Arriving on Hart Island, visitors are directed by Correction officers to a wooden gazebo enclosed by a white picket fence. This is as far as the vast majority of visitors – the general public – can go on the island. In 2006, the DOC erected this shelter for the Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field, a prayer group organized by the nonprofit Picture the Homeless. DOC agreed that the group could assemble at the gazebo on a bi-monthly basis, but access to gravesites was still prohibited. In 2013, a group of eight women, working with the Hart Island Project, organized and petitioned New York City to visit the mass graves of their infants buried on Hart Island. On March 14, 2014, Elaine Joseph was the first woman to be permitted to walk to an infant burial site. In December 2014, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal class action lawsuit demanding gravesite access for relatives of the buried. Those who are not relatives are only permitted to visit the gazebo, which is open to the public on the third Thursday of each month.
Image ©2017 Alon Sicherman l-vision courtesy The Hart Island Project