NYC's best lecture series and spots
You'll always learn something new at these discussion destinations, featuring big-name celebs, ruminations on science and more nerdy fun.
Wed Oct 5 2011
Each month, host Charles Star welcomes speakers (who have included writers from The New Yorker, The Onion and The Daily Show) to opine on a theme. Presenters are encouraged to get creative with the selected topic; for example, during the "Social Anxiety" program, Jill Stoddard discussed how attempting to restrain bodily functions can lead to worrying. Union Hall, 702 Union St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn (adult-ed.net). Next event: TBA.
Brooklyn Historical Society
While the lectures at this 148-year-old institution focus primarily on topics related to Kings County, the scope of those lectures is no less broad. Recent talks have touched on the borough's diversity and Brooklyn architecture, while discussions about historic cocktail recipes and the Crown Heights riots are on the docket for fall. 128 Pierrepont St at Clinton St, Brooklyn Heights (718-222-4111, brooklynhistory.org). Next event: "The Nineteenth Century Kitchen with Harry Rosenblum," Oct 13 at 7pm; free.
Columbia University professors—from epidemiologists to philosophers—share their expertise at these casual Monday-night talks. Over the course of the month, the salon cycles through four broad disciplines—and unlike attending an actual school, there's no homework. They also encourage drinking in class, as one drink is included in the admission price. Picnic Caf, 2665 Broadway between 101st and 102nd Sts (212-222-8222, picnicmarket.com). Next event: Caf Science: "Over and Out: Augmented Reality and the Future of User Interfaces," Oct 10 at 6pm; $10 (includes one drink).
The Cooper Union, Great Hall
Since it opened in 1858, this grand room has been witness to great moments in American History: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have all spoken there, while organizations like the American Red Cross and NAACP have roots there as well. The Cooper Union will often rent out the space to organizations in need of an auspicious venue for a glitzy event. 7 E 7th St at Third Ave (212-353-4195, cooperunion.edu). Next event: "Educating Students to Lead in a Global Context," Oct 17 at 1pm; free.
CUNY Graduate Center
In 1999 the City University of New York took over what was once the B. Altman Department Store and turned it into a library with three halls in which it holds lectures. The offerings span academic interests ("A Conference Celebrating the Publication of Saul Kripke's Philosophical Troubles"), broad symposia ("9/11 Plus Ten") and talks by notable figures (Calvin Tompkins). 365 Fifth Ave between 34th and 35th Sts (212-817-7170, gc.cuny.edu). Next event: "America's Prison Empire: A Conversation," Oct 13 at 6pm; free.
This 189-seat hall at the Brooklyn Public Library's flagship branch opened in 2007, and since then it has featured book talks from borough residents and hosted globe-trotting journalists. The center also holds live music and film screenings. Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, 10 Grand Army Plaza at Flatbush Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-2100, brooklynpubliclibrary.org/dweck). Next event: "Propagandize or Revise? Howard Zinn and the Historian's Duty to the Nation," Oct 13 at 7pm; free.
If your politics lean left of center or you're a fan of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, hit one of the events at this storefront space. The New York chapter of the Freedom Socialist Party programs talks that may seem revolutionary in title, but are quite civil in person. The space also hosts the Radical Women discussion series. 113 W 128th St at Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave) (212-222-0633, socialism.com). Next event: TBA.
Live from the NYPL
The 100-plus-year-old institution has no problem drawing top-tier artistic talent for its series of talks, curated and often moderated by Paul Holdengrber, the library's director of public programming. For future talks, the likes of Diane Keaton, Joan Didion, Tom Brokaw and Russell Simmons will grace the stage. New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Ave at 42nd St (917-275-6975, nypl.org). Next event: John Lithgow in conversation with Bill Moyers, Oct 11 at 7pm; $25; seniors, students and members $15.
Museum of the City of New York
The institution covers all aspects of city history with its public programs, which run the gamut from family-friendly talks on skyscrapers to discussions on the lives of famous New Yorkers. 1220 Fifth Ave between 103rd and 104th Sts (212-534-1672, mcny.org). Next event: "Patriotism, Belonging and Money," Oct 6 at 6:30pm; $12, seniors and students $8, members $6.
This series, which has chapters in more than two dozen cities worldwide, invites brainiacs to hold forth on a range of topics—from the science of motorcycle racing to the rise of infographics. Don't sit there idly though; the talks are often preceded by a trivia competition, where you'll be able to match wits with fellow geeks. Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main St at Water St, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-222-8500, galapagosartspace.com). Next event: Oct 14 at 8:15pm (trivia at 6:30pm); $14, presentation only $10.