Labor, Lecture Series, Spring 2018

Past Labor Lecture Series

Tuesday, June 5th, 6.30 p.m. – The Roots of Radiant Heating with Dan Holohan

Radiant heating with warm water may seem relatively new, but its story starts in 1911 in Liverpool, England, where 119,000 square feet of radiant walls once graced the Royal Liver Building (the world’s first reinforced-concrete structure). It was a modern marvel at the time, and it lasted for more than 60 years. In this lecture, Dan Holohan, author of dozens of books and hundreds of magazine articles about heating systems, old and new, will take us on tour of radiant systems throughout time, and across the world. Radiant systems are as old as the Romans. These systems heat objects and people without heating the air. They’re very economical and their effect is similar to what we feel on a cold day when we stand in bright sunshine, or when we wait outside under a radiant heater for the valet to bring our car.  Mr. Holohan is a masterful storyteller who combines learning and entertainment in delightful ways. And there’s even some rock-and-roll in this one! 

Friday June 22nd – 6.30 pm, Behind the Scenes with Musician, Composer, and Conductor Gregory Singer.

Renowned musician, composer and conductor, Gregory Singer will discuss different aspects of his distinguished musical career in a rare behind the scenes look at the life of a musician. 

Thursday, June 28th at 6.30 p.m. – Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World with Joshua Freeman

A sweeping, global history of the rise of the factory and its effects on society. We live in a factory-made world: modern life is built on three centuries of advances in factory production, efficiency, and technology. But giant factories have also fueled our fears about the future since their beginnings, when William Blake called them “dark Satanic mills.” Many factories that operated over the last two centuries―such as Homestead, River Rouge, and Foxconn―were known for the labor exploitation and class warfare they engendered, not to mention the environmental devastation caused by factory production from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution up to today.

In a major work of scholarship that is also wonderfully accessible, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks readers from the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution and the factory towns of New England to the colossal steel and car plants of twentieth-century America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and on to today’s behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam.  

2017 Past Labor Lecture Series

A Special Screening and the New York Premiere of Heads, Hands, Hearts – Craftsmanship at Work with Director/Producer Kelly Candaele, a documentary about the lives and work of the men and women who built one of the tallest buildings in the United States took place on  Tuesday, October 3rd at the Library

Tuesday, June 27th at 6.30pm – David R. Capobianco, P.E.,  New NY Bridge Project, A New Bridge Rising

The New NY Bridge to replace the Tappan Zee continues to make rapid progress on the Hudson River. David Capoblanco in his role as Project Manager for the delivery of the Bridge will discuss the development and creation of a state-of-the-art, twin-span replacement for the 3.1-mile Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River.

Thursday, April 13th at 6.30pm – Bill Miller, Gateway to the World: The Great Port of New York

 Renowned expert on ocean liners and maritime history, Bill Miller will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the history and development of the port of New York in “Gateway to the World: The Great Port of New York”. Mr. Miller will explain how the rapid expansion of the port contributed to New York becoming an economic powerhouse. In his comprehensive talk, he will discuss why New York’s harbor is considered to be one of the greatest anywhere, and provide an insightful tour of the Port & its highlights: including the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island; the City’s bridges, ferryboats and skyscrapers; and the ships and ocean liners that visit the Port, both past and present.

Tuesday, May 2nd at 6.30pm – Corey Kilgannon, Behind-the-Scenes with a New York Times Reporter.

Corey Kilgannon has been writing for The New York Times since 1994 when he was a copy boy on the paper. He has been a staff reporter for the Metro Desk since 2000.  As a reporter, he searches for the compelling, quirky and interesting stories about New Yorkers from the 5 boroughs, writing features and his ‘Character Study’ column for the Sunday metropolitan section. Mr. Kilgannon’s job is incredibly varied, meeting New Yorkers from all walks of life, distilling their lives and experiences into engaging and lively features.   Recent stories he has written, that illustrate the diversity of his coverage, include:  a battle between two Crown Heights kosher pizzerias, a forgotten Irish painter’s Brooklyn Renaissance, a hipster cop, and a mom and pop store from Little Italy.  During his presentation, Mr. Kilgannon will talk about his life as a reporter at the Times.

