Mar 13, 2017
The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture 2017
Photos by: Jane Bruce, Daniel Dorsa, Nicole Fara Silver, & Maggie Shannon.
Cookbook Author, Podcaster
Nicole wrote The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen and started the podcast “Hot Grease” after moving to Brooklyn from Georgia — the food Taylor shares both nods to and reinvents the south’s culinary traditions.
Maison Premiere and Sauvage
It’s hard to top a James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program, but after building a menu of absinthe-based libations at Maison Premiere, Will is introducing Americans to Europe’s low ABV aperitifs at Sauvage.
Devin Shomaker is the first person anywhere to introduce commercially viable viticulture to rooftop farming, right here at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This year his three-year-old company will produce dozens of cases of Brooklyn’s first rooftop-grown wine.
Greene Grape Provisions
Lena Diaz is a leader among those interested in supporting and eating more ethically raised meat, poultry, and fish. Known locally as the “meat mayor,” Diaz draws a devout following and eager students who care about creating a community that supports healthier systems of food.
It was during her time as an art history student that she found herself totally besotted with the energy of the kitchen: after a stint at Spaggia, she’s now a Michelin-starred chef and owner of her very own restaurant.
Rachel van Dolsen
RVD Communications, which specializes in personalized PR and social strategy, has been rapidly rising since Rachel started it from her Williamsburg apartment five years ago.
Brooklyn Food Works
Drew’s small business incubator provides unprecedented access to the formidable Brooklyn food industry, and many resident fledgling companies are female- and minority-owned.
Samuel Richardson & Matt Monahan
Other Half Brewing Company
Sam and Matt’s complex, constantly rotating roster of brews (crafted from a mix-and-match hop set list, such as Mosaic, Simcoe and Wai-Iti) have what it takes to pair with anything from a plastic basket of chicken wings to a high-end tasting progression.
Dekalb Market Hall
Rather than drawing from the same old crew of familiar market faces for Dekalb Market Hall, Anna sought out vendors with borough-specific footprints, from Hard Times Sundaes to Lioni Italian Heroes to Fletcher’s BBQ—truly home-ground eats.
With the advent of automation, wheat is one of the first small farmer-grown crops to die out: Kevin’s intent on helping America reclaim its mantle as breadbasket of the world at his restaurant, Faro.
Tinyfield Rooftops Farm
Keely is the first person anywhere to introduce hops to the practice of urban rooftop farming—important in New York where micro brewing is more popular than ever. Growing hops—a crucial ingredient in good-tasting beer—on the rooftop of the Pfizer building, she brings the practice of local beer brewing that much closer to home.
Museum of Food & Drink
Comprised of immersive, hands-on exhibits, MOFAD is dedicated to advancing public understanding of the history, science, production and commerce of comestibles, and Emma is the woman behind the curtain.
Good food does not have to be snooty. That is what Aaron Foster has taught us since opening Foster Sundry in Bushwick. After spending half his life in the grocery business (including as head cheese buyer at Murray’s), he has introduced his community to the best quality meats, shelf stable products, cheese, beer, and more—especially for the price—by mining his own deep network of ethical and dedicated producers worldwide.
Andrew Carter & Adam DeMartino
Operating out of a facility constructed entirely of shipping containers, Smallhold manufactures miniature vertical farm units, which produce 40 times the output per square foot of a traditional farm with 96% less water usage.
The New Yorker
Hua is Associate Professor at Vassar and writes on everyone and everything, for quite a few outlets; he’s also on the Board of Directors for the Asian American Writer’s Workshop.
While notable for his very active—and very funny—presence on Twitter, Torre is perhaps most adulated for his in-depth profiles for ESPN on sports stars like James Harden and Manny Pacquiao.
Gabe organizes the annual Comic Arts Brooklyn festival. Most recently, he made a special protest zine called RESIST! with guest editor Françoise Mouly, which was distributed nationally at Women’s Marches.
New York Daily News
Shaun has long used his social platforms and editorial voice to amplify social justice issues and corruption in our government and police forces; he’s a must-follow for activists committed to racial justice.
The New Yorker
Vinson’s work is methodical, sweet, and very sincere—it doesn’t seem like a stretch to describe him the same way.
At the crux of Camille’s ideology is the belief that literature can be the platform upon which the voices of those who have been marginalized, demonized or oppressed can be heard: she aims to do everything in her power to facilitate that.
Emily makes being a librarian look glamorous. It may be 2017, but the work of helping people learn to think about information critically is more important than ever.
