Will Hart Island’s macabre past finally be laid to rest? Last week, Bronx Community Board 10 passed City Council legislation that would pave the way to transform the isolated burial ground section of the island into a city park. Under the new guidelines, the responsibility and upkeep of the grave site will be transferred from NYC’s Department of Corrections to the Parks Department.



Burial-Ground-Hart-Island_Kingston Lounge
Open burial pit on the island. Image Via Kingston Lounge.

For more than a century, the 130-acre island off the western end of Long Island Sound has served many functions for the area. Originally used as a Union Civil War prison camp, the island has housed a lunatic asylum, a tuberculosis sanatorium and a boys’ reformatory.

Related: Craigslist Sees Surge in Secondhand Burial Plots

Since 1869, when the city bought the island, it has been used as a final resting place for unclaimed bodies, and gradually became the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. Until recently, family members wishing to visit the graves were only allowed one visit per month, which were oddly restricted to a gazebo with no view of the graveyard.

The new legislation to transfer control of the island to the Parks Department was proposed by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens). The bill passed almost unanimously.

Via NY Daily News

Lead image: Doc Searls