The city's Parks Department has rejected the idea of turning the massive potter's field on Hart Island in the Bronx into an area accessible to the public, the New York Times reports. The Island is currently run by the Department of Corrections and a bill was introduced in the City Council a few years ago that would allow for the transfer of the land to the Parks Department, and thereby make it a publicly accessible space.
At a City Council hearing on Wednesday representatives from the Parks Department said it would be beyond their budget to convert the Island into a park. And representatives from the Department of Corrections informed the council that they were happy maintaining it as a mass burial ground.
Currently, a few inmates are taken to the island, and under the supervision of corrections officers are asked to dig burial plots on the land. Last year itself, 1,137 bodies were buried on the island.
Until last year, the site was even closed off to family members who wished to visit the burial site of their relatives. Those who did get access to the island had to visit a memorial site located away from the graves. But a court ruling last year has since allowed family members to visit the site once a month.
The island has been used as a public burial ground mostly for unidentified people since 1868. Many have complained that the site is run like a prison instead of a cemetery, and it was hoped that a transfer to the Parks Department would change that atmosphere.
· Officials Object to Plan to Turn Hart Island Burial Site Over to Parks Dept. [New York Times]
· City Grants Access to Hart Island's Mass Grave Sites [Curbed]
· Bronx's Hart Island, Long A Burial Ground, Could Be A Park [Curbed]