Premiere of NYC History Films

NYC History Film Festival

Three student-produced films premiered at the New York City History Film Festival at Poly on January 18.

Students, families, and friends attended in person in the library or virtually to view the three 10-minute films created in Upper School history teacher Elijah Sivin’s class New York City History.

According to Sivin, the students “were obligated to discuss history and they needed to make an argument in their film.” Sivin introduced Joe Brooks from Community Works Institute and Emily Keating from the Kunhardt Film Foundation, who attended the premiere virtually. Brooks and Keating mentored the students through the process of creating their films.

Elijah Sivin

Keating congratulated the students and said she was incredibly impressed with their films. To parents, she said, “These are brand new tools that students have put to work.” She added, “Mr. Sivin is teaching students the way they are best served today.”

“It was a privilege to get a bird’s eye view,” Brooks said, “watching students put together films that matter.” Brooks also applauded Sivin’s “approach to student empowerment.”

Three Unique NYC Stories

A Neighborhood Divided – Crown Heights

Zach Pelson ’24, Terrel Hood Simeon ’23, Myka Modeste ’23, Luca Acheson ’23

Produced by:
Zach Pelson ’24
Terrel Hood Simeon ’23
Myka Modeste  ’23
Luca Acheson ’23 
Editor: Zach Pelson ’24
Voice Over: Terrell Hood Simeon ’23

A Neighborhood Divided - Crown Heights

Is New York City really integrated? This was one of the questions raised by A Neighborhood Divided. Through interviews with Rabbi Eli Cohen, Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, Debra Young, and Professor Philip Kazinitz, students examined the neighborhood of Crown Heights with its population of Hasidic and African American residents. One interviewee explained, “You are daily living surrounded by people you don’t know.”

Effects of Climate Change on NYC

Produced and Edited by:
Teddy Stoldt ’24
Abby Contessa ’23
Kason Sabazan-Chambers ’24
Ro Unis ’24

Effects of Climate Change on NYC Rockaway Beach

Jeanne DuPont, founder and executive director of Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE) was among the interviewees, which also included Poly history teacher AJ Blandford and Stephanie Castillo Samoy, Director of Operations & Communications for RISE. DuPont pointed out that the Rockaway Peninsula is the “first defense for the city.” Chair of the Science Department Dr. Ramesh Laungani, who teaches Conservation Biology, expressed hope about the fight against climate change and spoke about his role as an educator and effective communicator about climate danger.

On Track

Directed and Produced by:
MaKiyah Turner Hicks ’24
Archie Neibart 24
Asher Cohen 24

Editor: Archie Neibart ’24

Photography by:
MaKiyah Turner Hicks ’24
Archie Neibart ’24
Asher Cohen ’24

On Track Canal Street sign rendering

“I’ve always viewed the subway as something bigger than transportation,” said film editor Archie Neibart ’24, “and something that New York wouldn’t be able to function without. So when the opportunity came to make a piece of work to tell the story of the subway along with presenting the viewer with the same perspective I had on the topic, I felt it was something that I really wanted to do.” 

Interviewees could agree that the NYC subway system is “currently in crisis.” Among them was Dr. Philip Kasinitz of the CUNY Graduate School, Polly Desjarlais, content manager of the NY Transit Museum, Philip Ploych, former planner for the MTA, and Phil Coppola, who has documented the art of New York City subway stations.

“A good number of the people we interviewed were people my group found and reached out to,” Turner-Hicks explained. “In my search, I looked for people who wrote books or had spoken in documentaries about NYC’s subway system. A lot of the process was just reaching out and hoping someone would want to talk to you, but in general the experts we interviewed were very enthusiastic about the subject matter. For instance, somewhere along the process, I recalled going to the New York Transit Museum with my grandparents years earlier and reached out to their education department to ask for an interview. Luckily, it worked out!”

“As the main editor for my film,” Neibart said, “the biggest challenge was creating an aesthetic of a ‘glorious’ subway system as well as presenting the shortcomings of that same system.”

Audience Appreciation

Emma Murphy P’24, mother of Archibald Neibart, was an appreciative member of the audience. “Hearing about this class assignment over the preceding weeks and then coming together to watch the final product was a highlight,” said Murphy. “Making short films was such a creative and engaging way to help the kids learn about NYC’s history. Plus, it possibly sparked a few future careers in the film industry.” She added,  “I really learned so much from the three impressive films and appreciate Poly letting us join in.”

The students’ films can now be seen on YouTube.