News

Biden Leads Mourning for Virus Victims

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In a somber sundown ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in a city virtually occupied by troops on guard against political violence, Mr. Biden paid tribute to the victims of the pandemic on the same day that the death toll in the United States topped a staggering 400,000— and almost a year to the day from the first report of the virus appearing in the country.


“To heal we must remember,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of the Reflecting Pool, which was surrounded by 400 lights meant to mark the 400,000 victims of the virus. “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all whom we lost.” 

Read more… Biden Leads Mourning for Virus Victims

As Trenches Fill, Plans for Hart Island COVID-19 Memorial Look to Past and Future

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If all goes according to plan, Hart Island, the city’s public cemetery, will become the site of a memorial for New Yorkers who died of COVID-19 as well as thousands of others lost to the Spanish flu, AIDS and other mass casualty events.


Details are still being ironed out, but city officials say that work on the memorial will begin in earnest once Hart Island is placed under the authority of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department on July 1, 2021.

Read more… As Trenches Fill, Plans for Hart Island COVID-19 Memorial Look to Past and Future
Courtesy Corcoran Family

Lost in the Pandemic: Inside New York City’s Mass Graveyard on Hart Island

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No one knows who will be carried across the water to Hart Island on the next waves of the dead. No one knows who will be brought back from its anonymous earth by shovel-bearing workers in hazmat suits. This summer, reporter William Hennigan was granted unprecedented access to Hart Island to observe burial and exhumation operations and, on June 26, witnessed the retrieval and formal reburial of casket 40-3 and its occupant, Ellen F. Torron. This is her story.

Read more… Lost in the Pandemic: Inside New York City’s Mass Graveyard on Hart Island
Sasha Arutyunova for TIME

New York City COVID-19 Death Toll

As #Covid19 victims are laid to rest in NYC's public cemetery — the largest mass grave in the U.S. — the Hart Island Project aims to support their families and increase awareness of the island's history

Read more… New York City COVID-19 Death Toll

NYC’s potter’s field has buried nearly 900 people during coronavirus outbreak

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New York’s potter’s field became an unlikely savior during the coronavirus crisis — more than quintupling its usual pace of burials during the height of the pandemic, new stats show.

With funeral homes and morgues overflowing with corpses as the disease ravaged the city, Hart Island took 894 bodies between March 9 and Friday.

Read more… NYC’s potter’s field has buried nearly 900 people during coronavirus outbreak

'New York City’s family tomb’: The sad history of Hart Island

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Coronavirus has created a grim new reality at the nation’s largest mass grave. 

Only 11 miles from Manhattan, Hart Island has been the final resting place for New York’s unclaimed and poor for over a century. The island off the Bronx was thrust into the national spotlight in early April, after the city announced it would be using the public cemetery to inter unclaimed victims of covid-19.

Read more… 'New York City’s family tomb’: The sad history of Hart Island
Elyse Samuels and Adriana Usero - Washington Post

New York’s public burial ground becomes a way-stop between the morgue and cemetery

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Occupying 131 acres in Long Island Sound, off the Bronx shore, Hart Island is the largest public burial ground in the United States. It has been New York City’s public burial ground for more than 150 years. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is being pressed into service as a temporary resting place for deceased New Yorkers whose families could not retain a funeral home.

Read more… New York’s public burial ground becomes a way-stop between the morgue and cemetery
Yahoo News

Hart Island Could Be Temporary Burial Ground for Coronavirus Victims

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Some have called it a home for mass graves, but for more than a hundred years, Hart Island has been the city’s public cemetery.

Melinda Hunt, president of the Hart Island Project, a nonprofit which works to increase access to the island said the site is a well-managed public burial ground which has operated for generations.

Read more… Hart Island Could Be Temporary Burial Ground for Coronavirus Victims
NY1

New York City hires laborers to bury dead in Hart Island potter's field amid coronavirus surge

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 New York City officials have hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter’s field on Hart Island as the city’s daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic has reached grim new records in each of the last three days.

Read more… New York City hires laborers to bury dead in Hart Island potter's field amid coronavirus surge
REUTERS

The Transformation of Hart Island

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At least once a week between January and March, J. Crawford woke up around 5:30 A.M. on Rikers Island, the city’s largest jail complex, and changed into work boots and an orange and white jumpsuit. Around six o’clock, he boarded a bus operated by the Department of Correction, which carried incarcerated workers and a few correction officers to a ferry on City Island, in the Bronx.

