Monday, April 13, 2020

Mass grave on Hart Island - New York's 'City of the Dead'

An obscure island, just past the Bronx, is a place of myth. Access is extremely limited. Exclusively by approved prior arrangement, only to certain areas, never without escort. Photography is usually not permitted. This is Hart Island, the keeper of an untold history of New York City.

Secrecy is due to the island’s status as the “potter’s field” (civic graveyard) for unclaimed bodies. Since 1980 at least 62,370 people have been buried there, but it has been used for interments since 1869. Some estimates are 850,000. Most of the digging is done by the prisoners of Rikers Island Correctional Facility for 50 cents an hour.
Coffins are stacked three-high in trenches that hold 25 stacks each.

It could take years for the remains to be returned to families for a proper burial.
Used as a burial ground during the Spanish Flu and AIDS crisis, and a quarantine area for yellow fever and tuberculosis victims, the 'City of the Dead' is needed yet again.