New York City’s “Island of the Dead” to Become More Accessible

I have written about Hart Island several timers. See for my past articles.

Hart Island has long served as New York City’s “Potter’s Field,” the place of burials of mass graves containing the remains of paupers, unidentified individuals, still-born babies, and AIDS victims. More than one million people are buried there.

Approximately 1,200 burials, some of them unidentified people, still take place every year. Adults are buried in pine coffins stacked three deep; children five deep in plots of 1,000. The boxes are marked with numbers not names, and there are no gravestones. Small white markers indicating the trenches dot the island’s burial grounds.

Relatives are only allowed to visit on two designated days a month, while correctional officers escort media to Hart Island just twice a year.

Until recently, the island was maintained by inmates from nearby Rikers Island, one of America’s most notorious jails. Last month, New York’s city council voted to end prison control of Hart Island by transferring jurisdiction to its parks department, in a move hailed by activists. It also pledged to start regular ferry services. Relatives may soon start visiting the graves of the deceased.

You can read more in an article by Peter Hutchison at

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