City Council proposes public park on Hart Island

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THE BRONX -

The City Council is pushing to create a public park and easier accessibility to Hart Island.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez introduced two bills about the island earlier this month.

The proposed legislation would transfer jurisdiction of the island from the Department of Correction to the Parks Department. It would also establish a public ferry service.

Hart Island is located in the Long Island Sound off the eastern edge of the Bronx.

It is home to the country's largest publicly funded cemetery. Since the 1800s, prison labor has been used to bury New Yorkers in mass graves on the island.

People can access the island with a monthly ferry ride scheduled through the city's Department of Correction.

Elaine Joseph says it is the only way she can visit her deceased baby.

Her newborn passed away in the hospital, and she didn’t know where her baby was buried.

"I was told that they were understaffed in the morgue and that the city had quote, taken care of it," she said.

Joseph found the cemetery through help from a nonprofit organization.

"They don't deserve to have to contact the penal system and show ID and relinquish their phone and sign waivers just to visit a relative," said Melinda Hunt, a representative from Hart Island Project.

Officials say that there are around 1 million people buried on the island. Most of them are unclaimed or unidentified New Yorkers buried in mass graves.

The Department of Correction says that it is the only city agent equipped to handle such burials.

Go HERE for more on the proposal.

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