The Story of the BQE


The Story of the BQE, to be produced by the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) in partnership with the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate, is an online repository of oral histories of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), a 35-mile-long decaying and divisive piece of urban infrastructure. Through The Story of the BQE, the IPA is partnering with Brooklyn and Queens-based youth organizations all along the BQE corridor to provide opportunities for those impacted by the BQE to preserve memories of their lives, community, and stories of living alongside it.

Partnering organizations will receive special resources, including a short documentary about the BQE by Segregation by Design, and training from facilitators to assist them in incorporating the interview model into their existing programs. StoryCorps veterans Mitra Bonshahi and Adriana Gallardo will facilitate intergenerational 40-minute audio interviews with participants, including students and their parents, grandparents, and/or neighbors. Interviews recorded with The Story of the BQE will be available online and a corridor-wide community listening event will be held at the conclusion of the project to share these stories to a wider audience in New York City and beyond.

The Story of the BQE continues the IPA’s ongoing effort, since 2020, to help raise public awareness of the historical exclusion of disadvantaged communities in decision-making about their physical space and highlight the institutional segregation and environmental impacts created by the highway. The project will facilitate opportunities for communities to express their visions for the future of neighborhoods near the BQE and empower the next generation of civic leaders to have a voice in making decisions about their neighborhood, community district, and city.

If you or someone you know has stories to tell about growing up near the highway, please reach out to

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Free Public Screening

Join us on June 17th at 6:30pm for the first public screening of The Story of the BQE at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Williamsburg.

The Story of the BQE is a documentary tracing the history of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) by Adam Paul Susaneck of Segregation by Design and produced by the Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) and NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate. Using archival footage and photography, this 30 minute mini-documentary shows how the construction of the 35-mile-long BQE demolished historic neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, divided communities, and displaced hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers across the two boroughs. The screening will include a brief Q&A with Adam Paul Susaneck as well as audio excepts from The Story of the BQE oral history project. This event is free and open to the public with registration. Refreshments will be served.  

It’s now been 70 years since the highway was completed and its age is showing. Now is the perfect time to reimagine the BQE and repair the damage it continues to inflict on the community.

–Segregation by Design 


The project is supported, in part, by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate and private donations.


About the IPA

The Institute for Public Architecture, based in the historic Block House on Governors Island, uses design to address social, physical, and environmental inequities in the city through its signature Selected Topic Fellowship and Independent Project Residency programs, and related public lectures, symposia, exhibits, and publications.  For more information, contact:

Oral History Facilitators

Mitra Bonshahi is an editor and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to making films, Mitra edits everything from short docs, web series, and commercial projects.  When she’s not working in the visual medium, Mitra produces radio stories for several podcasts including Latino USA and StoryCorps. She holds a MA in Media Studies from The New School.
Adriana Gallardo is a journalist and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. She covers gender for ProPublica, a national investigative newsroom, and teaches at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Previously, she spent over a decade working in public media, including as a traveling facilitator for StoryCorps, an oral history project dedicated to preserving the stories of everyday Americans.

Urban Historian

Adam Paul Susaneck is the founder of Segregation by Design (SBD), a project using data and remastered historical photography to document the destruction of communities of color in cities across the United States. Adam has a Masters of Architecture from Columbia University and is pursuing a Ph.D in architecture and the built environment at the Delft University of Technology.

IPA Fellows

Catherine Ahn is an architectural designer and researcher, based in New York and Seoul, whose work intersects materials studies, ecology, and social infrastructure. She was a 2020 IPA Fellow, developing ideas for sustainable manufacturing hubs along Newtown Creek, as part of the BQE! team.
David Cunningham is an architect and educator with a practice in Brooklyn. He was a 2022 IPA Fellow, working on Prospect Trace, a project to transform the Prospect Expressway from a noisy, dangerous and polluted utilitarian corridor that is strictly vehicular into a welcoming civic space.
Marcus Wilford, a Brooklyn-raised architect born in Trinidad & Tobago, is an experienced designer of socially just, ecologically conscious spaces. He was a 2020 IPA Fellow on NYC LOOP, using a portion of the BQE Right of Way as a new mass transit line from Jackson Heights to Downtown Brooklyn, reducing commute times and increasing job accessibility.
Severn Clay-Youman is an architect living and working in Brooklyn. He was a 2022 IPA Fellow, working on Prospect Trace, a project to transform the Prospect Expressway from a noisy, dangerous and polluted utilitarian corridor that is strictly vehicular into a welcoming civic space.

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