June 7, 2017 at 7pm – Dan Holohan, The Art of Steam Heating: Case Study – The General Society’s Classic Steam System

 Have you ever wondered how steam heating, the standard heating feature, in so many of New York’s older buildings and apartments actually works? In the next labor lecture, Dan Holohan, the world expert on steam heating and author of 19 best-selling books about steam – and hot-water heating will explain the process. In his talk, he will discuss the history, infrastructure, and evolvement of steam heating and in particular its impact on New York City.

Using the General Society Building steam-heating system as a case study (a classic Paul System, popular in New York City during the 1880s) Mr. Holohan will explain the mechanics of how it works.  He will describe how he and the other volunteers in the “steam team” managed to eliminate much of the high-maintenance mechanical equipment that had complicated the General Society heating system and made it inefficient. The end result is an elegant solution that runs on gravity, slight steam pressure, and a few low-maintenance, simple components.

Mr. Holohan was an established speaker and was in high demand on the seminar circuit prior to his retirement in January 2016.  He has agreed to come back for this one off special evening to talk about steam.  More information can be found on Mr. Holohan at

 Please scroll down to see our Labor Lectures from the past 2016 spring – several of these lectures can be viewed on our YouTube Channel

This season’s labor lectures explores different aspects of the urban infrastructure and urban environment of the City.

Tuesday May 3 at 6.30pm – Screening of One Track Mind with Philip Ashforth Coppola and Director Jeremy Workman

Philip Ashforth Coppola has devoted all his free time in the last 40 years to cataloging every station in the New York City subway system. Filmed over the course of four years, One Track Mind is a portrait of a man consumed by a singular obsession. The film, shot almost entirely in the subways using small handheld cameras, is also a loving portrait of a city’s unique artistic idiosyncrasies.

Tuesday, May 17th at 6.30pm – Vertical Urban Factory: The Social and Architectural Shifts of the Urban Factory with Nina Rappaport, Architectural Historian, Curator, and Publications Director, Yale School of Architecture

The architectural historian, Nina Rappaport, will discuss her book Vertical Urban Factory and outline the social and architectural issues of the factory in the productive city, and future scenarios for urban manufacturing. Ms. Rappaport will provide an overview of the innovative architecture of factories and the technologies that guide their design and their impact on labor as well as ways to reintegrate manufacturing into city life. These new paradigms will prove to be more sustainable, self-sufficient, and socially equitable workplaces.

Tuesday, June 7th at 6.30pm – The Works: Anatomy of a City with Kate Ascher, Milstein Professor of Urban Development at Columbia University and Partner, Burohappold Engineering

Using New York City as her point of reference, Kate Ascher in The Works: Anatomy of a City answers questions about the way things work in the modern city. She will discuss her book that focuses on the innovative technologies and physical infrastructure that keep the city working as well as the people who support them: the pilots who bring cargo ships into the harbor, the sandhogs who are currently digging the Third Water Tunnel under Manhattan, the television engineer who scales the Empire State Building’s antenna for routine maintenance, the electrical wizards who maintain the century-old system that delivers power to subways.

Thursday, June 23rd at 6.30pm – Picking Up with Robin Nagle, Anthropologistin-Residence with the Department of Sanitation in New York City and Director, Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program, NYU

The anthropologist Robin Nagle will discuss her book, Picking Up and her experiences inside New York City’s Department of Sanitation, a largely unseen and often unloved army responsible for keeping the city alive. Nagle spent a decade with sanitation people of all ranks to learn what it takes to manage Gotham’s garbage.  Ms. Nagle offers an insider’s perspective on the complex hierarchies, intricate rules, and obscure language unique to this mostly invisible world.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

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