Uptown’s Rodriguez And Others Make Sure That Hart Island A Public Cemetery Receives Justice

Today, uptown Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee joined Mayor de Blasio for a ceremony that lent final approval to the efforts to bring justice to those buried at Hart Island, and to their family members and loved ones. Hart Island is the site of a mass graveyard used since the Civil War years and stands as the largest tax-funded cemetery in the United States. Many of those buried on the island were under-served, immigrant and poor New Yorkers who could not afford burial services in a private cemetery, those not identified by family members, or who had no form of identification when found.

The bills enacted included Int. 909 that will see that the Department of Transportation (DOT), or another agency designated by the Mayor, develop a transportation plan for public travel, including ferry service, to and from Hart Island. And Int. 906, which will transfer jurisdiction and control over Hart Island, the City’s public burial ground, from the Department of Corrections (DOC) to the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).

“Today is a historic day for New York City. Those buried in the nation’s largest public cemetery will finally receive justice. This is about giving respect and dignity to the immigrants and poor New Yorkers buried on Hart Island and the family members who go through a lengthy and at times complicated process to visit their loved ones. For the first time in over 150 years we will begin putting a transportation plan to allow the public to visit and learn about the history of Hart island,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee. “Hart Island, which has over 1 million bodies, shouldn’t be guarded by correctional officers. The journey to today’s achievements was long, but I am proud to have worked alongside Speaker Corey Johnson, colleagues and advocates like Melinda Hunt from the Hart Island Project to get this bill passed, and to Mayor de Blasio for signing this historic bill today.”

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