Today, NYC Parks announced the start of free public tours of Hart Island, the City’s public cemetery, in an effort to increase access to the island, reduce historical stigmas surrounding itspast, and educate the public about its role as an important piece of City infrastructure.
Beginning on November 21, 2023, NYC Parks’ Urban Park Rangers will offer free walking tours of the island twice per month. Registration is required through an online form and participants will be selected by lottery. All public history tours are done on foot and last approximately 2.5 hours, with ferry transportation provided to and from Hart Island.
“We’re thrilled to begin offering free public history tours of Hart Island, allowing New Yorkers an intimate look at the island for the very first time. Our Urban Park Rangers have created informative and reflective programming that highlights the island’s important role in New York City history,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “As Hart Island will continue to be the City’s main burial ground for the foreseeable future, we’re also pleased to unveil, in collaboration with sister agencies, the positive improvements and beautification efforts that have taken place to improve the experience at gravesite visits for those visiting loved ones buried on the island. I encourage New Yorkers to join the Urban Park Rangers to explore Hart Island’s unique past, present, and future.”
The first public tour will be held on Tuesday, November 21. Lottery registration for this tour opens on November 15 and closes on Thursday, November 16 at 11:59 p.m.
Additional public tours will be held on the following dates:
- December 5, 2023
- December 19, 2023
- January 16, 2024
- January 30, 2024
- February 13, 2024
- February 27, 2024
- March 12, 2024
- March 26, 2024
- April 9, 2024
- April 23, 2024
- May 14, 2024
- May 28, 2024
The tours will encompass the history of the Island including how it became a municipal cemetery, wildlife and natural aspects, the burial process, and island advocacy.
More information on public Hart Island tours can be found here.
About Hart Island
Hart Island serves as the City’s public cemetery and is the final resting place of over one million individuals. It is the largest public cemetery in the country and has served New York City since 1869.
While Hart Island is currently only used for city burials, the island has had many uses since the 19th Century, including a quarantine station, a psychiatric hospital, a tuberculosis ward, a reform school, a homeless shelter, a rehabilitation facility, a military base, and a jail.
In 2021, management of Hart Island was transferred from the NYC Department of Correction to the NYC Parks and the NYC Human Resources Association (HRA). The City is committed to ensuring that the public has access to the island and has several services available to help individuals find and visit their loved ones on Hart Island.
In an effort to make the island safe for guests and improve the visitor experience, major upgrades have been made since the transfer of jurisdiction, including the demolition of agingbuildings, planting of new trees, and additional beautification efforts.
HRA, which manages burials and landscaping on the island, has created more navigable conditions by clearing overgrowth that blocked grave plots for decades, and constructing alandscaped area with seating near the island’s ferry dock.
In addition, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) recently completed a $32 million project to remove old structures from the island. DDC is also performing stabilization work on the island’s historic chapel.
More information on Hart Island — including gravesite visits and locating a loved one’s burial location — can be found here.
More on The Hart Island Project.
Read about Historic District Council celebrating Hart Island as one of its Six to Celebrate.
Follow all the Urban Park Rangers History & Culture Tours Here.