Brooklyn’s Poet Laureate
Tina was the first woman to be named Poet Laureate of Brooklyn! About time. In addition to bringing poetry to every corner of Brooklyn, she’s organizing literary leaders for political action.
The New York Times
Nikole has single-handedly broken open the story of contemporary school segregation—her work is unstinting, urgent, and deeply considered.
The near future will see Greenman drop another collaboration with Questlove (following Something to Food About) as well as a book on Prince, the dearly-departed funk-soul superstar.
Gregory is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, faculty at Rutgers University-Camden, and associate editor at Callaloo. He’s also a father, a subject he tackles regularly in his writing.
Well-Read Black Girl
Glory doesn’t stop. When she’s not planning the next meeting of her fire-emoji book club, she’s planning her next high-profile collaboration with cultural institutions across New York.
Words After War
Maxwell’s a man of many hats, including self-proclaimed perpetual teenager and non-profit miracle worker. His acumen in both the business and passion side of artistic projects keeps him at the center of Brooklyn’s artistic pulse.
Hal programs talent like Toni Morrison, Orhan Pamuk and Svetlana Alexievich at this Park Slope haunt: with an eye toward garnering a more international range of authors for future events, he’s sure to keep the shelves stacked and the seats full this coming year.
Jacqueline’s National Book Award-winning memoir-in-poems, Brown Girl Dreaming, as well as her recent novel, Another Brooklyn, are perfect distillations of her vision: generous, lyrical, clear-eyed.
Alice Sola Kim
The phrase “friend crush” was invented for Alice, a person both brilliant and kind, a person who is a delight merely to watch, whether it’s her mind on the page or (if you’re lucky) doing “Don’t Tell Mama” at karaoke.
Tony’s debut novel, Private Citizens, is merciless—if also very funny—in its treatment of four Stanford grads living in San Francisco in the late aughts, fat with privilege but starved of sense.
Currently a Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellow at the New York Public Library, Angela’s debut novel, The Turner House, was nominated for a National Book Award.
Franklin Park Read Series
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Penina Roth is the heart of literary Brooklyn, and as discerning a reader as she is a welcoming community member.
Shani O. Hilton
As head of one of the youngest and most diverse newsrooms in the nation, Shani is as well known for the great work BuzzFeed has published as for the extraordinary talent she has helped incubate.
The New York Times
As a critic-at-large for the Times, Morris weighs in on anything from the art, music, and television worlds: actually, if you can think of it, Morris can critique it.
Cave Canem is a home for the underrepresented voices of African American poetry: Nicole’s commitment to working in the service of black artists furthers the organization’s position as an incubator and enclave for the community.
The Great Discontent
Tina has spoken to more than 200 subjects about what it’s like to pursue a career in creative fields since the launch of The Great Discontent in 2011.
After her scathing Teen Vogue piece on Trump/gaslighting, Lauren took on Tucker Carlson, appeared on CNN, and chatted with Chelsea. What’s next? “Meetings in L.A.” to “develop projects,” of course.
There’s a fullness about Parris—an acceptance of pain and love existing at the same time—that would otherwise, in someone else, in a different profession, be confused with naivete. But Parris is a genius, and the way he captures love is exceptional.
Comedian, Host of “Sooo Many White Guys”
If there is one thing the world doesn’t necessarily need to double down on, it’s the promotion white male voices. With her podcast, Phoebe Robinson has created a platform for every other kind of voice through in-depth conversations with some of her favorite heroic voices: Think Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, and Nia Long.
Blending fearlessness, self-expression and an indulgence of color, Sussi is a reminder of why people come to New York: to live the dream of themselves and to find community.
Monica Mirabile & Sigrid Lauren
Fluct Dance Troupe
As best friends and dance partners, Monica and Sigrid’s process blends the physical, intellectual and emotional intellect of dance on a daily basis.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
As @museummammy on Instagram, Kim Drew has tapped into the cultural thirst for black art. This year saw her appearing everywhere from the jury at Berlinale to the pages of Glamour, interviewing Alicia Keys.
Choreographer & Interdisciplinary Artist
Ni’Ja’s work as a choreographer and dancer is intense, beautiful, and political. A Meditation on Tongues, which premiered at American Realness, will be touring this year.
Clara Darrason & Jennifer Houdrouge
Per the owner’s self-directive, every artist shown at The Chimney has a passport from outside the U.S. This past year, Ukrainian, Iranian, and Colombian artists (among many other nationalities) were featured.
Otion Front Studio
If you’ve ever wondered where sound, psychology and dance intersect, look no further than Sarah. Her recent work, Authority Figure, is a social psychology experiment.
