GN resident’s passion for conversation comes to peninsula

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GN resident’s passion for conversation comes to peninsula
Keith Fishenfeld (left) and Ronald Gross (right) at the Bond Street Conversation Station in Great Neck. (Photo courtesy of Ronald Gross)

For 15 years longtime Great Neck resident Ronald Gross has engaged in a variety of conversations with countless numbers of New Yorkers and has yet to grow tired of it.

Gross is the founder of Conversations New York, a volunteer group that hosts various meet-ups throughout Bryant Park in Manhattan and now Great Neck, encouraging people to partake in lively discussions. Gross said the benefit of starting this group and having it run for so long is not only the connections made, but how the world becomes a more interesting place.

The conversations, he said, range from structured discussions on literature, arts, music, and politics to casual sidewalk talk over a cup of coffee.

“If there’s somebody passing by who would like to have a conversation or make arrangements with friends to come and meet at one of these locations and know they have a place for a friendly talk, they can do so,” Gross told Blank Slate Media.

The Great Neck conversation stations, marked by bright green signs, are located on Bond Street, Grace Avenue, Station Plaza, Maple Road and Middle Neck Road. Gross jokingly said people may view him as the “local nut talking when he isn’t talked to,” but he expressed a sincere desire for learning and conversing with others every day.

“When I go out, I smile at each person who I walk past and it’s great to see so many people look back and have a smile on their face,” Gross said. Participants in the conversations, he said, have come back to him saying that simply taking part in these discussions have completely changed their lives.

Gross, a co-chair for Columbia’s University Seminar on Innovation in Education, is also a published author. His fascination with the philosopher Socrates, he said, sparked the creation of the group.

In Gross’s book, “Socrates’ Way: Seven Keys to Using Your Mind to the Utmost,” he references how the famed philosopher’s most enjoyable and rewarding way to spend his time was by talking to people on the street. He has also incorporated Socrates’ work into the conversational aspect of the group by hosting sessions called “Socrates Salon,” the next one to be held virtually on Sept. 13 and centered around what eating means in one’s life.

Gross also touched on two other books, “The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World” and “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World” for his discussions.

For questions on how to get involved or participate in future discussions, Gross encourages people to reach out via email at: [email protected] and to visit conversationsnewyork.com.

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