June 8, 2021 By Christina Santucci
A time capsule was buried at the Astoria branch library Monday that will remind those who open it in 25 years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sealed container includes – among other items – a Queens Public Library (QPL) face mask and notes from young patrons. The capsule will tell future residents about what it was like to live during COVID-19—through messages left by students of P.S. 171, which is located at 14-14 29th Ave.
“You will be able to send a message that we persevered after a once and a lifetime pandemic, and we did not just go back to normal – but to a new normal,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards told PS 171 students, who penned letters for the capsule.
Richards and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined library leaders, community members and school children Monday to bury the capsule at the branch, located at 14-01 Astoria Blvd.
“We don’t know exactly what the world will look like in 2046 or what services the library will be providing …but we hope that through our collective efforts, society will be more equitable and inclusive,” QPL President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott Walcott said in a statement.
Monday’s event also marked the QPL’s 125th anniversary.
The Astoria library branch opened its doors in 1904, and is one of four remaining library buildings constructed with funding donated by Andrew Carnegie, Walcott said. The others are Poppenhusen, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven branches.
Besides the mask and students’ messages, the time capsule contains a laminated letter from Walcott, notes from other attendees, a historic photo of the Astoria Library signed by its staff, and a USB flash drive with stories from the Queens Memory Projects, which documented the pandemic and patrons’ memories of the libraries.
“Queens, we did it. We survived a pandemic. We came back stronger,” Richards wrote in his time capsule message.
He also presented a proclamation to library officials commemorating QPL’s 125th anniversary.
Van Bramer, who worked for QPL for more than a decade and is chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, recalled receiving his first library card as a child at the Broadway branch on Steinway Street.
“I get emotional at these events because I’m always coming home when I’m at a library event,” he said.
Van Bramer is running against Richards and former Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley in the Democratic primary for Queens Borough President later this month.
He and Richards exchanged some light-hearted words at the event.
“We have always had an interesting and loving relationship. We continue to have that,” Richards said, with his arm around Van Bramer’s shoulders. “One thing I can say is he is a true believer in libraries.”
Van Bramer noted that he had not hugged many people over the last year and a half.
“I just hugged the person that I am running against, so thank you Donovan for that moment,” he said. “See all things are possible at the Queens Public Library. It brings people together.”
Two fifth-grade salutatorians also read letters during Monday’s event – about how they picture the world in a quarter century.
“Life in 25 years will be great,” student Willian Lema said.
He predicted that by then scientists will have discovered cures for every type of cancer, robots will perform various chores and flying cars will transport people to other countries to see family.
“I see myself in 25 years as a businessman and probably live in a house just for me with a cat. I hope I get paid so I can buy a Tesla and give some money to the poor and my relatives,” Lema said.
The time capsule is slated to be moved to the back of the Astoria building ahead of construction work scheduled to begin late next year. A plaque will then be installed to mark the new location.
The container will later be dug up and opened in 2046.