It is the largest mass grave in the United States. At least 1,000 bodies are buried on the island a year, and more than 1 million can be found in the plots of its potter’s field, known as City Cemetery. Hart Island’s storied history, however, started long before the coronavirus turned the state into a pandemic epicenter.
Few people are allowed to go onto Hart Island , the quiet, narrow island in the Long Island Sound, a lonely place in sight of the bustling community of City Island. For over 150 years, Hart Island has been New York’s potter’s field, the burial site for over one million people — unclaimed bodies, stillborn babies, those who died of AIDS in the 1980s, and, in 2020, the location of burials of those who have died of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Over a million people are buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island. A New York Times investigation uncovers some of their stories and the failings of the system that put them there. Twice a week or so, loaded with bodies boxed in pine, a New York City morgue truck passes through a tall chain-link gate and onto a ferry that has no paying passengers.