Dancer & Choreographer
Born in Senegal, Wiles has created his own style of ballroom dance, “AfrikFusion,” which combines traditional African dances, Afrobeat styles, House dance and Vogue.
In an age of confusion, Janna Levin remains a bastion of truth, innovation, and levity (but sometimes black holes—she just published Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space).
Konstance particularly loves to work with lost wax techniques in bronze casting—she also loves to collaborate with the community to create mural works. She is Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School.
Dr. Nadia Lopez
Brownsville Elementary School
Crown Heights native and author Dr. Nadia Lopez is shaking up the educational system in disenfranchised Brooklyn communities. Through one on one attention and by engaging in community initiatives, she is continuously nudging students to higher achievements, and showing them the full possibilities of their futures.
In 1999, Shelley Worrell founded CaribBEING: Through its arts and culture programming (and a new solar-powered CaribBEING hub at Flatbush Caton Market), Shelley’s work celebrates and preserves the diverse and strong heritage of Caribbean countries in Brooklyn.
Paul Steely White
Paul and his organization are on the forefront of protecting bikers’ rights (their lives!), and building a better city for all of us.
Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment
Kenneth ensures that NYC remains one of the film production capitals of the world. But it’s more than just guaranteeing a steady diet of celebrity sightings: Kenneth works to improve diversity on and off camera and promotes sustainable film and television practices.
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Tracey empowers Bed-Stuy residents to seek more meaningful employment, healthier food and lifestyle options and crucial social services—under her watch, over 1,500 local children have access to healthy foods at a critical time in their development.
It’s safe to say that Coney Island’s nostalgic glory wouldn’t be possible without its biggest advocate: Dick. He’s a playwright within a community of circus freaks and tattooed geeks.
New York Communities For Change
A born organizer, Ashaina has always had a knack for uniting people: she brings people together and helps provide them with the tools they need to be empowered.
Monique ‘Mo’ George
Picture the Homeless
Under Mo’s leadership—and with the assistance of current or formerly homeless people—Picture the Homeless will continue to pursue its mission to provide access to housing, combat police brutality, and challenge media stigmas of homeless people.
Brooklyn Arbor School
Sara won the 2016-17 Big Apple Award for outstanding work in the classroom—she teaches fourth grade Spanish-English—and continues to be a strong voice for equal rights for low-income students in NYC.
Dr. Karthikeyan Arcot
MD, Interventional Neurology
Dr. Karthikeyan is a true bastion of integrity and compassion in the field of Interventional Neurology, having dedicated the last decade of his life to helping those afflicted with devastating conditions such as stroke and ruptured brain aneurysms.
350 stands for the concentration (in parts per million) of carbon dioxide that our atmosphere can hold before climate change begins— currently, we’re at 400. May started 350.org as an undergraduate with six college friends, along with author and activist Bill McKibben, to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and champion greener forms of energy.
Vincent founded BARCSHELTER in 1987, when he saw the need to help shelter unwanted and abandoned animals in Brooklyn—the most rewarding part of his job is still saving those beautiful little creatures.
Stephen represents and fights for the concerns and needs of residents from Bed Stuy to DUMBO. As Chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, Levin advocates for children, the hungry, the homeless, and other vulnerable members of the community.
Make the Road New York
These days, Jose is busy with #ResistTrump work: MRNY builds the power of Latino and working class communities through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services.
Seymour W. James
The Legal Aid Society in New York City
Seymour is a true bulwark against injustice in Brooklyn and beyond. As the primary indigent defender in the city and creator of the largest public defender organization in the country, he’s responsible for numerous criminal justice reforms.
Elizabeth C. Yeampierre
At the onset of her professional career, Elizabeth saw that communities of color would be the most impacted by climate change, and so she felt compelled to commit her life’s work to environmental justice.
The fate of hoops in Brooklyn lie on his 6-foot-1 shoulders: it’ll take some time as the team works through a rebuild, but Kenny’s the kind of young coach that could grow alongside the team.
Drawn to justice, Steve trains aspiring lawyers to be defenders of human rights and social justice. Alongside the Immigrant & Refugee Rights Clinic, Steve assists with CUNY CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility).
Park Church Co-Op
Under Amy’s leadership, this Greenpoint church has attracted a vibrant and artistic membership. Through candle-lit services, film screenings, and other events, it’s become a beacon for the neighborhood.
