Hart Island to become parkland, making graves easier to visit
NEW YORK - A small island in the Long Island Sound that is home to the nation's largest public burial ground will soon be easier to visit and explore.
NEW YORK - A small island in the Long Island Sound that is home to the nation's largest public burial ground will soon be easier to visit and explore.
NEW YORK CITY — More than one million New Yorkers buried in unmarked graves on an island off the coast of The Bronx are no longer a part of the penal system.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation Wednesday that overhauls the city’s management of Hart Island, the largest potter’s field in the nation where an estimated million New Yorkers were laid to rest.
When the AIDS epidemic hit in full in the 1980s, the city began sending the death victims to a separate area south on the island. "Parts of the unknown story of the AIDS epidemic are buried on Hart Island. It is totally unacceptable that the island is still there as an open wound. We have to go through a process that honors these people." says Melinda Hunt to Blikk.
Last week, we took Hart Island back. A final resting place is not a jail, and we made that official when we voted to transfer the island so it's no longer under the Department of Corrections.
For the first time, a Queens mom may finally get to visit her infant daughter’s gravesite without feeling shame.
For years, it has been hard for New Yorkers to visit their loved ones buried on Hart Island because it was controlled by the city’s department of corrections. Now, the City Council has voted to transfer it to the parks department, making it more like a cemetery than a prison.
The New York City Council has voted to make Hart Island — the nation’s largest public burial ground — more accessible to families of the dead.
By a vote of 45-2, the council opted on Thursday to transfer control of the potter’s field from the Department of Correction to the parks department.
About 1 million people are buried on the desolate island, many anonymously and unclaimed. Graves are dug by prisoners of nearby Rikers Island jail, and the island off the Bronx is reachable only by an occasional ferry.
In recent years, erosion has washed remains into Long Island Sound.
Families who have located their loved ones have difficulties visiting graves under security imposed by prison authorities.
The city is considering public transportation stops that would expand access.
“The way to normalize this is to have people who do have a choice choosing this green burial,” Hunt said. Our taxes pay for City Cemetery, and we can reframe the way we think about public burials, she said. “You’ve already paid for your burial—make it the cemetery you want it to be.”
Next month, New York City will begin cleaning up unearthed human remains and restoring the damaged sea wall along the shoreline of Hart Island, which is one of the largest public cemeteries in the country.
Hart Island is a small islet located a mile east of the Bronx. It’s one mile long and a third of a mile wide (roughly 131 acres), and during the mid ’80s and ’90s, New York City buried thousands of people who’d died of HIV on the island out of fear the bodies might infect others.
“No one who sleeps there had a dollar to their name in life…the bodies interred here are as utterly forgotten and wiped away as if they never existed.” This is how the New York Herald described Hart Island in 1874, five years after the city began burying its poor on the island off the Bronx. A century and a half later the poor and unclaimed are still buried in pine coffins, usually marked only with numbers, not names. These are stacked three deep in a trench, three feet below the surface. Each trench holds 150 adult coffins. Roughly 1,200 people are buried there each year.
On May 30, the City Council held a hearing to review the future of Hart Island of the city’s public burial process.
“We’re the only city in the world that has a public cemetery like this one,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who chaired the hearing. “After 150 years, it is time to reexamine and improve our island.”
The City Council clashed with the de Blasio administration Thursday over the future of Hart Island — a potter's field off the Bronx coast that serves as a mass grave for a million people — and whether it will be transformed into an accessible public cemetery. Speaker Corey Johnson bristled at the current policies that govern the island and called the de Blasio administration's lack of celerity "insane."
… "This is crazy that a million people are buried on Hart Island and there is one Saturday a month that people can visit," Johnson said at a joint Council hearing of the health, transportation, and parks and recreation committees. "This needs to be changed immediately. This is such a profound injustice. People should leave here today and be embarrassed by this. This is so undignified."
More than one million New Yorkers - most of their names unknown - are buried in mass, unmarked graves on Hart Island, a huge public cemetery a short distance from City Island in the Bronx.
Elsie Soto's father was laid to rest there after dying of AIDS-related complications.
New York City has some of the most famous parks in the world, from Central Park to the High Line.
Now city lawmakers have proposed creating a park in a most unlikely place: the island where the city has been burying its indigent in mass graves since the 1800s.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and activists slammed the de Blasio administration at a hearing Thursday over what they characterized as a slow motion plan to open up the public gravesite at Hart Island to more visitors and better maintain it.
