News

First a Mistaken Burial as a Pauper. Then the Indignities Piled Up.

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Karen Mary Connors lived alone and died that way in 2011. The only child of a New York City firefighter turned lawyer, she lived her final years cloistered in what had been her family’s summer home in the Rockaways, with only a few houses standing between her and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Victor Blue/The New York Times

Families of New York's unclaimed dead get more access to graves

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Relatives of people buried at a New York City island that serves as the largest mass grave in the United States will have increased access to the cemetery under a modified lawsuit settlement announced on Tuesday.

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REUTERS/Mike Segar

Hart Island, Mott Haven make 2017 ‘Six to Celebrate’ list

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The Historic Districts Council announced this year's picks for the "Six to Celebrate" list, which celebrates historic New York neighborhoods.

The chosen neighborhoods generally include acclaimed architecture or historical sites, but this year the council included Hart Island. 

Residents have been pushing to have the Department of Corrections turn the island over to the Parks Department. It has been used for years as a potter's field.

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News12 2017
News 12

Historic Districts Council Announces Annual List of NYC Areas Meriting Preservation

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The Historic Districts Council (HDC), New York’s city-wide advocate for historic buildings and neighborhoods, is pleased to announce that Hart Island is included in its Six to Celebrate, an annual listing of historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation attention. 

Six to Celebrate is New York’s only citywide list of preservation priorities. Profiles of each of the 2017 Six to Celebrate neighborhoods, as well as all past neighborhoods, are available by visiting www.6tocelebrate.org. 

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Historic Districts Council

Advocates Call for Expanded Access to Hart Island

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Community advocates, U.S war veterans and City Council members called on the Parks and Recreation Department Thursday to increase efforts to make Hart Island more accessible to the public.

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Kawala Xie/The Ink

City mulls opening off-limits sites like Washington Square Park arch to NYers

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The city’s Parks Department manages about 29,000 acres of parkland that’s comprised of all sorts of facilities including your more traditional playgrounds, beaches, and sports facilities, but it is also the steward of many monuments, historic structures, and uninhabited islands throughout the city....

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Parks committee hearing december 1  2016
The Hart Island Project

"An Act of Citizenship"

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When artist and author Melinda Hunt started to research the potter's field on Hart Island, she turned to The New York Public Library for newspaper articles tracing its story. Now the founder of the Hart Island Project, she shares her findings in public places, including nearby City Island Library, to help people learn about Hart Island's unique spot in New York City history.

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Helping Families Find and Bury Their Dead

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New York City’s chief medical examiner and an advocate for the dead’s right to a city burial share their perspectives.

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For 22 Unclaimed Bodies in New York, a Grim Path From Death to Burial

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Without consent from relatives, the bodies were “lent” to a medical school and then left in a bureaucratic limbo by the medical examiner’s office, revealing continuing problems with the city’s mortuary system.

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Hart Island a place of historic significance: New York State report

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Hart Island, a 101-acre island off City Island that is home to the city’s Potters Field, has been designated a place of historical significance.

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Bronx times 2016
Patrick Rocchio/Community News Group

A Walk Through the Formerly Forbidden Hart Island Graveyards

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About a million people are buried on Hart Island—a mile-long strip of land sitting directly across from City Island in the Bronx. People end up at this public cemetery for different reasons: in some cases, families couldn't afford to bury their loved ones or failed to claim them. In other cases, remains could not be identified.

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Amy Pearl/WNYC News

A Rare Look at the Mysterious Island Where the City's Forgotten Dead Are Buried

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NY1 got a rare tour of an island that's been shrouded in mystery for decades, a place where the city's forgotten are buried.

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Erin Clarke - NY1 News

Exploring New York City’s Silent Shores

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The 600 miles of New York City’s shoreline that secured its status as a center of trade in the 18th century now host some of its more forgotten spaces. Despite an active harbor, the city has mostly turned inward from its bays and beaches, leaving ghostly pockets around the “city of hurried and sparkling waters,” as Walt Whitman anointed it in 1860.

