Taking the plunge into the toxic Gowanus Canal: Lenny Speregen and John D'Aquino

What does it take to execute a dive in the toxic waters of the Gowanus Canal? Lenny Speregen and John D'Aquino, members of the Coney Island River Rats, show us the equipment, passion, and safety measures necessary to do just that. But because the mission of the Coney Island River Rats is to raise awareness of New York's harbors and develop educational programs, they've also developed a high definition, underwater camera, that can send images from the diver's helmet directly to our theater. They give us a unique view and reveal a few surprises about what lurks in the murk of Gowanus.


Living inside and outside of the Hip Hop Revolution: Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack)

Reggie Ossé has been on the front lines of Hip Hop culture since it began in the early 1980s. Growing up in NYC, eventually becoming an attorney for up-and-coming Rap stars (Jay Z and Damon Dash to name a few), and now as the host of The Combat Jack Show podcast, Ossé didn't just witness hip hop's ascendency to popular culture, he also helped create it. But as the culture he knows and loves became assimilated into the mainstream, he could not help but feel pushed to the outside... influencing but not participating in an America in which he is an icon.


Stopping a deadly genetic disorder in its 4th generation: Joselin Linder

When Joselin Linder was in her early 20s, her father, Billy, fell ill to a disease of unknown origin which defied treatment of any kind. A deeper look at the Linder family's medical records yielded a disturbing discovery; this unknown illness had appeared before. Soon, through the burgeoning field of genomics, it became clear that the Linder family represented a brand new Founder Population- the first population to express a genetic disorder. Perhaps for the first time in medical history, this population has been isolated and through the efforts of her and her family, the gene will not be passed on to a 5th generation. But those living with the gene, including Joselin, are still fighting to find a cure.


Public Art, Private Awakening: Ed Woodham

Ed Woodham has spent years taking art out of the gallery and celebrating it on the streets of New York City. As the founder of Art in Odd Places (AiOP), he believes that art can jostle and awaken a public that is often "buried in their responsibilities." During this talk he shares beautiful and delighting images of the work artists have displayed during the yearly AiOP festival. 

But Ed's work to "awaken" took an unexpected turn when his mother was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy and eventually suffered a stroke, sending her into full blown dementia. Without much thought about it, he put pencil and paper before his mother. The results were nothing short of astounding.


Food is not only culture, it's Diplomacy: Leah Selim

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. In her recent TEDx talk, she discussed how food, identity, environment and politics intersect - contributing to a larger concept known as "gastrodiplomacy". It is through the communal act of sharing food that ideas can be exchanged freely, an essential first step in growing a community. 


Bringing Back Urban Manufacturing in America: Pete Raho

The relics of urban manufacturing are scattered across America's cities. Few places show the outward signs of this history better than the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. 

In his talk, Pete Raho shows us that bringing this manufacturing sector back to life is not only possible, it is happening right now. As an "artisan ambassador" he shows us how combining vertical and horizontal design with small-batch production can revitalize this long lost sector.


What the sale of Manhattan doesn't tell us about Native Americans: T.M. Rives

T.M. Rives believes our understanding of the Native Americans that inhabited the New York area is encapsulated in a single story- the sale of Manhattan for $24. But encoded in this story and the symbols that represent it are fundamental misconceptions about the native population. Thorough analysis and often very funny deconstruction of this myth and its imagery, Rives gives us a much deeper and more valuable look at the complex culture Europeans discovered when they settled New York City.


Why I <3 the Bookternet: Rachel Fershleiser

"At your average book publisher, 10 years ago was a time before the internet." Rachel Fershleiser is now working on Tumblr's outreach team, helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. But when she started in traditional book publishing, a job like hers really didn't exist. Rachel takes us through an evolution from reading and writing as entirely "solitary pursuits" to the development of online tools that enable collaboration and community. She shares great stories and innovations that connect readers and writers like never before. 


The most important swamp in American history: Joseph Alexiou

"Every schoolchild in America should know the name of a former bog located on the southwest shore of Brooklyn... Gowanus." Joseph Alexiou is a journalist and historian obsessed with the history of Brooklyn. In researching his first non-fiction book on the history of the Gowanus Canal, he discovered that one of the largest and most important Battles of the Revolutionary War took place right in Brooklyn—fought along the banks of the Gowanus Creek—and yet it has been totally neglected in the national consciousness.&nbsp;

Through the story of the destructive and tragic battle, Joseph shares how the Battle of Brooklyn was a key moment in the Revolution, from which General George Washington took a great lesson and matured into the great military and political leader that we remember today. 


Rebuilding Eco-Infrastructure: Kate Orff

As founder and principal designer at SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design office, Kate Orff works every day to bring her passions for sustainable development, biodiversity and community-based change to life. In this engaging talk at TEDxGowanus, Kate highlights her Blue Mussel Pilot project, among others, and how a new approach to coastal protection can transform New York Harbor and the communities that share it. 


