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New York’s Mass Grave Opens to Family Visitors

© Flickr / Doc SearlsPanorama showing Hart Island (lower right) and City Island (left)
Panorama showing Hart Island (lower right) and City Island (left) - Sputnik International
Families of individuals buried on New York City’s Hart Island will be able to visit their gravesites later this month as part of a settlement reached with the authorities, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) said in a statement.

NEW YORK (Sputnik) — Hart Island is the largest mass grave in the United States where more than one million people have been buried. The uninhabited island serves as a burial ground for unclaimed bodies or for people who cannot afford burial.

“The agreement comes in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by the NYCLU in December 2014 challenging a city policy barring people from visiting the gravesites of family members buried on the island,” the NYCLU said on Wednesday.

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Authorities previously barred visits to the gravesite save for one area of the island meant for reflection, according to the NYCLU.

Officials had restricted access because many of the buildings on the island are abandoned and not meant for public visitation, according to the Hart Island Project, which has advocated for greater accessibility to the graveyard.

Under the terms of the settlement, family members will be permitted to visit Hart Island one weekend per month for the next year. The city will maintain a database of all people buried on the island and the location of their graves.

“Today’s settlement should help bring closure to the parents, children, brothers, sisters and other family members of the generations of people who suffered the indignity of mass burial and then suffered the added insult of being forsaken by a city policy that barred family and friends from visiting,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said.

The New York City Department of Correction is responsible for operating and maintaining Hart Island.

Prisoners conduct burials and maintain the island, according to the Department of Corrections website.

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