Hart Island, a giant cemetery that many advocates consider neglected for years, is finally getting noticed by City Hall.
Elected officials have agreed to support a bill to transfer control of the island from the Department of Correction to the Department of Parks, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported Thursday.
Curated by the award-winning critic, and former Hyperallergic Senior Editor, Jillian Steinhauer and dotted with homespun memorials and retiring audiovisuals, In the Presence of Absence is a smart, understated group exhibition whose hushed atmosphere calls attention to grief’s lingering effects in public and private life, particularly for people from historically marginalized communities. Most artworks in the show reference historical traumas in the United States — from settler colonialism to the AIDS epidemic — whose horrors are often presumed to be past but whose psycho-social consequences are still very much present.
The Hart Island Project is pleased to announce that Director Melinda Hunt is one of 63 recipients for inaugural round of NYC Women’s Fund for Film & Theater for her web series: Loneliness in a Beautiful Place: AIDS Burials on Hart Island. The award was announced by NYFA and MOME on February 28, 2019. read more
Inspired by stories of people who lost a loved one due to AIDS related illnesses and discovered them listed in the Traveling Cloud Museum, the web series will be completed in 2020. As part of The Hart Island Project AIDS Initiative, we hope the series will help to reconcile the deaths of New Yorkers buried on Hart Island during the AIDS epidemic. We encourage the community to search and identify victims with an AIDS ribbon and or contribute a story to Traveling Cloud Museum.
The Hart Island Project will have an information table at the Interfaith Peace & Health Breakfast. Please stop by and say hello.
More information: INTERFAITHINYOURCITY@GMAIL.COM | 718-790-9120 / 917-374-7917
EFA Project Space is pleased to present In the Presence of Absence, an exhibition about the nature of grief. The show explores the creative possibilities of mourning, looking at how people transmute suffering over the loss of loved ones into ways to live.
Participating Artists: Edgar Heap of Birds, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, M. Carmen Lane, Eeigh Eleanor Davis, Melinda Hunt, Nene Humphrey, Inbal Abergil, Emily Carris, Valery Jung Estabrook.
Ray Charnick suffered from addiction for his entire adult life. In 1997, he died of AIDS related illnesses. His brother chose to have him interred on Hart Island. This film directed by Ray's son, Jason, explores dad's life and death.
The Hart Island Project would love to catch up with you and talk about our mission. Please stop by our table from 11 AM - 12:30 PM.
The Hart Island Project launched Traveling Cloud Museum 2.0 on November 1, 2018. Please show your support for our innovation storytelling platform by donating on-line on Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday
St. Brendan Catholic Church is one block from the D train. For more information call 718-547-6655.
Neil Harris Jr., the Long Island man who lived the last years of his life in Riverside Park, will have a new memorial service on Nov. 4 after a local journalist discovered his real name and told his family.
Harris was known to many locals as Stephen. He spent his days on benches in the park, including one at 75th Street. When he died last year, the city could not identify him, and he was buried on Hart Island, the city potter’s field. Locals held a memorial service for the man and dedicated a bench in Riverside Park to him.
Loneliness in a Beautiful Place: Drone video tour of AIDS burials on Hart Island and introduction to the Traveling Cloud Museum's new interactive map
Hart Island is the burial site of anyone who dies in New York City whose body is not collected by a licensed funeral director. The City does not cremate. On June 18, 1983, the New York State Funeral Directors Association urged its members not to embalm AIDS fatalities. It then became difficult to find a funeral director to handle the bodies of AIDS victims.
At least seventeen AIDS victims who died before 1985 were buried in individual graves at a remote location at the southern-most tip of the Hart Island. On April 29, 2018, a drone flying over the southern tip of Hart Island captured the locations of burial markers.
The Hart Island Project AIDS Initiative is an attempt to identify AIDS victims buried on Hart Island and preserve their stories. According to a recent story in The New York Times: “Trying to pin down the precise number of those with AIDS buried on Hart Island is difficult. A longstanding stigma about the island and criticism that the burial practices are crude and outdated have made city officials reluctant to provide many details.”
Traveling Cloud Museum is an effort to deconstruct their disappearance by urging people to stop the clocks of anonymity.
Author Stacy Horn will relate the chilling account of the infamous Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island), when it was managed by the Department of Charities and Correction. The workhouse, prison and lunatic asylum on Hart Island were branches of those on Blackwells. The Department of Correction still controls Hart Island today as the nightmare continues into the 21st Century on Riker's and Hart Island.
