist-made "broadside" handed to guests with illustrations and news items of animal and human sightings in and around the canal from the 1870s to the present; and an interactive installation that will hover above the heads of guests listing lost and found Gowanus flora and fauna. The installation will also include a selection of Gowanus artifacts and books from the Hall of the Gowanus.

Core speaker program and event details released!

For Immediate Release: TEDxGowanus to be held on January 26, 2014 in Gowanus, Brooklyn


December 5, 2013 – Announcing the first ever TEDxGowanus, which will be held on January 26, 2014. The day-long event will take place on the banks of the Gowanus Canal at renowned event spaces The Green Building and 501 Union.


TEDxGowanus Organizer, Sean Gannet has a long track record working with TED Conferences, having been a producer on TEDMissionBlue and the TED Talent Search as well as video director for TEDActive.


"We are passionate about bringing TEDx to Gowanus because this area is a perfect representation of the culture, innovation, and change that are dominating the new Brooklyn landscape." –Sean Gannet, Organizer TEDxGowanus.


The theme of TEDxGowanus is INSPIRING COMMUNITY and speakers will include designers, entrepreneurs, artists, historians, and community leaders presenting Gowanus inspired ideas.  As a neighborhood that’s undergoing many changes – from the recent Superfund designation, to demographic and cultural shifts, to the physical rebuilding of the area post-Sandy – TEDxGowanus will also be an opportunity to hear visions of the area’s future.


While the inspiration for this TEDx began in Gowanus there will be a diversity of ideas to inspire and engage a broad audience.  Some of the over 20 speakers presenting:


Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack) – Host, The Combat Jack Show – Through storytelling, Reggie will recount Hip-Hop’s journey from counter-culture to pop-culture.


Ed Woodham - Founder, Art in Odd Places – Devoted to gently “awakening” the masses through art installations, Ed recounts how his public mission influenced a very personal journey.


Rachel Fershleiser – Tumblr – Rachel is creating “Internet Enabled Literary Communities” which are reinvigorating consumption of the written word.


Kate Orff – Partner, Scape/Landscape Architechture LLC – Following up on her TED.com talk about greening the Gowanus Canal with oyster beds, Kate will discuss her Blue Mussel Pilot Project in the Gowanus Bay.


Ate Atema – Atema Architecture – Will follow up on his previous TED talk about an innovative way to channel freshwater into the Gowanus Canal.


Leah Selim - Co-Founder, Global Kitchen – Discussing how gastro-diplomacy can bridge cultural divides.


Monica Byrne - Co-Founder ReStore Red Hook   - As a core member of Restore Red Hook, she has a new idea about how to shift the disaster relief paradigm.


Pete Raho - Owner, Gowanus Furniture – As an “Artisan Ambassador,” Pete will show how small batch industry has created a new manufacturing sector with industrial employment opportunities.


Joselin Linder – Author - Joselin shares a personal story about the history (and future) of a genetic disorder that originated in her family.  


Marlene Donnely - FROGG Member, Benjamin Ellis Architect – What it will take for Gowanus to become the first Urban Industrial Site listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.


Eymund Diegel - Director, Public Lab – Eymund  will describe how he used high-resolution, aerial photography to uncover "Ghost Streams" that feed the Gowanus Canal.


Joseph Alexiou - Author /Journalist (Co-Curator of TEDxGowanus) - Will explain the importance of the Gowanus watershed in the first major conflict of the American Revolution, The Battle of Brooklyn.  


T.M. Rives - Author – Using the Native American origins of the name "Gowanus" as a starting point, Rives will elaborate on the often mistaken history of Native American culture and NYC.


Plus more to be announced!


This independently organized event licensed by TED will host a live audience of over 200 and will also be broadcasted live on www.TEDxGowanus.com.  Attendees will have exclusive access to an exhibit providing an opportunity to network and interact with booths and activities provided by local businesses and organizations. 


Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets starting December 5, 2013 at 12:00pm.


TEDxGowanus would not be possible without the help of our partners:

Video and Webcast Provided by Suite Spot

Design and Production Materials Provided by Film Biz Recycling

The Digital PhotoBooth by MVS Studio

Coffee provided by Crop to Cup


For more information visit tedxgowanus.com.

Follow TEDxGowanus on Facebook at facebook.com/tedxgowanus and Twitter @tedxgowanus. The official event hashtag is #gowanusinspired.


About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self organized events that bring people together to share a TEDlike experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local self organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)


About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four day conference in California almost 30 years ago, TED has grown to support those world changing  ideas with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world's leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes on a diverse mix of topics. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi OkonjoIweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The TED2014 Conference will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with the TEDActive simulcast in neighboring Whistler. TEDGlobal 2014 will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


TED's media initiatives include TED.com, where new TED Talks are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TEDEd; and TEDBooks, short ebooks on powerful ideas. TED has established the annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world get help translating their wishes into action; TEDx, which supports individuals or groups in hosting local, self organized TEDstyle events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, helping world changing innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.


Follow TED on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TEDNews, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TED.

For information about TED's upcoming conferences, visit http://www.ted.com/registration