A Manhattan City Council member is looking to restart the conversation on opening Hart Island as a public park, the New York Post reports. Earlier this month, Council member Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a couple of bills in the City Council that would allow for the transfer of the Potter’s Field from the city’s Department of Corrections to the Parks Department, and also create a ferry service that would allow more people to commute to the island.
In early 2016, the Parks Department rejected a similar proposal put forward by a different City Council member. At that time, the Department said it would be too costly to convert the island into a park, and representatives from the Department of Corrections said they were happy maintaining the island as a mass burial ground.
This time around, Council member Rodriguez is also calling for the allocation for $10 million in funds that would allow for the conversion of the island into a park.
“Open Hart Island, give the dignity and respect to the men and women, more than 1 million that have been buried in this location for 150 years,” he told a group of reporters who had a chance to tour the island recently, according to the Post.
Hart Island is the largest publicly-funded cemetery in the United States, but it wasn’t until 2015 that family members of those who are interred on the island, were allowed to visit. Those hoping to visit the island now must go through the Department of Corrections, and make an appointment months in advance. On the island, they are escorted by a corrections officer at all times. At present, about 1,000 bodies are interred on the island every year—usually for New Yorkers who can’t afford a burial or when a body is unidentified.
If Council member Rodriguez’s bill is approved, families and other New Yorkers would be able to visit the island more freely.