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Baby trench
Joel Sternfeld/The Hart Island Project

Ask the Mayor - WNYC

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When asked about legislation to transfer Hart Island from the Department of Correction to the Department of Parks and Recreation, Mayor de Blasio claims he is not aware of Bill 134. 

Listen Cue to 20:54 minutes

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WNYC - Brian Lehrer Show

New York City's Forgotten Beaches

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Waterfront space in New York City is typically thought of as long promenades and vertical development opportunities, but within those 600 miles of coastline is a history that is marked by the ebb and flow of growth and industry.

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NY State passes legislation banning the medical use of unclaimed bodies without consent

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August 19, 2016 - Governor Cuomo signed legislation yesterday that prevents unclaimed bodies destined for burial on Hart Island from being used as cadavers without a family consent. 

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Legislation 2016

Public Burials in New York

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It is not true that people in the city cemetery have no family or friends. Agreeing to a public burial should not mean that anything can happen in transit. Legislation to reform the burial process is once again stalled at City Hall, and state intervention is necessary.

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Over 1 million unclaimed bodies are buried on a little-known island in New York City

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Every week, bodies that have been unclaimed and unidentified are taken by ferry to a potter's field on Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx in New York City. It is there they are laid to rest under unmarked gravestones, leaving no information about the deceased.

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Mike Segar/Reuters

Bill Would Require Relatives’ Consent for Schools to Use Cadavers

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Though the new measure applies only to New York City and still needs the governor’s signature to become law, its passage in both houses on June 16 showed a significant shift in public attitudes toward human remains and the dead the city considers unclaimed.

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Ny times june 2016
Joshua Bright for The New York Times

News 12 gets rare look at Hart Island, Potter's Field

It's a remote island off the easternmost part of the Bronx surrounded by mystery and untold stories of the people buried there, and News 12 is for the first time in years giving a rare look at Hart Island and the city's public cemetery known as Potter's Field.

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New York Times Letters - On Hart Island, Missed Friends and Common Graves

Re “Bodies Given to N.Y.U. Sent to Mass Graves” (front page, May 28):

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Bodies Given to N.Y.U. Ended Up in Mass Graves, Despite Donors’ Wishes

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One died in her multimillion-dollar apartment. Another left $1.3 million to charity. A third was an opera costume designer who took regular trips to Europe with his devoted partner. All three donated their bodies to medical science, and eventually served as cadavers for first-year medical students at the New York University School of Medicine.

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Ny times may 2016
Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

In a Potter’s Field

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My grandmother was buried in a potter’s field in Erie, Pa., in 1934. We knew little about her life. As a young adult, I located the potter’s field that held my grandmother’s remains. An old logbook in a nearby geriatric home revealed the number on her grave marker; there were no names on the stones.

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New York Stories From Potter’s Field

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As mighty a city as New York claims to be, its power and pride seem nowhere in evidence on Hart Island, a desolate spot off the Bronx shore where the most pauperous and forgotten citizens are buried in tiers of coffins for their eternal rest in a potter’s field.

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Ny times may 24
Alon Sicherman and Micah Dickbauer for The New York Times

Mass graves near Manhattan: Digging up New York's past

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Hart Island holds a unique place in the life of one of the world's most vibrant cities. It is where the bodies of dead people go when they are unclaimed by others.

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Bbc world
Anna Bressanin, BBC World News

New Investigation Sheds Light on Those Buried on Hart Island

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Hart Island is the lonely strip of land in Long Island Sound where the bodies of New York City's unclaimed dead lie in mass graves.

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Elaine joseph visiting grave of her daughter tomika  march 14  2014
Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Unearthing the Secrets of New York's Mass Graves

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Under a New York State law rooted in the 1850s and last amended in 2007, next of kin can have as little as 48 hours after a death to claim a body for burial, or 24 hours after notification, “if the deceased person is known to have a relative whose place of residence is known or can be ascertained after reasonable and diligent inquiry.”

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Times may 16 2016
Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Hart Island, city’s potter’s field, set to receive Rosalee Grable

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Rosalee Grable’s last wish was to be buried with other poor people in New York City’s potter’s field on Hart Island — an eroding 100-acre spit of land on Long Island Sound.

