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NYC to allow monthly visits to Hart Island gravesites

The City Island Ferry Station March 27, 2014

The City Island Ferry Station March 27, 2014 in New York which is used by the NYC Department of Correction to care for Hart Island. Credit: Getty / AFP / Don Emmert

New York City has agreed to provide ferry service one weekend a month to allow family members to visit loved ones buried in paupers' graves on Hart Island, according to a settlement of a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit in December on behalf of the mother and sister of a stillborn baby buried in the so-called potter's field in 1995, said the city agreed to begin visitations July 19, allow visitors to leave mementos at gravesites and continue to maintain a database of graves on the island.

"For 20 years, my mother and I have waited to visit the grave of my baby sister," plaintiff Maria Cruz Garcia said in a statement. "It will be very difficult, but finally being able to visit her grave will allow us to mourn the sister and daughter we never got to know."

An estimated 1 million people are buried on Hart Island, at the western end of Long Island Sound near City Island. Until the lawsuit, the city did not permit Hart Island gravesite visits.

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