Last summer, it struck 16-year-old Mark Shinozaki just how quickly the Island around him was changing.
For example, the high school junior says he remembers when the Octagon soccer field was just dirt and Four Freedoms Park didn’t exist. “And I never thought the Island would have a chain store like Subway. I thought it would always just be local shops.
“I started to think, what with the election, and all these different things happening on the Island with the Cornell Tech campus and the ferry, I just thought this was an important moment in our time to record so that, later on, future kids would be able to see what happened and how people lived at this time.”
What the Island needed, he decided, was a time capsule.
Now Shinozaki is teaming up with Adib Mansour, chair of the Children Youth & Education Ad Hoc Committee, and a small group of Island teens to take on the ambitious project. The group hopes to capture what life is like on Roosevelt Island now and explore ideas for what it might be like in 25 years. The goal is to create a time capsule that can be opened in 2043 and be replenished by a new generation of Island youth.
“This project is for the community,” says Shinozaki. “That’s why I wanted to have it done. It’s something I feel like we can all come together and build and then leave for the next generation.”
For Mansour, the project also offers an opportunity to help younger residents engage with the community and gain some essential life skills. “We’re turning it into a leadership project in addition to a time capsule,” he says. Mansour will meet weekly with the group to work on interviewing skills and to brainstorm next steps. “I want them to know their Island. Once they understand how their Island works and what the people who live here have done, their passion for the Island is going to grow tremendously.”
Over the next few months, members of the Roosevelt Island Time Capsule Leadership Project will be working in groups to interview Islanders who might offer an interesting perspective on the Island’s past, present, and future. According to Mansour, younger members will map all of the shops and businesses and then interview shop owners. Older members of the team will research the Island’s history and governance and will interview community members.
“We want to gather as many different people, ethnicities, and backgrounds as possible,” says Adib.
The group is also working with Tad Sudol of Gallery RIVAA to design a monument that will host the finished time capsule. They’ve met with RIOC to discuss possible locations.
“The one thing that surprised me about my little idea was how accepting and open people were to hearing my idea in this community,” Shinozaki says. “Being able to share it at the RIRA meeting and share it with [RIOC President] Susan Rosenthal, and all these other people, I feel like if you were in the City, it would be harder to share your idea. But I think with such an open community and welcoming feeling – forgetting all the different politics on the Island – they had time to listen to what I had to say.”
The other members of the Time Capsule Project include (from top left) Nat Gillespie, Dylan Marfey, Bryan Cusik, Francine Elisaia, Dylan Marfey
Like Shinozaki, 13-year-old Dylan Marfey has grown up on the Island. He says he’s looking forward to interviewing people about their experiences. “I’ve lived here all my life. This Island is always changing and I think it’s a good idea to make a time capsule to capture what Roosevelt Island is and preserve it.” He says he appreciates the freedom that living in a small community gives him, and the fact that people know each other. “Having those boundaries, I think it brings everyone together,” he says.
For Nat Gillespie, the time capsule project offers a chance to understand the Island better. The 13-year-old moved here two years ago from a small town in Ohio.
“I really had a great relationship with everyone there. I really understood the place as a whole,” he says. “I want to understand Roosevelt Island like that. Talking to people about their lives and why they like it here, I think it’ll help me figure out what it means to them, and what it means to me.”
As for what the future may hold, he says he isn’t sure. “I’m hoping for some improvements in the Tram and subway system.”