FBSP creator Bridget Bartolini grew up hearing her grandparents’ stories of living in the bustling tenements of the Upper East Side, where people raised pigs in their apartments and lit bonfires in the street, until the rising cost of living drove them to one of the furthest corners of the city: South Richmond Hill, Queens – “the boonies,” where the quiet kept them up at night. Her family has stayed there till this day, and like all long-time New Yorkers, have seen enormous changes to the neighborhood and the city.
Growing up in South Richmond Hill, an area that’s culturally rich but deprived of public resources, Bridget learned that “making it” meant getting out. Achieving success, and even having fun, was oriented towards Manhattan. But why?
Inspired by family stories of the old neighborhoods and her love of New York City, frustrated by negative stereotypes about the outer boroughs and the inequitable distribution of resources in the city, and motivated by her belief in the power of storytelling to connect people, Bridget began organizing community events under the Five Boro Story Project to create a platform for neighbors to come together and define our neighborhoods in our own terms, highlighting all there is to appreciate in the people and places that make up our homes.
When we launched in 2013, our emphasis was on producing fun, culturally enriching public programs. The Five Boro Story Project has continued to evolve and grow, exploring ways to use storytelling to advance social justice and equity across neighborhoods, and love within neighborhoods. Today we strive to amplify important stories of grassroots activists and community organizers, build solidarity with neighbors, and help New Yorkers imagine new futures.
What We Do
The Five Boro Story Project produces free, live storytelling programs (from small workshops to large events) that bring New Yorkers together through sharing true stories and art inspired by our neighborhoods. We travel throughout the five boroughs, build partnerships with amazing people and community organizations, hold story-sharing workshops, curate performances by local artists and residents who have strong pieces about the neighborhood, and invite community members to share their own stories and art through open mics, story circles, and other participatory activities.
Since launching in April 2013, the Five Boro Story Project has brought New Yorkers together for celebrations of our neighborhoods from Jackson Heights to Washington Heights, from Sunset Park to Park Slope, from Stapleton to the South Bronx. Our free, hyper-localized public programs create opportunities to connect to our neighborhoods and our neighbors through stories, song, poetry, dance, film, and discussion about the places where we live. The programs aim to strengthen community connections, preserve personal narratives, challenge negative perceptions of the outer boroughs and marginalized areas, resist erosion of local history and culture, and celebrate the diverse neighborhoods and people of NYC.