Mandatory Paid Parental Leave Activist
When Amber Scorah’s son Karl died on his first day in day care, Amber took up the fight of her life: Advocating for paid parental leave beyond 12 weeks. Since then, Amber has organized across party lines to improve one of the country’s most pressing children’s health issues.
You know him from Parks and Rec, Girls, and truTV’s Jon Glaser Loves Gear—lately, he’s been hard at work on the second season of Neon Joe, which will air this summer on Adult Swim.
All In With Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes wanted a career in theater but got into journalism by writing for an alternative newspaper in Chicago while waiting tables. Today, the combination of his frighteningly quick mind and easy manner provides us all with an easily digestible guidepost for digesting our often distressing and complex daily news.
Alamo Drafthouse NYC
Cristina’s in charge of planning screenings and events for the biggest eat-in theatre—our newest obsession—in New York.
As the lines that separate television, movies and digital content began to blur with increasing rapidity, Tim felt that there had to be a way to preserve the magic of the movie-going experience—that’s how Syndicated was born.
On top of creating and writing Brooklynification, Chris is also full-time general counsel for an adtech company and sits on the board at Reel Works, a Brooklyn nonprofit that teaches teens filmmaking.
The Daily Show
A former antitrust lawyer, Kashana hasn’t met a genre she didn’t like: her fiction, humor, and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic, and Tin House.
Performer, Writer, & Comedian
Fort Greene resident Natasha Vaynblat is a heavy weight UCB improviser and writer, who does all kinds of videos for IFC, Above Average, and UCB. Currently, she’s really shining in the world of fashion–kind of: Her Instagram, Natasha Wears Clothes, is a humorous take on the cut-throat world of fashion, and the ideals we think we should ascribe to within it.
Jimmy’s about as real as they come: he owns one of the most legit metal spots in New York City. At Duff’s, there’s metal on the juke box, they’ve hosted Slayer, and there’s always a hearse parked out front.
The Lot Radio
Francois is a throwback to an almost completely vanished NYC, where radio was king, and where people did creative things that brought joy to others—even without a super clear way to make money.
With co-founder Amanda Pitts, Hector represents a diverse slate of our most influential musicians, from Modest Mouse to Sea Lion to Sinkane.
Emma, Frankie, & Christine
These three beautiful brains created Discwoman, a collective and booking agency that represents and showcases cis women, trans women and genderqueer talent in electronic music.
Being in charge of video at one of the biggest musical companies around sounds like a daunting challenge, but Regina knows the responsibilities and perks of the jobs are well worth it.
Nate Shaw & Peira Moinester
Brooklyn Music Factory
We rely on music for happiness, yet many of us were introduced to it through painful lessons when we were little. Nate Shaw and Peira Moinester are making waves in Brooklyn music education by transforming by turning it into play, for the entire family. The students that leave their tutelage think of music in terms of community and fun, first and foremost.
This PR powerhouse spends the bulk of her day securing coverage for the label’s roster of seasoned vets like Cat Power and up-and-comers like Julien Baker. In the midst of a changing digital landscape, Shira remains hopeful for the future of her developing artists.
Fort William Artist Management
Before Fort William, Ami worked with Best Coast and the Postal Service at Zeitgeist management; now, her clients include The War On Drugs, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, and Beirut.
How do some of the most talented artists and musicians get their music in front of new audiences? With help from people like Stephanie, who previously worked for DIY juggernaut Glasslands (RIP).
Yildiz published We’ve Come So Far: The Last Days Of Death By Audio, a beautiful book celebrating the very full life of one of Brooklyn’s most beloved music venues.
Le Poisson Rouge
Rachael is particularly proud of her work as music curator and producer of the female collaborative concert series The Hum, but in all her work, Pazdan is intent on harnessing the hunger for live music and the electricity it yields.
Corinne Wainer & Shauny Lamba
SHAKTIBARRE in Williamsburg emphasizes a more inclusive, holistic, and affordable approach to yoga and yoga-barre classes than the typical (and prohibitive) upper middle class (and very white) approach to it. Next spring, Corinne and Shany will launch programs for local students, with an emphasis on empowering the feminine in everyone-—male and female.
Dave’s brainchild, New Lab, is a making space, workshop, and co-working space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. An active real estate developer, he’s also the Founder and Managing Principal of Macro Sea and DBI.
Matthew Burnett & Tanya Menendez
From concept to final product, Matthew and Tanya are both committed to seeing that every maker’s dreams come true, from concept to final product.
Thanks to Miki, not only do we have hilarious subway ads, we have magical underwear—and our views on grapefruit are forever altered (for the better).
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