Administration Building

(c. early 20th century)

Phoenix House was the last city run institution to operate as a large residential facility on Hart Island using this administration building from 1967 to 1976. Under state laws passed in 1966, judges had authority to sentence people to three years of treatment for addiction to drugs. Announcing the program the New York Times writes: “The addicts on Hart Island will be persons found guilty of lesser narcotics offense, such as possession of drugs for their own use….The addicts will be treated as patients rather than as criminals, and the island will be regarded as medical, not a penal institution….Correction Department personnel assigned to Hart Island will get reorientation training to adjust them to this approach.”

Phoenix House residents were to undergo processing on Riker’s Island before arriving on Hart Island. Those who went through the program describe conditions as similar to the prison workhouse that closed in 1966. Residents were required to work and gain vocational skills. They were often disciplined while struggling to recover from drug use.

To supplement services funded by New York State, a separate nonprofit was formed to be able to accept private donations. This became a model for public private partnerships adopted by organizations such as the Central Park Conservancy and the NYC Parks. In 1976, Phoenix House Foundation purchased property in Manhattan and residents were moved off Hart Island as part of a training exercise with the New York State Military Reserve.

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