Mindanao Times

New York’s ‘island of the dead’ to welcome more of the living


A ONCE off-limits, eroding island in New York where more than a million people are buried in unmarked mass graves dug by prisoners is about to become more accessible.

For 150 years, unclaimed bodies, the poor, still-born children and

AIDS victims have been laid to rest on the mile-long Hart Island, making it one of America’s largest public cemeteries.

Often referred to as “island of the dead” or “jail for the dead,” the islet has for over a century been run by the prisons department, which heavily restricts access.

Relatives are only allowed to visit on two designated days a month, while correction­al officers escort media there just twice a year. AFP was on the most recent trip.

“I don’t want somebody to tell me when I can visit my baby’s gravesite. I want to go when I want to go,” Elaine Joseph, 65, told AFP.

Her daughter Tomika was just a few days old when she died in January 1978 after being born prematurel­y. Joseph wasn’t able to visit her burial place until 2014.

Soon, the retired nurse will be able to pay her respects regularly thanks to plans to open up Hart Island, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed on Wednesday.

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