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The Island of Mass Graves, A Short Boat Ride From Manhattan

Illustration for article titled The Island of Mass Graves, A Short Boat Ride From Manhattan

The New York Times has published a long piece about Hart Island, a few weeks after Gizmodo's own coverage of the shocking and emotionally super-charged site, where prisoners from Riker's Island bury New York City's unclaimed dead.


While the New York Times piece tells much the same story as our own reporting—a harrowing essay by Gizmodo's architecture editor, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan—it is, unsurprisingly, a worthwhile read.


The author, Corey Kilgannon, describes, for example, how crews of inmates "follow a grim arithmetic" in the dark work of mass-burial: "up to 1,500 bodies [are] buried a year" there, she writes, where they are "organized into 70-foot-long plots that, with caskets stacked three-high in rows of six, can hold about 150 adults each, or 1,000 infants, who are buried in trenches separate from the adults. On this 101-acre island, the number of burials since 1869 now approaches one million." The public is not allowed to visit the grave sites—even family members are refused—and the individual graves remain unmarked.

That an island like this exists at all, not only in the contemporary United States but within the city limits of New York, is astonishing; groups of prisoners mass-burying thousands of unclaimed and anonymous corpses on an island covered with ruined hospital buildings and maritime detritus is like something from the 19th century (and it is a disservice to the lives that have found their untidy end there).

While Kilgannon's article is worth reading in full, Gizmodo's own coverage, embedded below, written after one of the first media visits to the island in decades and revealing the sheer, devastating scale of the island's surreal operations, should not be missed.


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