Westchester Physician Challenges No Gravesite Visitation Policy for New York’s Public Cemetery on Hart Island
New York, NY – An Article 78 Petition seeking an injunction requiring the New York City Department of Correction to permit Laurie Grant, M.D. of Valhalla, NY to walk to the gravesite of her stillborn daughter has been filed in Manhattan today. Dr. Grant’s daughter was born by Caesarian Section on July 12, 1993 and buried on Hart Island on August 11, 1994. She learned of the burial only this year, having sought information for the prior 18 years from the Department of Health. She has been unable to obtain a certificate of stillbirth due to an error on the recorded date of delivery.
Dr. Grant is not requesting that New York City return the remains of her infant, since it is unlikely that the remains could be identified at this time. Instead, she would like to walk to the location of Plot 56, an area of Hart Island not currently used for burials but an area where thousands of infants were buried in prior decades.
New York City Correction officials denied Dr. Grant’s request to visit the location in May 2012 citing security risks and lack of facilities. In denial of her request, they have offered to accompany her to a simple gazebo not far from the ferry dock that connects Hart Island to City Island and the rest of New York City. In June 2012, Mark Taylor filed an appeal of this decision in June 2012 and the appeal was denied in September. Dr. Grant is now seeking relief in court.
The Hart Island Project is a non-profit organization advocating on behalf of families whose relatives are buried on Hart Island. The organization maintains an on-line database of burials and in Dr. Grant discovered her name listed and the burial location.
Burials on Hart Island consist of mass burials with 150 adults or 1000 infants per common trench. This system of burial is carried over from the 19th Century when the earlier Department of Charities and Correction first occupied Hart Island immediately following the American Civil War. Hart Island became New York’s public cemetery when it was still part of Westchester prior to becoming incorporated into the Bronx in 1895.