Read more… The Transformation of Hart Island
John Minchillo/AP

Cry Across the Sound: a memoirist's chant

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They died poor and unclaimed and before their lives began. They died but before they died, they left their flesh, their eyes to science. They died lost to themselves or lost to others, loved or barely liked, in secret or on the street or without telling anyone that they were dying.

Read more… Cry Across the Sound: a memoirist's chant
North America Review

Erosion, floods make some final resting places not so final

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On an island off New York City, authorities in 2018 found 174 bones unearthed on a site that holds the remains of more than 1 million people. The culprit was shoreline erosion.

Read more… Erosion, floods make some final resting places not so final
Seth Wenig, AP

Hart Island Cemetery Will Be Reincarnated as a Public Space

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Historically, the island — the world’s largest tax-funded cemetery — has operated under the purview of the Department of Corrections (DoC), which pays Rikers Island inmates $1 an hour to handle the area’s many bodies. The bill, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law earlier this month, will transfer control of Hart Island to the New York City Parks Department.

Read more… Hart Island Cemetery Will Be Reincarnated as a Public Space
©2010 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

New York island where more than one million people are buried in a potters field is to be opened to the public so they can visit loved ones in potters field

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NYC mayor signed a bill that transfers control of the nations largest public burial ground, Hart Island, from the city corrections dept to the parks department

Read more… New York island where more than one million people are buried in a potters field is to be opened to the public so they can visit loved ones in potters field
AFP

De Blasio Signs Bill Making Hart Island A City Park

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed a bill making Hart Island, the largest public burial ground in the nation, a city park.

Read more… De Blasio Signs Bill Making Hart Island A City Park
WCBS News Radio

Hart Island to become parkland, making graves easier to visit

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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.

Read more… Hart Island to become parkland, making graves easier to visit
Fox5 News

'They Are Now Free:' 1M Graves Liberated From Corrections Dept

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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.

Read more… 'They Are Now Free:' 1M Graves Liberated From Corrections Dept
Kathleen Culliton | Patch

De Blasio signs bills increasing access to Hart Island

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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.

Read more… De Blasio signs bills increasing access to Hart Island
Gabriella Bass/New York Post

The Buried AIDS Story

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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.

Read more… The Buried AIDS Story
©1993 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

NYC Speaker Corey Johnson at City Hall

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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.

Read more… NYC Speaker Corey Johnson at City Hall
courtesy NYC Speaker Johnson

Events

Hart Island Master Plan - June 18th Community Input Meeting

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NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) is seeking your input and participation in a Master Plan for Hart Island. They have scheduled a public meeting to be held virtually on Tuesday, June 18th, 2024 from 6:00PM to 7:30PM.

The Master Plan is centered around the goals of improving access to the island, visitor experience, the island’s natural ecology, resiliency to severe weather events, and operations.  Register to attend 

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Past events

#Giving Tuesday 2019 - Please contribute.

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Jail for the Dead: How New York City Buried the Unclaimed - A conversation with Thomas Laqueur & Melinda Hunt

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Public Lecture - The Aura of the Dead in a Disenchanted World - by Thomas Laqueur

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Aura—the breath of enchantment—that makes the body of a saint or a unique masterwork of art special is said to be on the wane, done in by technology and secularization. But the bodies of the dead and even their ashes, indistinguishable one urn from other, have lost little of their potency. This lecture explores the ways in which the aura of mortal remains function to create sacrality in the absence of God and other worlds beyond our own.

This event is cosponsored by the Department of History, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Part of the Death and After series at IRCPL.

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Hart Island Project Annual Meeting

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The Hart Island Project annual meeting is free and open to the public. Please join us to learn about our initatives.

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Hart Island Project Annual Meeting
Neighborhood Preservation Center

City Hall hearing on legislation to transfer Hart Island to Parks.

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The New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation and the Committee on Transportation will hold a hearing on Thursday, May 30 2019 at 10:00 A.M. in the Committee Room, New York, NY regarding four bills pertaining to the City’s Burial Process.

 To view the topics in detail, please CLICK HERE.

Oversight - Hart Island and the City's Public Burial Process.
 
