City leaders debate jurisdiction over Hart Island

City leaders are debating whether control of Hart Island should be transferred to one of two city agencies. The 130-acre island is the home of

City leaders are debating whether control of Hart Island should be transferred to one of two city agencies.

City leaders are debating whether control of Hart Island should be transferred to one of two city agencies. (1/20/16)

THE BRONX - City leaders are debating whether control of Hart Island should be transferred to one of two city agencies.

The 130-acre island is the home of Potter's Field, a cemetery in which more than 1 million New Yorkers who did not have the financial means for a traditional burial were laid to rest.

Legislation proposed by City Council members would move jurisdiction over the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world from the city's Department of Correction to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Chris Dunn, of the New York Civil Liberties Union, says that under the DOC, the island would continue to be run as a prison facility. The organization attributes that claim to the DOC only providing limited access to the cemetery to families who have loved ones buried there. The once-a-month visits and mandatory escort by armed corrections officers to burial sites are just some concerns raised.

Despite City Council members and families wanting the cemetery to be under the Parks Department's control, the DOC says it is fully capable of maintaining the island and conducting internment services, adding that it has been successfully doing so for the past 40 years.

A committee will review transcripts before deciding its next move. It hopes to learn more within a month.

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