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Rosalee Grable

Allowed to Visit Her Baby’s Grave After 12 Years, a Woman Is Told: Your Son Isn’t Here

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The baby boy lived only 90 minutes after he was born on Oct. 23, 2003. Without money to bury him, his mother, Katrina DeJesus, reluctantly signed papers letting New York City lay him to rest. She would not be allowed to visit the city cemetery where the baby was buried, officials told her, because it was off limits, under the jurisdiction of the Correction Department.

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Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Relatives Of Deceased Push For More Access To N.Y.C. Potter's Field

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In New York City, there's a little-known island where as many as a million people are buried. It's a public cemetery for homeless people, stillborn babies and unclaimed remains. Visiting Hart Island is a challenge — even for families of the deceased, and now, some of those families are trying to change that.

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Current designated burial site
Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Hart Island

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Hart Island is New York City’s Potter’s field – the place where the city buries its unidentified, its unclaimed and its poor. Since 1875, more than a million people have been put in unmarked graves there. The island is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Correction, which means it’s out of bounds for everybody else.

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Hart island march morning 2012
©2012 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Could NYC’s Island of the Dead Become a Green Burial Park?

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Each year, hundreds of New Yorkers are buried in trenches dug deep in the soil of Hart Island, a sliver of forgotten land in the Long Island Sound off the eastern shore of the Bronx.

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Melinda Hunt, “Buildings Among Burials” (2015), ink sketch of Hart Island

Hart Island: the forgotten dead in New York

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The wind and light rain sweeping the docks in City Island, a small island of fishermen in the Long Island sound, east of the Bronx.

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Benjamin Petit

Open the Hart of New York

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There is no better way to honor our nameless neighbors than by returning their resting place to vibrant life.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

World's largest 'tax-funded mass grave' might be turned into a park

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Rosalee Grable looks out over rows of white pipes, some broken or covered in mud, sticking out of a dirt field. Each tube marks the grave of 150 adults...

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Al jazeera america 2016
Vaughn Wallace/Al Jazeera America

Officials Object to Plan to Turn Hart Island Burial Site Over to Parks Dept.

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It was a vision to beguile many New Yorkers: an all-but-forgotten island in Long Island Sound that a noisy city would transform into its most tranquil park.

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NYC Council hears plan to turn Hart Island into park

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A push to open Hart Island — the resting place of a million souls — as a city park is underway, with elected officials, historians, veterans and families whose loved ones are buried on the island supporting the idea Wednesday at a public hearing.

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AFP/Getty Images / DON EMMERT

Who Should Control Hart Island, NYC's "Prison For The Dead"?

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Speaking before the City Council on Wednesday, New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Christopher Dunn described what it's like to visit Hart Island, where more than 1 million New Yorkers are buried...

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Gothamist 2016
Janko Puls / Flickr

City leaders debate jurisdiction over Hart Island

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City leaders are debating whether control of Hart Island should be transferred to one of two city agencies.

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News12 2016
News 12

Facebook for the Dead: The Traveling Cloud Museum

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Hart Island lies to the east of New York City and is the largest tax-funded mass cemetery in the world.

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An indigent veteran set for Glendale funeral mistakenly buried on Hart Island

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The city made a serious mistake for a veteran deserving of a proper burial.

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RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

INDIGENT BURIAL IN THE U.S. IS SHROUDED IN CONFUSION AND INCONSISTENCY—BUT THERE IS HOPE

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On July 19, Rosaria Cortes Lusero was able for the first time to visit her stillborn daughter’s burial site. She had died just a few days after being born in 1995 and—as is the case with all stillborn infants where no private arrangements are made—buried in a mass grave site on Hart Island in the Bronx which the public could not access.

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Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

The Unseen World: Poetry Review of Hart Island by Stacy Szymaszek

By

In October 2001, the sixty-nine year old playwright and actor Leonard Melfi was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he expired four hours later of congestive heart failure.

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courtesy The Museum of the City of New York

Myth Reality and 21st Century Archeology: The Hart Island Project

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August 26, 2015 - Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein interviews Melinda Hunt about the history of City Cemetery in New York and The Hart Island Project’s proposal to the transform Hart Island into America’s first urban natural burial ground.

