Hart Island grave site access to be increased, city says

More heart to Hart: the city announced Tuesday that it will allow more people to visit the grave sites of their lost loved ones on Hart Island.

As part of a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the city will now allow 70 visitors a month to travel to the potter’s field, 20 more than the current limit.

The Department of Correction, which maintains the island, also agreed to provide visitors with photographs of their relative’s grave site.

“This increase in grave site visitation is one more step toward honoring the memory of people buried there,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, who sued the city for access to the site, said in a statement.

The island, located off the coast of City Island, has operated as a burial ground for unclaimed New Yorkers since the 19th century. More than a million bodies are buried there.

It was off limits to residents, until the city settled with the NYCLU in 2015 and started offering ferry service to relatives of the buried persons.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced a bill that would transfer the island from the DOC to the parks department and allow it to be open to the public.

“There is still work to be done to ensure that the deceased are resting in a place of dignity — this is not possible while the island’s maintenance and operation still remain under DOC,” she said in a statement.