How a Potter’s Subject Grew to become a Civil Rights Chief’s Resting Place

“They suddenly realized why we have public burials there,” she said of city officials. “It’s not a Dickensian thing. It’s an orderly and safe system of burials that works, especially when you have epidemic-scale deaths. “


Jan. 28, 2021, 8:30 p.m. ET

Ariane Didisheim, a former professional figure skater who died at her home in April, saw no need for a formal funeral, said Raoul Didisheim, her son.

Faced with exorbitant funeral expenses and retarded funeral homes, Mr Didisheim decided Hart Island was the best. He hoped to open Hart Island to the public as a recreational space, which would mean a step forward in creating a brighter environment that could provide “a connection to the cycle of life” for New Yorkers.

But not everyone agrees that the Hart Island burials continue. Sandra Yon, whose mother, Ivory M. Pinkney, died in April at a rehab center in Brooklyn at the age of 76, agreed to a funeral on Hart Island because it was free.

“I had no money,” she said, “and at the time I was devastated and everywhere.”

The more information Ms. Yon learned about Hart Island online, the more she regretted that it was her mother’s final resting place. “It doesn’t suit me well because I hear it’s just a massive grave,” she said.

Alderman Mark Gjonaj, whose county is Bronx Hart Island, said he had voted against the 2019 legislation that delegated oversight of the island to the parks department because the legislation did not aim, among other things, at how to maintain respect for the dead would be.

“It’s holy ground,” he said. “The city owes families and the surrounding community more answers and clarity about their intentions for the location.”

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