The 130-acre spit of land in the Long Island Sound that has been home to about 1 million New Yorkers' graves since the Victorian era could become a public park, if one City Council member has her way. Queens Democrat Elizabeth Crowley plans to reintroduce a bill as soon as next month that would transfer oversight of Hart Island from the Department of Correction to the Parks Department. Crowley holds that the historic site, which has been used as a cemetery for over 150 years, should be accessible to the publican aim shared by the advocacy/history nonprofit Hart Island Projectand she wants to work with the Council's Parks Committee to make it a reality. At the moment, requests to visit are rarely granted. The few who gain access report back about the "unceremonious interment," where "[h]andmade crosses made of twigs and small offerings of fruit and candy left behind when a grave is finished." Even today, inmates from Rikers bury the city's poor or otherwise homeless dead on the island.
Hart Island Project's Melinda Hunt says the north side of the island, which hasn't been the site for new graves in a long time and hence is not longer an active burial ground, is ripe for conversion to public space. She also points out that potter's fields have been transformed into other parks, including Bryant, City Hall, and Washington Square. A Quaker cemetery lies inside Prospect Park, too.
According to the Daily News, officials worry that opening up Hart Island will lead to increased traffic on nearby City Island, where the ferry departs. Despite that downside, and the pariah isle's overall abandoned creepiness, Crowley firmly believes: "Every New Yorker should have the right to visit."
· The Bronx's 'Isle of the Dead' may get new life as park [NYDN]
· Hart Island Project [official]
· Visiting the Island of the Dead [NYT]
· What We Found at Hart Island, The Largest Mass Grave Site In the U.S. [Gizmodo]
· Abandoned Hart Island: New York City's Mass Burial Ground [Untapped]