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Joseph Schuldenrein/VoiceAmerica

Paying Our Respects: Deal Will Open City’s Potters Field To Public

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New Yorkers are now able to visit the graves of loved ones on Hart Island.

The New York City Department of Correction, which manages operations on the island, settled a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union on July 8 that aims to make it easier for families to pay their respects to loved ones interred there.

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Elaine Joseph/The Hart Island Project

Island Of The Dead Gets New Life As Mourners Visit Graves For First Time

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Though Grable has visited the 131-acre island by ferry before, it used to be that family members were only allowed to stand and reflect at a gazebo just past the island's dock. This past Sunday, the day of Grable's latest expedition, marked the first time that relatives were allowed to visit their loved ones' actual burial spots.

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Rosalee grable huffington post
Sebastian Murdock/Huffington Post

Mourners now allowed to visit graves in New York paupers' cemetery

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For more than a hundred years, New Yorkers who couldn't afford a cemetery plot ended up in unmarked graves on Hart Island, which sits off the coast of the Bronx. Now, for the first time, the city is allowing relatives to visit the paupers' cemetery.

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Current designated burial site
©2010 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Mourners Make First Visit to New York’s Potter’s Field

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The lonely island where New York City buries its unclaimed dead lies off the coast of the Bronx, off-limits to living mourners for so long that it has sometimes seemed like a mirage.

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Rosalee grabel
Michael Appleton/The New York Times

New York paupers' cemetery opens to mourners for first time

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It takes a mere 10 minutes by boat to navigate to New York City's Hart Island, one of the United States' largest paupers' cemetery.

But it took Rosalee Grable more than a year to reach the gravesite where her mother was buried on the uninhabited strip of land off the city's Bronx borough.

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SEBASTIEN MALO/Reuters

Hart Island's Potter's Field Opens to Relatives of Buried

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For the first time, families head to the nation's largest mass grave to visit where their loved ones are buried.

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NY1 News

Hart Island Cemetery, NYC's Potter's Field, Opens to Relatives of the Buried

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In one victory in a battle for public access to the city's potter's field. Beginning Sunday, relatives of people buried in the municipal cemetery on Hart Island will have easier access to the graves of loved ones.

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Elaine joseph visiting grave of her daughter tomika  march 14  2014
Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Island of found souls as Hart Island’s potter’s field will open up

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In a fitting show of compassion for the poorest of the poor, the New York Civil Liberties Union has won the right for family members of those buried on Hart Island to visit the unmarked gravesites of loved ones.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Families win access to Hart Island, NYC's potter's field

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For 24 years, Peekskill artist Melinda Hunt has spent her life documenting, charting and helping families gain access to Hart Island, where New York City has buried its anonymous and indigent dead since just after the Civil War.

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Peter Carr/The Journal News

PA James on Expanded Visitation on Hart Island

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"The grieving public has been kept for far too long from getting the closure they need after a loved one is buried on Hart Island. I have pushed for expanded visitation on Hart Island because burial sites on public grounds should be open to all individuals who need to mourn. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one is aware of the undeniable importance of being able to visit their burial site." 

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New York City to Allow Visits to Grave Sites on Hart Island

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In a major policy shift governing the potter's field run by New York City for the burial of unclaimed bodies, the city has settled a lawsuit and will allow relatives to visit grave sites on Hart Island, off City Island in the Bronx.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Hart Island Opened to Family Members of Deceased Following Court Settlement

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THE BRONX — The city has agreed to allow families whose loved ones are buried on Hart Island, the city's potters field, to visit the deceased once a month, according to a settlement reached on Wednesday between the NYCLU and the city.

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Dna info
©2008 Ian Ferance

Settlement allows families to visit graves in New York potter's field

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Families whose loved ones lie in a New York City potter's field for unclaimed bodies or those unable to afford burials will be able to visit the gravesites for the first time under a settlement announced on Wednesday.

