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City Council Votes To Transfer Hart Island To Parks Department, Making For Easier Access

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Hart Island, offshore from the Bronx and only reachable by ferry, is the largest public burial ground in the country.

Approximately one million New Yorkers were laid to rest there because they had no money, no family or were never identified.

For more than a century, the island has been controlled by the New York City Department of Correction. It can take months to schedule a visit, and people are subject to screenings and guard supervision.

MORE: Hart Island, Final Resting Place Of 1 Million, On Verge Of Becoming NYC Parks Property

On Thursday, the City Council voted to change that. Control of the island will be transferred to the Department of Parks and Recreation, making it more like a cemetery than a prison.

"It really is gratifying that New York City has agreed to transfer jurisdiction of Hart Island after 150 years of prison control," Melinda Hunt, of the Hart Island Project, told CBSN New York. "We've been working with families and friends of the deceased, and the City Council heard their cries that it's just unfair for people to have to go through the penal system to visit someone who's buried on Hart Island."

The mayor still has to sign off on the transfer, which is expected to be completed by 2021.

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