Why the baseball hall of fame belongs in Brooklyn:

Andrew Gustafson

When Andrew Gustafson was in college, he would drive cross-country from Colorado to Connecticut, timing his route to coincide with attending summer league baseball games. As a geographer by training, his respect for "where things are" is baked right into his life and work as the Vice President of Turnstile Tours in New York City. His love of America's pastime is met equally by his respect for place. And so when he looks at the history of baseball and the placement of its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York he can't help but question the motives behind locating it there. 

In this engaging talk, we learn about how the myth of Baseball's origins became fact and why Brooklyn has the best case for hosting the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Cleaning up a Local Superfund Site: Natalie Loney

In 2010, the EPA placed the Gowanus Canal on its list of Superfund sites in New York state. In the years since, the agency has reached out to the Brooklyn community to inform and engage its citizens on what the clean up effort will look like. As the EPA's Community Involvement Coordinator for the Gowanus Canal Superfund, Natalie Loney, has been at the forefront of this effort. In this funny and informative talk, she carefully outlines the process for the Gowanus audience. 


Designing the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park: Susannah Drake

For those concerned with (or obsessed by) urban ecology, Susannah Drake's talk at TEDxGowanus will tickle your brain with civic knowledge. Learn here how Drake's extensive work in designing and implementing a Gowanus Sponge Park—a uniquely public creation—will use bioswales to filter otherwise polluted rainwater that would enter the Gowanus Canal. 


Changing the disaster relief paradigm: Monica Byrne

As a resident and small business owner in the Brooklyn neighborhood Red Hook, Monica was an eye-witness to the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, watching the waters rise and engulf her streets.  In the aftermath of the storm, Monica co-founded ReStore Red Hook, to rebuild and reopen the small businesses that serve the area.  But during her advocacy, she became increasingly frustrated with how disaster relief was distributed to those in need.  Despite the outpouring of support, very little of what was actually needed ended up in the hands of the needy.

In this funny, touching, and poignant talk, Monica explains how the current system of disaster aid works and why it's so important that we change it.  What you hear could forever change the way you think about aid during a crisis.


Democratizing the budget: Brad Lander

Why not take the most massive and unruly part of the government, the budget, and put it in the hands of the constituents it most affects?  This is the big idea behind Participatory Budgeting.  As a New York City Councilmember, Brad Lander is one of the pioneers in this new way of engaging citizens in the allocation of the city's resources.  During this talk, find out how an experiment to create "The People's Budget," that began in a just handful of districts, has grown into a city-wide movement.


Collaborative art and historic inspiration: Sasha Chavchavadze and Angela Kramer

Proteus Gowanus was established as a response to art "becoming compartmentalized and disconnected from the world." Using inspiration from history, the environment, and culture, this interdisciplinary gallery and reading room has welcomed a great variety of creators to its space. In this talk, we will hear and see how the Battle of Brooklyn created inspiration for a multitude of stunning projects connecting the past to the present.


The case for Gowanus on the National Register of Historic Places: Marlene Donnelly

Gowanus is one of America's first Urban Industrial Districts: known as the final link in the Erie Canal System. Marlene is a founding member of a group that nominated this unique area of Brooklyn to the National Register of Historic Places.  In this talk, Marlene takes us through the history of Gowanus, explaining how its scale and architecture is both unique and exuberant.  We learn that Brownstone Brooklyn, an American icon, was built on the back of Gowanus industry.


Unearthing the "Ghost Streams" of Gowanus' Past: Eymund Diegel

When Eymund was a boy, his grandmother took him "ghost hunting." They weren't uncovering human spirits but instead looking for the shadows of ancient architecture and landscape. Now, with the use of digital imaging, satellite photography, and historic maps, Eymund has turned his ghost hunting eye to the Gowanus watershed. He hopes to rediscover the original waterways that once intersected the landscape and are now paved over by Brownstone Brooklyn. But these discoveries aren't just a hobbyist's pursuit- the reclamation of these long forgotten springs, rivers, and tributaries could be the key to solving the toxic crisis in and around the Gowanus Canal.


Calloway's Salon: Calloway at TEDxGowanus

In his first adventure outside the walls of The McKittrick Hotel, Calloway visits the TEDxGowanus stage. Calloway has spent his life living by the lessons his mother taught him: eat cheese every day, charge like the hippopotamus, and drink until your fingers shrivel up like baby in a kitchen sink bath. And most important of all: the key to survival is to stop thinking about other people and start thinking about yourself. 

These lessons don't mesh very well with TEDxGowanus' theme of "Inspiring Community." Will Hans, the supple, German, man-boy and the power of TEDx be able to change Calloway's heart?


Live and Improvised Composition and Performance: Blind Ear Music & Sandbox Percussion

Musicians improvise performances on a regular basis, taking inspiration from their instincts, fellow performers, and the audience. It is rare, if not unique, to see a Composer do the same thing in a live context. Blind Ear Music revolves around a composer who is creating a live musical score before our very eyes and ears, in a concert setting. The music he writes beams directly to his musicians who are sight-reading and receiving tempo through headsets. With the help of Sandbox Percussion, we hear the intricate and beautiful results of this work.