Hart Island, just off the coast of the Bronx in New York City, is slowly transitioning from an unknown place with a grim reputation into some of the city's newest and most unusual park lands.
For two centuries, the island has hosted isolation hospitals, a penal colony, and for the past century and a half as the city's burial place for the unclaimed dead.
Now, with control of the 131-acre island transferred from the prison system to the Parks Department, some areas of the island are being developed for nature classes and guided tours and activities including canoeing, hiking and fishing.
The programs so far are regarded as pilot projects, as planners work out how too create recreational uses while elsewhere on the island, over a thousand new burials a year are added to the million already buried there. There is no plan to open the burial areas to recreation, but plans are developing to make it easier for relatives and others to visit gravesites.
In preparation for the transitions, the city demolished fifteen derelict buildings on the island, not only opening spaces for new uses, but also providing land for new cemetery use.