$15, $10 MHM Members. Purchase tickets
The Hart Island Project board of directors invites you to meet with us on June 23, 2018 at Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201.
Enter at 254 Hicks Street and walk straight to the doors at the end of the sidewalk. Go through the doors and up the stairs directly to Guild Hall. Please let us know in advance if you require wheelchair access: 914-402-5992.
For more information send us an email. The media is welcome to attend.
Join The Hart Island Project at the Historic Districts Council for a Participant-Driven Preservation Conference: Open to the Public!
Vote to hear us talk about how the Civil War influenced burials in New York City.
Notice how Hart Island is missing from this map of greenspaces in the Bronx? It's time to speak-up. Please join The Hart Island Project for the 24th Annual Bronx Parks Speak Up on Saturday, February 24 from 11am-5pm. The tabling and networking time will begin at 11 am and last until 12 Noon. A free lunch is provided and we will have HIP t-shirts and DVDs for sale.
The Future of NYC Culture and Arts: A conversation with New York City Speaker Candidates.
Moderator: Juan Manuel Benítez, Journalist, Anchor, Reporter, NY1 News.
The Hart Island Project is a community engagement partner. If you have any questions about the forum, please feel free to contact Roberto.Ragone@gmail.com or at 917-923-4765
Due to popular demand, the Historic Districts Council and The Hart Island Project will narrate a second trip to and around Hart Island, the city's Potter's Field. It will begin at Pier 66, West 26th Street and 12th Avenue in Chelsea. We will trace the original route from Bellevue Hospital, past Roosevelt Island, through the Hells Gate, past Riker's Island and on to Hart Island on the eastern edge of the Bronx in the Long Island Sound. This trip not recommended for young children. Please bring your own snacks and sunscreen.
The Historic Districts Council and The Hart Island Project will narrate a trip to and around Hart Island, the city's Potter's Field. It will begin at Pier 66, West 26th Street and 12th Avenue in Chelsea. We will trace the original route from Bellevue Hospital, past Roosevelt Island, through the Hells Gate, past Riker's Island and on to Hart Island on the eastern edge of the Bronx in the Long Island Sound. This trip not recommended for young children. Please bring your own snacks and sunscreen.
The Hart Island Project Annual Meeting will be held at 10 AM on June 3, 2017. It will be followed by an open house in participation with Peekskill Open Studio. There will be a free trolley from the Metronorth train station to the downtown area. Maps available at the gazebo.
Composer and multimedia artist Volker Goetze presents live performance excerpts of new compositions for African harp, dulcimer, bass clarinet, trumpet, percussion and New York City sounds and visuals.
Volker Goetze uses live performance combined with 3D immersive audio and 360 video to fully capture the “Unique places of Death;” places in New York City listed in the Traveling Cloud Museum database.
“Secret Island” is a photography and music project about the forgotten borough of New York – Staten Island – telling the untold stories about historic events which shaped Staten Island going back to the prehistoric ice age up until today.
The concert will consist of 20 minute excerpts of both projects followed by a panel discussion with the composer and Melinda Hunt director of The Hart Island Project. Music for this event is commissioned, in part, with a 2016 composer's commission from the New York State Council on the Arts and Exploring the Metropolis Performing Arts Residency courtesy of Con Edison. free tickets
Celebrating the one year anniversary of Rosalee Grable's death and subsequent burial on Hart Island with song and good spirit. We can't visit her grave on Hart Island but we can gather and remember a great person.
City Cemetery on Hart Island is the largest municipal burial ground in the United States. Located in the Long Island Sound, just a stone’s throw from City Island, Hart Island was purchased by New York City in 1868 for the purpose of opening a Branch Workhouse for older boys from the House of Refuge on Randall’s Island. One hundred and fifty years later, young misdemeanants still bury unclaimed bodies in common graves at City Cemetery. Last year, around 1200 bodies were released for city burial by the Medical Examiner. Hart Island is the final resting place of over one million people and counting.
Formed in 2011 to raise awareness, support for family and friends of the buried, and access to records and maps, The Hart Island Project hosts a storytelling platform called the Traveling Cloud Museum. This award winning digital platform has made the burial process, which is largely unchanged since 1872, visible. The organization works to dispel popular misconceptions about Hart Island including a belief that New York City is running out of burial space.
This lecture and discussion will focus on how this historic burial process serves New Yorkers and explore its potential as a park and urban natural burial facility. Rich in history, Hart Island may hold the secret to a sustainable, ecological municipal burial practice.