As a part of our ongoing Moment As Memory programming series, the Friends of the Leonard Library are pleased to bring together this panel of Brooklyn history heavyweights with artist Amy Lyons for a timely conversation about preserving Williamsburg history. Historians Geoff Cobb, Ron Schweiger, Riccardo Gomes and Brian Merlis will present selections from their work, then converse together over the role of artists and historians in fostering interest and spurring dialog about history in the face of rapid community change.

Amy's recent work depicting scenes of Williamsburg, as it would have appeared in Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, drew heavily on the work of these four Brooklyn historians. Two of her paintings are now on permanent display in the Children's Wing of the Leonard Library.

Williamsburg History Panel, Clockwise from left: Cobb, Schweiger, Gomes and  Merlis
Clockwise from left Geoff Cobb, Ron Schweiger, Riccardo Gomes and Brian Merlis


  • Painter Amy Lyons moved to Brooklyn from Pittsburgh in 1999 and found herself quickly at home amidst Williamsburg's backdrop of riverfront industrial ruins and row houses. She has since worked in motion pictures, television and Broadway as a professional, union scene painter, but her project for the last five years has been researching local history and urban development and weaving these themes into her art. 
  • Geoff Cobb, who has previously published two books on Greenpoint history, Greenpoint's Forgotten Past and The King of Greenpoint, will discuss his most recent work The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King, a neighborhood history of Williamsburg centered on what eventually became known as Domino Refinery beween betwen the years 1844 and 1909.
  • Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger will provide history from 1802, when farmland was purchased by Richard Woodhull in order to develop the village that became Williamsburg. He will focus on the immigrants who developed the industries and breweries, the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge and the influx of the Hasidic Jewish community.
  • Riccardo Gomes was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. A twenty-five year Wall Street veteran, he now hosts The East New York Project, dedicated to the history of the neighborhood. He has co-authored four photographic histories of Brooklyn neighborhoods with Brian Merlis.
  • A noted authority on the history of his native borough, Brooklyn-born Brian Merlis has written or co-authored nearly thirty books about New York City history. He has amassed one of the largest private collections of photographs, maps, and documentary artifacts related to the area of his expertise.


Presentations and panel discussion will be followed by audience Q&A and signing!


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