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Families will be able to visit graves of loved ones at NYC's potter's field under settlement

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Family members of people buried at the city's potter's field of Hart Island will be allowed to visit their graves under a landmark settlement of a class-action lawsuit announced on Wednesday.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

'Like a prison for the dead': welcome to Hart Island, home to New York City's pauper graves

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More than a million bodies are believed to be buried on Hart Island, the city’s indigent burial ground for over a century. Now one woman is trying to link families with their loved ones with ‘a sort of Facebook for the dead’

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Adult burial marker ©1993 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

If You Die Poor or Alone in New York City, You’ll Be Buried by Prisoners in a Mass Grave

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In New York and other cities, activists are pushing back against the persistence of inequality in death, as in life.

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A trench at the potter's field on Hart Island, circa 1890 (Jacob Riis/ Museum of the City of New York)

The Curious Case of Hart Island

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The Department of Corrections runs it. The Parks Department doesn’t want it. But citizens want to visit their dead.

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Bbc world
Hart Island (Photo by David Trawin)

The Isolated Island Where New York's Unknown and Unclaimed Are Buried

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On the third Thursday of every month at 9 AM, you can visit Hart Island, a massive potter's field in New York City, but only if you've made a reservation in advance.

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Tess Owen, Vice

Uncovering the lost names and stories of people buried in New York's Hart Island cemetery

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One of our deepest unvoiced fears in life can probably be summed up in one word: anonymity.

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David Trawin/CC BY-SA 2.0

Traveling Cloud Museum Review

By

While the subject matter may be a little shocking, and the tone is something akin to True Detective, The Hart Island Project website is pretty incredible in a design sense.

The video intro – don’t skip it – it sets the tone that is continued through out the site. And while the patented Traveling Cloud Museum over the map of the island is extremely cool, you may want to head over to The History, About, and Mission pages in the off-screen menu on the right to get a sense of why, and background for the rest of the site. The design (by Studio Airport – @Studio_AIRPORT – out of The Netherlands) is great, but the story is even more interesting.

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Homepage
The Hart Island Project

Honrando la memoria de los muertos gracias a la ‘nube’

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La artista canadiense Melinda Hunt lleva desde 1991 trabajando para hacer visible la historia de Hart Island, uno de los mayores cementerios olvidados del mundo y la mayor acumulación de fosas comunes de Estados Unidos. Ahora quiere que cualquiera lo visite de forma virtual gracias a su proyecto Hartisland.net.

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Ronald fridie
©2012 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

NYC's Hart Island: The past and future of the nation's largest mass burial ground

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In January, members of the City Council, which is considering legislation that would transfer the island's oversight to the Parks Department, visited on a guided tour.

Councilman Mark Levine, the parks committee chair, said he came away from the experience “feeling that it’s a place that more New Yorkers should be able to visit.”

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©2004 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Community Board 10 votes to support Hart Island transfer legislation

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Community Board 10 is supporting an effort calling for the transfer Hart Island, home to the city’s Potter’s Field, to the Parks Department.

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Community News Group / Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Will Hart Island be reborn as NYC's newest public park?

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New York's public cemetery has been off-limits to the public for decades. But with a push to transfer control of the island-bound burial ground to the Parks Department, that could all change.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Bronx community board gives nod to law turning Hart Island into city park

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A Bronx community board urged Thursday that the isolated burial ground of Hart Island be transformed into a park.

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Burial on an infant on hart island
Claire Yaffa/The Hart Island Project

Community Board 10 discusses legislation on Hart Island transfer to Parks Department

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It appears that Community Board 10 will debate the merits of two new City Council bills about jurisdiction of the city’s Potter’s Field on Hart Island.

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Bronx times
Patrick Rocchio/Bronx Times

Push Continues for Greater Access to Hart Island Public Cemetery

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Getting to visit a loved one at the city's public cemetery on Hart Island isn't easy, but advocates have made some headway in an effort to provide families with closure and are continuing a push for greater access to the burial site.

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William Mack/The Hart Island Project

Do the dead on this island deserve better visitation rights?

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New York's Hart Island is the nation's largest pauper's cemetery, and it's notoriously inaccessible to family members of the deceased.

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Chris Cascarano - MSNBC

Finding the Stories of NYC's Unclaimed Dead

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Roy Foss was a father who fought and lost a battle against alcoholism. Jan Winiarski sent money back to his family in Poland. Kenneth Selesky loved to cook. And Leonard Melfi was a famous playwright—who eerily wrote a play about dying anonymously.

