Hart Island’s mysterious past and unknown future
BY STEVEN GOODSTEIN
Hart Island, the location of Potter’s
Field, a city burial site for unclaimed
bodies of deceased residents or visitors,
may be open to more visitors if the NYC
Council passes several bills that are
targeting a reversal of the site’s current
At Thursday, October 10’s Community
Board 10 Parks and Recreation
Committee meeting at their offi ce, the
current status and future plans for Hart
Island were reviewed.
The meeting was attended by Councilman
Mark Gjonaj, members of the
Hart Island Project and representatives
from NYC Council speaker Corey Johnson’s
offi ce, along with CB10 residents.
At the meeting, Johnson’s representatives
explained that the plan to improve
Hart Island access would be contingent
on the passing of four pieces of
One bill, Bill 906, would transfer
the jurisdiction of Hart Island from the
NYC Department of Corrections to the
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.
It was explained at the meeting
that if jurisdiction was transferred,
Parks would not be assigned to perform
A revamped transportation plan
for Hart Island is also under consideration.
Council Bill 909-b calls for more
frequent ferry service, after appropriate
traffi c studies are conducted by the
NYC Department of Transportation.
This bill was not well received by
City Island residents at the meeting. Citing
both traffi c and parking concerns,
the islanders appeared opposed to initiating
more frequent travel to Hart Island,
which is reached by ferry service
from Fordham Street.
Currently, the DOC only offers gazebo
visits on the third Thursday of
every month and gravesite visits twice
a month on weekends for close family
members of the deceased.
SNACK FOODS INDUSTRY
THE RIGHT CANDIDATE SHOULD HAVE EXPERTISE IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
BRONX TIMES REPORTER, O 4 CTOBER 18-24, 2019 BTR
Before 2015, family members of the
departed required an attorney to visit
the Hart Island gravesite, until a class
action lawsuit fi led by the New York
Civil Liberties Union established rights
for families to visit their loved ones who
are buried there.
Council Bill 1559-a would establish a
manned contact offi ce on the island that
would answer questions or provide information
about a loved one, while Bill
1580-a would lead to the creation of public
discourse for Hart Island.
These four bills were initially presented
by the Council this past May.
CB 10 voted down a 2015 attempt to
transfer Hart Island’s jurisdiction from
DOC to Parks.
“My priority has always been to preserve
and protect those who are buried
on Hart Island,” said Councilman
Gjonaj, who also expressed his displeasure
with the fact that prisoners are
paid less than $5 a day to bury the dead.
Visiting Hart Island, located one
third of a mile east of City Island, does
come with rules and restrictions. Visitors
must provide photo ID and surrender
their cell phones before boarding
“This is an important and historic
site that needs to be preserved - and provide
a decent burial for unidentifi ed individuals,”
said Melinda Hunt, president
and founding director of the Hart Island
Project, a non-profi t organization that
assists families in fi nding loved ones,
negotiating grave site visits and obtaining
copies of public burial records.
Hunt, a visual artist, began the Hart
Island Project in 1991 along with photographer
Hart Island’s history dates back to
1654, when Thomas Pell purchased the
island from the Siwanoy tribe. In 1865,
the island hosted a temporary prisonerof
war camp for over 3,000 Confederate
soldiers who were captured during
the Civil War. Public burials of the unclaimed
and unidentifi ed began in 1869
- a burial site that was called City Cemetery
and Potter’s Field. In the 1980s, the
eastern portion of Hart Island was used
as a burial ground for AIDS victims.
In the 150-year span, over a million
people have been buried on Hart Island,
making it home to the largest municipal
cemetery in the United States.
During the cold war and the war on
drugs it also had special signifi cance.
The island was once home to a Nike
Missile site and an Odessey House drug
Man forged $40,000 in checks from woman
District Attorney Darcel D. Clark
announced that a man has been indicted
for possessing a forged a check
and stealing $40,000 from an 85-year-old
Bronx woman’s bank account.
DA Clark said, “The defendant allegedly
stole thousands of dollars from the
victim by using a bogus check and possessing
the victim’s forged signature.
The elderly victim had to go through a
terrible ordeal after realizing she was
missing $40,000 from her bank account.
We will prosecute anyone who preys
on our vulnerable, elderly community
She said the defendant, Daniel
Brown, 29, of St. John’s Avenue, Hicksville,
N.Y., was arraigned Tuesday,
October 8 on third and fourth-degree
Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny, seconddegree
Criminal Possession of a Forged
Instrument, and fi rst, second and thirddegree
Identity Theft, and third, fourth
and fi fth-degree Criminal Possession of
Stolen Property before Bronx Supreme
Court Justice Margaret Clancy. Brown
is due back on December 18, 2019.
According to the investigation, the
defendant stole the money from the elderly
Bronx resident in early February
2018. The defendant allegedly stole
the funds by using the victim’s JPMorgan
Chase account number, her name,
address and supposed signature on a
forged check. Brown deposited the check
into his personal TD Bank account. Between
February 9 and 11, 2018, the defendant
went to a teller at fi ve different
bank locations and allegedly withdrew
the funds. Brown also created an online
checking account using the victim’s information.
The defendant was arrested
on April 25, 2019.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant
District Attorney Melanie Smith
of the Economic Crimes Bureau under
the supervision of Richard Kearney,
Deputy Chief of the Economic Crimes
Bureau, and William Zelenka, Chief of
the Economic Crimes Bureau, and the
overall supervision of Tarek Rahman,
Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division,
and Jean T. Walsh, Chief of the Investigations
DA Clark thanked Bronx DA Detective
Investigator Louis Zanieri and
Assistant District Attorney Jeannette
Rucker, Chief of Support Staff Training
and Professional Development, for their
View of Hart Island from City Island. Photo courtesy of Patrick Rocchio