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Articles By: heinz von eckartsberg

Heinz von Eckartsberg, Writer-New York: Heinz grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and has a master’s degree in urban design from Columbia University. Currently he works with the New York Department of City Planning Brooklyn Office and the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University. A fast walker, he has travelled extensively, from the megablocks of China to a tiny village in Ghana.

Founded in the Bronx in 1937, Gleason’s Gym is a relic among boxing gyms in New York City. Jake LaMotta, Roberto Durán, Benny “Kid” Paret, Gerry Cooney, Mike Tyson, and Muhammad Ali have all trained here. Yet its survival now depends partly upon events like Fight Night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO where in September it took on the NYPD Boxing team for an event that brought out quite an interesting crowd even for New York. Nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge in an old tobacco factory, the setting conjured up images of the old prizefighting venues in the early part of the 20th century. The mixed drinks and smart phones gave it away though it almost had me.


I believe the saying goes “If these walls could talk.”  Well what if they could? What if stories and memories echoed long after we leave a place? To avoid delving into a philosophical nightmare, I am talking about the audio narratives put out by  Broadcastr, a  company that labels itself as “a Social Media platform for location-based stories,” and it really is. But it could also be described as a platform for location-based people, whose curiousity is satisfied by taking a  walk and learning something new.   The goal of Broadcastr is to compile a global archive of narratives. As time passes these voices become relics describing a place long since gone. Its co-founders, Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum see it as nothing short of a revolutionary concept, reviving the lost art of storytelling. Untapped previously covered Broadcastr’s partnership with the 9/11 memorial  and last week I  was able to check out one of their audio narratives across the Brooklyn Bridge with founder Andy Hunter and two of his staffers, Matthew and Sara.

There are two primary ways people can engage the software while out and about:    1) Let’s say you’re walking around the neighborhood you grew up in  and want to share a story about an experience you’ve had there. Using your iPhone or Android, you can record your story and geotag it to the location it took place.  2) If you are walking  through a place that you want to know more about, with the Broadcastr app  turned on, a prompt will tell you when you are close to  a story. You  can then choose to  listen to what others have said about that place.

Using an iPhone for the bridge walk, I opened the Broadcastr App and it immediately recognized  my location.   I hit “yes” and the audio narrative began. It consisted of excerpts  from David McCullough’s book, The Great Bridge.   As I walked along the 127 year old span, I learned about the massive undertaking  of its construction,  the  corruption  that almost doomed  it,  the public’s perception behind it, and how  it is taken care of today.    Naturally, listening to an audio recording is a solitary act between you and the voice in your ear but, as Andy pointed out, it is the only form of sensory engagement where you are not removed from your surrounding environment.   Rather you are able to listen to a place and directly apply that information to what you see.

With partnerships, including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Simon and Schuster, and the Fodor’s Travel Guides, Broadcastr isn’t just aiming for individual participation, but also larger banks of information that can provide an added layer of facts and stories for all.

Run through Prospect Park on a summer afternoon (and I mean the whole park) and you will see Brooklyn. It’s like running through a demographic pie chart of the city with people from every walk of life having picnics, cookouts, music sessions, and of course, playing at least a half a dozen games. Half a century ago and a couple blocks east, a similar throng flocked to a much smaller park to watch one game, baseball.


If you walk in to his shop on 886 Pacific St in Brooklyn without understanding the full scope of what it is, Jimi Gureje will kindly remind you. He will tell you how ten years ago he quit his job as a marketing executive at Verizon and found this building (an old chop shop) falling apart. He wanted to realize his life long passion of creating a boutique for beautiful African dyed, handmade clothing. But that’s just one thread in the amazing tapestry of uses he has created in this space. Bar and social space at night, boutique, classroom, gallery space by day, Jimi even employs young interns from Queens community college to learn the trade of tailoring and his special dying techniques.