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Vicky pavia
©1994 Joel Sternfeld/The Hart Island Project

Brooklyn Live: Hart Island

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Charisma Troiano (Brooklyn Daily Eagle) talks with Melinda Hunt (Hart Island Project) and Bess Lovejoy (Historian) about the potter's field for Brooklyn.

Original air date: Jan 6, 2015

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Elizabeth Crowley - BK Live

Digital Museum for New York's Unclaimed Dead

By

The over one million people buried on New York City’s Hart Island are unified by their invisibility.

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Hyperallergic
courtesy The Hart Island Project

Website maps thousands of unmarked mass graves on Hart Island, allows families to upload tributes to loved ones

By

They're unearthing the untold tales of the once-nameless faces buried in the city’s most mysterious final resting place.

Activists behind the push for access to a mass grave on Hart Island have launched an interactive website allowing loved ones to discover and eulogize family buried there.

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courtesy The Hart Island Project

New York's forgotten finally remembered

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Sitting just off the east coast of the Bronx and a short boat ride from Manhattan is Hart Island, a tiny mile-long atoll and former Civil War prison camp that has for decades, and continues to be, a mysterious mass grave.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Site Aims to Demystify Hart Island's Tons of Anonymous Graves

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The Hart Island Project has launched its website that attempts to bring a name, face, and story to the 62,200
people buried in mass graves on the notoriously inaccessible Bronx island since 1980.

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Screen shot 2014 12 23 at 11.12.40 am
courtesy The Hart Island Project

Bronx Talk News Television

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With Hart Island Guests: John Doyle, Melinda Hunt

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Bronx Talk - December 29, 2014

Hart Island lawsuit calls for more public access as advocacy continues on multiple fronts

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Hart Island, home to the city’s Potter’s Field burial sites that’s now off limits except for relatively infrequent visiting days, could soon be abuzz with visitors.

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Bronx times
Community News Group/Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Only Inmates and the Dead Are Welcome on NY Island

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Lush and unspoiled, within commuting distance of Manhattan, Hart Island would be a draw if admission rules weren’t so strict: You must be dead to stay and an inmate to visit.

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Hart island cemetery
©2004 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Family of stillborn baby holding out hope for access to Hart Island

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Marie Garcia never met her baby sister - and isn’t allowed to visit her grave.

Garcia’s mother, Rosaria Cortes Lusero, gave birth to a stillborn baby girl in October, 1995 at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens after a doctor attempted to reposition the baby in her womb.

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Claire yaffa
©1990 Claire Yaffa

Lawsuit Decries Limited Access to New York’s Publicly Funded Mass Grave

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Supported by tax payers on a city-owned island, New York City’s potter’s field is one of the country’s most inaccessible publicly funded spaces. The Hart Island cemetery is the secluded final resting place for over a million people, their bodies layered in trenches by inmates from nearby Rikers Island.

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Riis 82 potters field
Photograph by Jacob Riis of a trench at the Hart Island potter’s field (1860) (via Museum of the City of New York)

Lawsuit seeks visiting rights to NY potter's field

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A federal lawsuit Wednesday demanded public access to a small uninhabited island off New York City where the remains of about a million people who were poor or unknown are buried.

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Craig ruttle
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press 2010

Cemetery on Hart Island dead wrong: suit

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They're dead and buried — and off limits.

A new class action lawsuit claims the city is violating New Yorkers’ civil rights by not not allowing them to visit relatives’ gravesites on Hart Island in the Long Island Sound.

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DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A Prison for the Dead

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When Millie died last year, her foster mother was in a nursing home and her pimp was in jail. Nobody came to collect her body, so the city buried her where it has interred a million other unclaimed bodies: in a massive trench on an inaccessible, desolate shard of land in Long Island Sound called Hart Island.

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Screen shot 2014 12 07 at 11.19.53 am
Millie, the last time I saw her ©2013 Chris Arnade

City Island Civic Association, Chamber visit Hart Island and take tour

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City Island leaders toured Hart Island in a continuing effort to gain support for its transfer from the Department of Corrections to the Parks Department.

