News

Visiting New York City’s early AIDS graves

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On Tuesday, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, took a tour of Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx, where the city buries its unclaimed dead. He asked to be taken to a remote spot on the island’s southernmost tip where in 1985 the city buried some of the earliest casualties of AIDS in an effort to quarantine them.

The graves were in an overgrown area and some of the headstones were toppled over, said Mr. Johnson, who is the city’s first openly gay male speaker and is H.I.V. positive.

“I was sort of taken aback that that area felt sort of neglected,” he said. Mr. Johnson said the visit strengthened his support for transferring the jurisdiction of the island from the Department of Corrections to the Parks Department.

He added, “I knelt down in front of one of the markers and closed my eyes for a minute and thought of all the gay men who lost their lives.”

Read more… Visiting New York City’s early AIDS graves
Jacob Tugendrajch/New York City Council Speaker's Office

A New Memorial Service for Neil Harris Jr., This Time With His Family

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Back on April 30, 2017, the West Side Rag reported on a memorial service that was held at the Christian Community Church on West 74th Street for “Stephen”, the young homeless man who passed away in Riverside Park on March 9, 2017.

Read more… A New Memorial Service for Neil Harris Jr., This Time With His Family
A family photo of Neil Harris, Jr., from 2010

After her son went missing 4 years ago, mom finds closure

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For four years, Susan Hurlburt wondered what happened to her son.

Neil Harris Jr. was last seen at the Inwood LIRR  station wearing a hoodie under a thick Carhartt jacket on Dec. 12, 2014. She hadn’t heard from him since.

Read more… After her son went missing 4 years ago, mom finds closure
Craig Ruttle/Newsday

Hart Island: New York's Island of the Dead

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It is a hitherto little-known part of the history of AIDS in New York: Probably several thousand died as a result of AIDS, for whose burial no one felt responsible, were buried in the 1980s and 1990s on the former prison island Hart Iceland in anonymous mass graves. The Hart Island Project now helps to restore their identity to these forgotten dead.

Read more… Hart Island: New York's Island of the Dead
The Hart Island Project

'It is very painful to have someone you love end up here'

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Hart Island, New York City's potter's field, is crumbling from years of neglect. But now some politicians and advocates want to refurbish the place, allow more visitors and recognize its historical significance.

Read more… 'It is very painful to have someone you love end up here'
Charles Eckert for Newsday

The New York Times Close-up

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N.Y. Times Metro reporter and columnist Corey Kilgannon tells us about the quest to have Hart Island, the final resting place for the disenfranchised, open to the public– he’s joined by their advocate, Melinda Hunt, founder of The Hart Island Project.

Read more… The New York Times Close-up
Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Hope Renewed For Unknown Thousands Among Hart’s Island’s Dead

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Action is finally being taken to stop one of New York’s most populated graveyards from falling into Long Island Sound.


This year marks the 150th anniversary of Hart Island, a little known Potter’s Field in New York City, reports CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge. 

Read more… Hope Renewed For Unknown Thousands Among Hart’s Island’s Dead
CBS News

Finding space in New York City’s cemeteries

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Just as the rural cemeteries of the 19th century radically reevaluated American approaches to death, it’s time to rethink what we want New York’s cemeteries to be in the 21st century. Hart Island, sequestered as it is and with limited accessibility, may not be a candidate for public programming, but it could be more integrated into the city with improved access, which would also alleviate the stigma of being interred in its isolated grounds.

Read more… Finding space in New York City’s cemeteries
Max Touhey

Project Helps Locate Lost AIDS Victims Buried On New York's Hart Island

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There's an island in New York City just off the Bronx that's used to bury the dead who are unclaimed, called Hart Island. During the AIDS epidemic when not much was known about the disease, many people who died of AIDS and whose bodies were unclaimed were buried there.

Read more… Project Helps Locate Lost AIDS Victims Buried On New York's Hart Island
Seth Wenig/AP

Dead of AIDS and Forgotten in Potter’s Field

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The bodies reached Hart Island on a ferry like all the others, in spare wooden boxes and bound for ignominious mass interment off the coast of the Bronx where New York City buries its unclaimed dead by the hundreds in long, shallow trenches.

