On Thursday, the New York City Council approved legislation that transfers ownership of Hart Island, the nation’s largest public cemetery where over 1 million people are buried, to the city’s Parks Department. The 101-acre island off the coast of the Bronx contains a potters field that has been the final resting place for destitute New Yorkers as far back as the Civil War. The island is currently operated by the Department of Correction (DOC), with Rikers Island inmates paid $1 an hour to bury bodies there. This week’s vote comes after a years-long fight to end the onerous process required of visitors who wish to pay their respects to loved ones buried there; its intent is to make the island more accessible to the public and improve its dilapidated conditions.
It often seems as if the jackhammer is the soundtrack to New York, as construction is a constant in this city. Given the frenetic pace of development in the five boroughs, it feels almost unbelievable that there are abandoned sites all over New York, left to go to seed as the steel skeletons of ever higher, newer, glassier structures rise around them. Here are eight of the most interesting abandoned sites in NYC, from the site of the city’s first airport to a defunct freight line.
Photo by cisc1970 on Flickr
The city is looking for land to build a new public cemetery for residents who were unclaimed or unable to afford a burial. The city’s Human Resources Administration on Tuesday issued a request for information (RFI) from private burial companies to develop ideas for new cemeteries, citing concerns over the lack of space on Hart Island, land located off the Bronx where more than one million people have been buried since the Civil War. The RFI comes as the City Council recently finalized a package of bills to reform the Island, as well as the city’s process for public burials.
Photo of Hart Island via Flickr
One of the country’s largest burial ground may become a city park. The New York City Council is considering making Hart Island, an island located off of the Bronx coast where roughly one million people have been buried since the Civil War, more accessible to visitors. Because the city’s Department of Correction (DOC) currently maintains the site and hires inmates from Rikers Island to bury bodies there, access remains restricted. During a hearing Thursday, the City Council introduced a package of legislation aimed at improving Hart Island, including one bill that would transfer control of the land from the DOC to the city’s parks department.
- Hart Island, the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world, which holds over one million unclaimed bodies, will now allow relatives to visit graves. [NYT]
- Chatting with the owners of 121 Charles Street, who moved their little country home in 1967 from Yorkville all the way to Greenwich Village, where it remains today. [Off the Grid]
- Here’s the details on how the Lowline, NYC’s first underground park, will let sunlight in. [Fast Co. Design]
- Mixing New York and Paris in old photographs. [Fubiz]
- Puphaus is a an architecturally inspired dog house created by two Atlanta designers. [Contemporist]
Since 1980, inmates at Rikers Island have buried 62,000 unclaimed and unidentified New Yorkers in mass graves on Hart Island, a small, mile-long piece of land to the east of the Bronx that is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world, holding over one million bodies. Before its current use, the island served many uses, including a prison, psychiatric institution, tuberculosis sanatorium, and a boys’ reformatory. The Department of Corrections gained control of the land in 1968, and it has been closed to the public ever since.
That’s all changing, though, thanks to artist Melinda Hunt, who created the Hart Island Project, an interactive online memorial that provides access to information about the burials on Hart Island and tools for storytelling so that no one is omitted from history. The site’s Traveling Cloud Museum lets users look up information on their loved ones and share their personal memories. Last year, Melinda led the introduction of legislation that would give control of the cemetery to the Department of Parks and Recreation so that New Yorkers can freely visit the island and its graves. And coming up this Labor Day weekend, Emmylou Harris will sing at the gated entrance to the dock, calling attention to the Hart Island Project’s efforts.
We chatted with Melinda about her passion for Hart Island, how the Project has evolved, and what we can expect in the near future.