 Int 906 - In relation to a transfer of jurisdiction over Hart Island from the department of corrections to the department of parks and recreation.
 Int 909 - In relation to a Hart Island transportation plan.
 Int - In relation to the establishment of an office to provide support to those in need of burial assistance.
 Int - In relation to the creation of a task force on public burial and related issues.
 
Please be advised that if you plan to participate, it would be greatly appreciated if you could bring thirty (30) copies double-sided of your written testimony to the hearing or submit your written testimony to: EBalkan@council.nyc.gov
 
We would appreciate receiving a response from you as to whether or not you will be able to attend or submit written testimony. Please let us know if you would like help preparing your testimony: contact@hartisland.net. 

Access Provided: For questions about accessibility or to request additional accommodations please contactNicole Benjamin (NBenjamin@council.nyc.gov or 212-482-5176) at least 72 hours before the hearing.
 
For all other questions about the hearing, please contact Emily Balkan (EBalkan@council.nyc.gov or 212-482-5439).

Read more…
City Hall hearing on legislation to transfer Hart Island to Parks.
Testimony in 2016 to transfer jurisdiction of Hart Island to Parks

In the Presence of Absence - Exhibition Closing and Publication Launch

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On the last day of In the Presence of Absence, we will mark its passing with a series of readings on the themes of grief and loss. Writers and artists Raha Behnam, Erica Cardwell, TR Ericsson, Michelle García, Diane Mehta, and Jillian Steinhauer will share original work. The event will also celebrate the launch of the exhibition’s accompanying publication, which contains essays by García, Steinhauer, and Jessica Lynne. As at a wake or a shiva call, there will be refreshments and a chance to mingle and reflect.

Read more…
In the Presence of Absence - Exhibition Closing and Publication Launch
After the Fire and Before AIDS: Sonia ©2017 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Revisiting Hart Island

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Over the last few years, Melinda and the Hart Island Project have brought the plight of Hart Island’s deteriorating condition to the public and opened the conversation to make the Island a public park.

Read more…
Revisiting Hart Island

Collective Grief: The Design, Politics and Future of Memorials

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While grief is a personal feeling, memorials are a key way in which our society collectively mourns. This panel discussion will consider the different forms that such public tributes can take and the politics of who gets to be commemorated. What new memorials are being created to fill out the landscape of a death-denying country dotted with Confederate statues? What future ones do we need? The four panelists, Anthony Goicolea, Melinda Hunt, Karla Rothstein, and Elizabeth Velazquez, have all experimented with what a memorial can be, bringing their creative energies to bear on an old practice. They will speak about their work and then engage in a conversation about who, what, and how we collectively remember. Moderated by Jillian Steinhauer.

Read more…
Collective Grief: The Design, Politics and Future of Memorials

Interfaith Peace & Health Breakfast

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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

Read more…
Interfaith Peace & Health Breakfast

Curatorial Walk-Through & Reception - In the Presence of Absence - Exhibition curated by Jillian Steinhauer

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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. 

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Curatorial Walk-Through & Reception - In the Presence of Absence - Exhibition curated by Jillian Steinhauer
Loneliness in a Beautiful Place video still - ©2018 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Getting Over Film - Screening + Q&A with Director Jason Charnick

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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. 

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Getting Over Film - Screening + Q&A with Director Jason Charnick

25th ANNUAL BRONX PARKS SPEAK UP

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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.

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25th ANNUAL BRONX PARKS SPEAK UP

One Million American Dreams followed by a Q&A with Director, Brendan Byrne

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Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday

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

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Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday

Mass for All Souls buried on Hart Island - 9 AM

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St. Brendan Catholic Church is one block from the D train. For more information call 718-547-6655.

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Mass for All Souls buried on Hart Island - 9 AM
©1992 Joel Sternfeld/The Hart Island Project

Memorial Service for Neil Harris Jr. AKA Stephen

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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.

Read more…
Memorial Service for Neil Harris Jr. AKA Stephen

Loneliness in a Beautiful Place: AIDS burials on Hart Island

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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.

Read more…
Loneliness in a Beautiful Place: AIDS burials on Hart Island
The Hart Island Project

Illustrated Talk with Author Stacy Horn – Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

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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

Read more…
Illustrated Talk with Author Stacy Horn – Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Hart Island Project Annual Meeting

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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.

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Historic Districts Council Preservation Conference 9:30 - 3:00 PM

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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. 

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Historic Districts Council Preservation Conference 9:30 - 3:00 PM
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