Saturday, May 20, 2023

New York Harbor School
on Governors Island,
New York City

︎︎︎ See Speaker Bios
︎︎︎ View Recording

BQE 2053
Towards a Decarbonized Sustainable
Multi-Modal Transportation Network


On Saturday May 20 2023, the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) hosted a full-day symposium, free and open to the public at the Harbor School on Governors Island. Read about the event below:

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is crumbling, and federal funding is on the table for repairs, but what about radically reconsidering the entire divisive and polluting highway? How can we use this opportunity to mitigate climate change, redress historic environmental injustice, and significantly improve quality of life for all New Yorkers? These and other questions will be addressed in a series of panels on highway removal, alternative transportation systems, community land trusts, and visions for the future, led by experts and community members.

Four diverse panels will focus attention on community engagement in deciding the future development of a potential ‘land bank’ between existing neighborhoods and a radically re-imagined Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE). If the BQE, with freight moved to rail and water, were to become a tree-lined narrower boulevard rather than a trenched or elevated highway, what would communities want to do with this newly available ‘land bank’ in the threshold between their vibrant existing neighborhoods and a de-carbonized sustainable multi-modal transportation network?

Supported in part by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the IPA BQE 2053 Symposium will bring all voices to the table, including government agencies, elected officials, policy makers, transportation, housing, and climate experts, and residents of Brooklyn and Queens, propelling this important conversation about the future of New York City to the forefront.

︎︎︎ See Speaker Bios
︎︎︎ View Recording


The Symposium included a morning session and afternoon session with a 75 minute lunch break. Speaker presentations were followed by a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A session. Panel moderators are indicated in bold. 

Check-In Open at the Harbor School
Welcome & Keynote
Jeffrey Chetirko
Clare Newman
Antonio Reynoso
Panel 1: Mr. Biden, Take Down this Highway!
Marc Norman
Adam Paul Susaneck
Alexander Levine & Nilka Martell
Dan Wiley
Marshall Foster
Morning Remarks
Michael Kimmelman
Panel 2: Community Voices – BQE 2053
Claudia Herasme
Karen Blondel
Quincy Phillip & Kiyana Slade
Noely Reyes
Cynthia McLaughlin
Daniela Castillo
Diana Reyna

Lunch Break
Afternoon Remarks
Hank Gutman
Panel 3: What is a Decarbonized Sustainable Multi-Modal Transportation Network?
Tiffany-Ann Taylor
Diniece Mendes
Walter Hook
Zabe Bent
Yonah Freemark

Panel 4: Who Decides?
Elizabeth Goldstein
David McCarty
Thad Pawlowski
Monxo Lopez
Andrew Sell

Closing Remarks


Institute for Public Architecture BQE Fellowships

The Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE), built by Robert Moses in the 1950s, has been slowly falling apart. Decades of deferred maintenance have contributed to the need for an enormous and expensive repair project. While local community groups have been advocating for a holistic rethinking of the BQE corridor for years, the recently passed federal infrastructure bills, which include over $4 billion for reconnecting communities negatively affected by urban highways, have provided impetus for the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) to look to securing federal funding for repairs of the crumbling BQE. In Fall 2022, the NYC DOT began a strategic review of the BQE corridor in order to ‘move quickly towards a long-term fix’ for the BQE, with a focus on repairs, rather than a radical re-thinking.

The IPA investigation into what can be done with this aging piece of Moses infrastructure asks: How can we possibly justify pouring billions of dollars into merely repairing the BQE? Moreover, how can we use this “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to radically rethink the highway altogether and, in the process, mitigate climate change, redress historic environmental injustice, and significantly improve quality of life for all New Yorkers?

In 2020, IPA ‘To Be or Not to BQE’ Fellows developed alternative futures for the decaying roadway, including pragmatic solutions such as diverting truck traffic to rail and maritime routes, as well as visionary proposals such as reforesting the entire length of the highway. In 2022, IPA ‘Reconnecting Communities Across the BQE’ Fellows expanded the exploration through engagement with stakeholders in communities along the BQE, working with maps and animations produced by Segregation by Design.

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About the IPA

The Institute for Public Architecture, based in the historic Block House on Governors Island, uses design to address social and physical inequities in the city through our signature Fall Fellowship and Summer Residency programs, and related public lectures, exhibits, and publications.

For more information contact: or visit our main website.

Institute for Public Architecture
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New York, NY 10003