Magazine article New Internationalist

Hart Island Sorrow

Magazine article New Internationalist

Hart Island Sorrow

Article excerpt

A wooded island offthe coast of the Bronx is home to one of the world's largest burial grounds - yet few New Yorkers are aware of the fact. Since 1869, over 850,000 corpses have been buried on Hart Island, yet the site - which is run by the Department of Correction (DOC) - is shrouded in so much secrecy that even relatives of the dead are denied the right to visit the graves.

Many of the dead buried on the island were homeless, destitute or never claimed by friends or relatives. But an unknown number of corpses - including many stillborn babies - have been interred there against the wishes of family members.

Elaine Joseph's premature baby died in hospital in 1978 and was buried on the island without her knowledge shortly afterwards. 'She was not poor, she was not unwanted, she was not a criminal to be in the criminal justice system. It was a real travesty of justice for this to happen to me and many, many other people,' she protests. Following a long campaign, Joseph became one of the first relatives to be permitted to visit the site in March. …

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