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New York City Seeks to Put Names to Unidentified Bodies

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Traditionally, New York City officials have preferred not to draw attention to the unidentified bodies that pass through city morgues and receive public burials in mass graves on Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx.

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Michael nagle for the new york times
Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Hart Island: New York's Mysterious Mass Grave

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Hart Island is the final resting place for more than 1 million New Yorkers, all buried by inmates. The mysterious mass grave has been closed to the public for decades but is now opening its gates to relatives, like Roberta Omin.

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RTL Nieuws New York

Island of the Dead

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Most New Yorkers don't even know of its existence, but one of the city's islands houses a mass grave of more than a million bodies.

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Sbs dateline
SBS ONE

Hart Island Hallelujah

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Paying a Visit to Forgotten New Yorkers.

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The medium
©2014 Roxanne Palmer

Gevangenis voor de doden

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Op een eilandje boven de Newyorkse wijk Queens ligt Hart Island, het grootste publieke massagraf ter wereld. Telegraaf TV nam een bijzonder kijkje op de plek waar alle ongeïdentificeerde overleden inwoners van de stad terechtkomen.

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Telegraaf
telegraaf.nl

Why NYC Wouldn't Let This Woman Visit Her Daughter's Grave

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Every month, the bodies of about 125 people are shipped from New York City's medical examiner’s office to Hart Island just off the Bronx. It’s the final resting place for nearly one million people. For over a century, it’s where the city has buried its unclaimed dead and in some cases, babies that have died at childbirth or soon after.

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Screen shot 2014 05 22 at 12.26.19 pm
©2014 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Hart Island, New York’s secret graveyard

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Few visitors to New York are aware that a wooded island off the coast of the Bronx is home to one of the world’s largest burial grounds. Since 1869 over 850,000 corpses have been buried on Hart Island, yet the site – which is run by the Department of Correction and dug by prison inmates – is shrouded in so much secrecy that even relatives of the dead are denied the right to visit the graves.

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Screen shot 2014 04 29 at 5.18.02 pm
©2014 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Nearly 1 Million People Buried On This Forbidden NYC Island

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Just north of the Bronx, on City Island, there is a road that dead ends at a dock on the Long Island Sound.

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Hart Island: One woman's journey to find her baby daughter's grave

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The trench is broad and deep. Pale brown earth has been freshly turned, ready for another row of coffins.

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Itv
ITV News 2014

One million buried in mass graves on forbidden New York island

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Hart Island in New York is the biggest mass grave in the United States. One million bodies have been buried there since 1869, including stillborn babies, the homeless, the poor, the unidentified and the unclaimed.

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Screen shot 2014 12 06 at 4.34.40 pm
DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Hart Island holds a million graves of babies and unidentified and poor people

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Hart Island has had many uses since the city of New York purchased it in 1868, but its primary function has been as a burial ground for the poor, the unidentified and the unclaimed. On this strip of land off the Bronx shore, ruined buildings that were once a borstal, a quarantine for tuberculosis patients and a lunatic asylum are surrounded by white posts, each marking the final resting place of either 150 adults or 1000 infants.

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Elaine joseph
©2014 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Honoring the Unnamed Dead of AIDS on Hart Island

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“The Graves of Forgotten New Yorkers,” by Bess Lovejoy and Allison C. Meier (Op-Ed, March 19), mentions an individual grave on Hart Island for the first child to die of AIDS in New York. In 1992, Joel Sternfeld and I photographed the marker for that plot.

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Child aids grave
Child AIDS Grave ©1992 Melinda Hunt in collaboration with Joel Sternfeld

The Graves of Forgotten New Yorkers

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On New York City maps, Hart Island drifts off the edge of the Bronx like an amputated leg. Among overgrown vegetation and ramshackle buildings spread out over 101 acres, about a million bodies are buried — the homeless, the poor, the stillborn, the unidentified and the unclaimed.

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Screen shot 2014 12 09 at 11.34.55 pm
Kaley McKean/The New York Times

Woman Who Lost Newborn in 1978 Visits Approximate Gravesite on Hart Island

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It's been 36 years since a hospital mistakenly allowed Elaine Joseph's newborn to be buried at the city's public cemetery on Hart Island. She's been to the island there times since then, searching for her baby.