But when these 17 bodies arrived in 1985, the island’s hardened crews, used to burying dozens of indigent people per week, recoiled. These were different. They had died from a widely feared nascent disease called AIDS, an illness that at the time had a skyrocketing death toll.

Read more… Dead of AIDS and Forgotten in Potter’s Field
Todd Heisler for New York Times

Councilman resurrects plan to turn graveyard to park

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A Manhattan lawmaker has revived a plan to transform the Dickensian pauper’s graveyard on Hart Island into publicly accessible parkland — and led a rare media tour of the burial ground Wednesday to promote the idea.

Read more… Councilman resurrects plan to turn graveyard to park
James Messerschmidt

City Council proposes public park on Hart Island

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THE BRONX -The City Council is pushing to create a public park and easier accessibility to Hart Island.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez introduced two bills about the island earlier this month.

The proposed legislation would transfer jurisdiction of the island from the Department of Correction to the Parks Department. It would also establish a public ferry service.

Read more… City Council proposes public park on Hart Island
News 12

Erosion unearths bones on New York’s island of the dead

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NEW YORK (AP) — Storms and the tides are unearthing the long-hidden bones of Hart Island, creating eerie scenes of skulls, femurs and collarbones on this sliver of land where New York City’s destitute dead have for 150 years been sent off to be unceremoniously buried and forgotten.

Read more… Erosion unearths bones on New York’s island of the dead
Seth Wenig/AP Photo

Bones emerge on Hart Island, where inmates bury New York paupers

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Annette Gallo was 10 years old when her brother Peter sent her a letter, from his orphanage to hers: “Last Wednesday morning something bad happened to papa.”

Read more… Bones emerge on Hart Island, where inmates bury New York paupers

‘Bones Beach:’ Hart Island Erosion Unearths Human Skeletons

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Hart Island, a massive burial ground near the Bronx, is eroding, unearthing human skeletons along the shoreline.

Read more… ‘Bones Beach:’ Hart Island Erosion Unearths Human Skeletons
CBS News

Erosion on Hart Island Exposes Human Remains

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City workers are making emergency repairs to the public cemetery on Hart Island after photographers documented how human remains had become exposed to the elements.

Read more… Erosion on Hart Island Exposes Human Remains
Greg Gulbransen/The Hart Island Project

NYC officials plan urgent bone recovery at Hart Island

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Faced with storm erosion on Hart Island that continues to unearth human remains, New York City officials this week are planning an urgent recovery of bones from its shores, saying they also want to accelerate repairs to the island’s sea wall damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Read more… NYC officials plan urgent bone recovery at Hart Island
©2018 Greg Gulbransen

Learning of suspected killer’s death ultimately led to discovery of remains

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How did it take 35 years for anyone to find out William Boken was dead?

It’s a question we’ve been asked often since news broke last week of the discovery of human remains believed to be Louise Pietrewicz buried beneath Mr. Boken’s former basement.

Read more… Learning of suspected killer’s death ultimately led to discovery of remains
Suffolk Times - William Boken in a photo that hung at Southold Police headquarters as recently as last October.

A Lost Son, a Mother’s Search, and Too Late, the Truth

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Kevin Germany walked out of a hospital in 1990 and disappeared. In 2018, his family learned where he had been, a sad answer to his mother’s wish.

Read more… A Lost Son, a Mother’s Search, and Too Late, the Truth
Alex Flynn for The New York Times

Activists claim that bones buried on Hart Island are washing up off the Long Island Sound

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With thousands of deceased buried beneath its surface, Hart Island is home to the largest publicly funded cemetery on the planet. Hidden away on the northeastern edge of New York City on the Long Island Sound, it’s off-limits to the general public. Since the 1800s, it’s acted as a potter’s field, or a mass grave that serves as the final resting place for many of the city’s most disenfranchised citizens. 

Read more… Activists claim that bones buried on Hart Island are washing up off the Long Island Sound
©2010 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Events

Gary Zebrun discusses his new book Hart Island with author Jim Shepard

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Gary Zebrun takes the Greenlight stage to present his absorbing and elegiac novel Hart Island, set on the real-life island east of the Bronx that has served as a potter’s field for more than a century. 

Read more…
Gary Zebrun discusses his new book Hart Island with author Jim Shepard

Past events

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