The city Department of Correction (DOC) last Wednesday, Apr. 10, launched a searchable, online database of burial records at Hart Island, New York City’s municipal cemetery.
Located in the Long Island Sound in the Bronx, Hart Island has served as the burial site for unclaimed and indigent people in the city since 1869.
City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who has called on the DOC to reform its operations at Hart Island as Chair of the Criminal Justice Services Committee, called the new database a great step in improving public access to the island.
In October 2011, Crowley chaired an oversight hearing about the DOC’s operations at Hart Island. The City Council heard from numerous activists who noted that it was a difficult process to determine if a loved one was buried on the island and had to endure a bureaucratic nightmare to visit the island.
On a follow-up hearing in September 2012, Warden Gregory McLaughlin testified that the DOC had amended its visitation policy to allow the general public to visit Hart Island, and that the department was updating its records for the recently launched online database.
“The new online database for Hart Island will help families locate their loved ones and mourn their loss,” said Crowley. “I want to thank Commissioner Dora Schriro and tireless advocates like Melinda Hunt of the Hart Island Project for working with the Committee to improve access on Hart Island.”
“The Hart Island Look Up service is an easy-to-use, searchable database to help family and friends determine whether their loved ones are buried there,” said Dora Schriro, commissioner of the Department of Correction. “It was important to us to make information about burials on Hart Island readily accessible and we’re proud to make this resource available to the public today.”
Information on visiting Hart Island and the new database can be found at the Department of Correction’s website at www.nyc.gov/html/ doc/html/hart_ island/hart_ island.sht ml.