News

A Look Inside Hart Island, NYC’s Potter’s Field, as COVID Graves Grow

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Hart Island, a small piece of land off The Bronx, resurfaced in national headlines in April 2020, when New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

News footage of the island’s cemetery showed trenches being filled with pine coffins, sending shock waves around the world. But these mass burials taking place during the pandemic mark just the most recent interments in Hart Island’s long history.

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Vox and Columbia Journalism School

Schumer and AOC Get Feds to Pay for Funerals of COVID-19 Victims in NYC and Beyond

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The federal government will help pay for the funeral and burial of COVID-19 victims whose families can’t afford the expenses, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced Monday. 

In a rare joining of forces, the two New York members of Congress, who disagree on the Democratic Party platform, said that the Federal Emergency Management Administration will tap into the overall $2 billion national pot of disaster funds to cover the costs.

New York State will get approximately $260 million in funeral assistance funds, according to Schumer. FEMA will cover all funeral expenses, which run an average of $7,000. People can file retroactively for reimbursements dating back to Jan. 20, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020

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How a Potter’s Field Became a Civil Rights Leader’s Resting Place

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In more normal times, Scott Green , a lifelong civil rights activist, may have had a ceremonious funeral followed by a burial in a military cemetery in Little Rock, Ark.

Mr. Green was one of the students known as the Lost Class of 1959 at Central High School, where a battle over forced desegregation in Little Rock helped propel the civil rights movement. After he died in April at age 76 with symptoms of Covid-19 in Manhattan, former President Bill Clinton called Mr. Green’s family to extend his condolences….

In 1965, Scott Green became first Black trainee of the local Sheet Metal Workers’ Union, and he would later recruit more Black members and go on to fight racial discrimination, while working on prominent buildings including the World Trade Center, his brother said.

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Nate Palmer for The New York Times

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.” 

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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.

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Courtesy Corcoran Family
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Events

NYC COUNCIL HEARING: Hart Island and the City's Public Burial Process & Assistance Program

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The public is invited to attend this hearing and testify. If you are planning on testifying live via video conferencing, please register no later than 24 hours before the hearing. 


Each person who intends on testifying live should register separately. Persons who do not register in advance will not be permitted to testify live via video conferencing. 


If you are interested in viewing the hearing, but do not wish to testify live, the hearing can be viewed at  https://council.nyc.gov/livestream/.  


Written testimony may be submitted without registration by emailing it to testimony@council.nyc.gov up to 72 hours after the close of the hearing. Thank you for your cooperation. 


For questions about accessibility or to request additional accommodations please contact swerts@council.nyc.gov or nbenjamin@council.nyc.govor (212) 788-6936 at least 72 hours before the hearing. All other questions should be directed to me at ebalkan@nyc.council.gov.


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Past events

AIDS Burials on Hart Island Workshop with Elsie Soto

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Join The Hart Island Project and Elsie Soto at a live workshop this Saturday, Feb. 27.

Watch video in advance here

Join us on Zoom at 11:00 AM for workshop starting at 11:15 AM-AIDS Burials on Hart Island as part of Bronx Parks Speak-Up 2021
Zoom link – Meeting ID: 893 3782 3394 / Password: 46690


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27th Bronx Parks Speakup from 10-11 AM

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Meet with The Hart Island Project to answer your questions about our newest initiative to designate Hart Island National Monument.

Watch slide show in advance on the History of and Potential for Hart Island here

 Join Zoom meeting starting at 10 AM here


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City Island Nautical Museum Web Series: The History and Potential for Hart Island

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The City Island Nautical Museum's Vice President and Administrator, Barbara Dolensek, will be in conversation with President of The Hart Island Project, Melinda Hunt, exploring the history of and potential for Hart Island, the largest natural burial ground in the country, located right off the coast of City Island. There will be time for questions and answers.

WATCH Video of event


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©2018 The Hart Island Project

Mourning at a Distance: Grief and Memorialization During COVID-19

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One of the cruelest aspects of COVID-19 is that its victims often die alone. This fact not only dramatically affects those lost to the virus, who frequently pass away by themselves in a hospital amid relative strangers, but also the emotional health of the loved ones they leave behind. The highly contagious nature of the virus has made the traditional rituals surrounding death nearly impossible. There is no bedside vigil; no proper funeral; no grieving periods that involve the tender touch of family and friends and many of the deceased are buried on Hart Island which is now inaccessible to families and friends.  Melinda Hunt will be a panelist on this webinar. Register


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Sites of Conscience

Death Speaks to New York City Premiere

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At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, 150 years of inmate labor suddenly ended. This video shows the last day of prison inmates burying the dead on Hart Island on April 2. Additional evening screenings at BPL will continue throughout the summer.


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Death Speaks to New York City ©2020 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project
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The Hart Island Project © 2021
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