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Screen shot 2014 05 22 at 12.26.19 pm
©2014 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

The Hart Island Project: Melinda Hunt's quest to identify the anonymous

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“The feeling that it’s within your control to commemorate your loved one is an important feeling to restore,” says Melinda Hunt, an artist who, for the past two decades, has sought to do just that for relatives of the 850,000 people buried since the Civil War on Hart Island, a potter’s field in Long Island Sound.

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Sidney landscape portrait
Sidney Grimes buried 2004 ©2011 Melinda Hunt/The Hart Island Project

Effort Aims to Expand Access to Hart Island Gravesites

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At age 23, Elaine Joseph of Fresh Meadows lost her first child to a heart defect.

"At five days old, after suffering cardiac arrest before and after the surgery my daughter died," Joseph recalled.

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New Yorkers demand access to mass graves on convict island

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Campaigners, residents and a group of women who each lost a child at birth will gather this weekend for a meeting on City Island on the edge of the Bronx, hoping to shed light on one of New York City’s darkest and strangest secrets.

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Screen shot 2014 12 10 at 12.33.26 am
Prisoners prepare to bury the dead in the fenced-off cemetery of Hart Island Arthur Schatz/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

Searching for My Dead Baby in a New York Mass Grave

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New Yorker Elaine Joseph tells Matthew Bannister about her 35-year search for the body of her baby daughter Tomika, who died when she was just a few days old. Elaine believes Tomika's body may be in a public cemetery.

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Elaine joseph
©2013 Claire Yaffa/The Hart Island Project

The Bronx's 'Isle of the Dead' may get new life as park

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A Bronx-based potter’s Field that’s been in use since the Victorian era may get a new life.

Part of Hart Island, a 130-acre isle off mainland Bronx that has been used as a public cemetery since 1869, may become the city’s newest park after a Queens lawmaker vowed to revisit a measure that would bring it under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department.

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Daily news 1950s
Inmates prepare for a burial at Hart Island.

Visiting the Island of the Dead

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On Tuesday morning, the first snow flurries of the season fell on New York’s potter’s field, drifting down into an open trench, dusting the dirt next to hundreds of corpses in bare wooden caskets.

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Screen shot 2014 12 10 at 12.53.05 am
Victor Blue for The New York Times

Secrets of New York: Islands

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Kelly ventures to mysterious islands around New York to unearth the secrets that lie hidden in their past. On Hart Island, she meets with experts who enrich our understanding of the site’s rich history: before it became the city’s cemetery for unclaimed bodies, Hart Island was the training ground for African American regiments during the Civil War, as well as a mental asylum and hospital site

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Civil war hart island
NYC Media

Events

Six to Celebrate Launch Party

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Please join the Historic Districts Council (HDC) and The Hart Island Project at the 2017 launch party! Six to Celebrate annually identifies six historic NYC neighborhoods that merit preservation. These will be priorities for HDC’s advocacy and consultation over a yearlong period.

See pdf announcement

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6tocelebrate
Historic District Council

Bronx Parks Speak Up

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The Hart Island Project will host a table at the 23rd Annual Bronx Parks Speak Up beginning at 11 am to 5 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2017. The event is held at Lehman Colleges Faculty Dining Room in the MUSIC BUILDING AT 250 BEDFORD PARK BLVD. W. The theme of this year's Speak Up is "The Future of Bronx Parks and Open Space. Please come by and say hello. 


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Bxspeakup2017
(clockwise from top left): Bronx River Alliance, Karen Argenti, Clarence Eckerson.

Open to the Public - Making Our Story Heard - Historic Districts Council 23 Annual Preservation Conference

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Join The Hart Island Project at the Historic Districts Council for a Participant Driven Preservation Conference on Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 9 AM to 4 PM.

This day-long Conference will dive into campaigns to preserve communities throughout the city with sessions led by the participants.

See pdf announcement

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Hdc 2017 conference postcard announcement image
Historic Districts Council
The Hart Island Project © 2017
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