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?
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!