I received an email recently from author and podcaster Michael T. Keene, who introduced himself and told me of his exciting new project: the Talking Hart Island podcast. For those who may not know, Hart Island is located in Long Island Sound near the Bronx and since 1869 has served as New York City’s potters field. It is the largest public burial ground in the United States. Approximately one million souls rest there today. Hart Island is still very much a working cemetery; officials estimate it has about another decade to go before reaching full capacity. One hundred and fifty years of burials dating back the days of Tammany offer many exciting interpretive possibilities for a podcast.
Today is an exciting time in the long history of Hart Island. Currently run by the NYC Department of Correction and tended by inmates from Rikers, Hart Island may soon open as a public park if the city council votes to change the island’s jurisdiction to the Parks Department. DNA is now making it possible to identify some of the unknown. These are the stories Mike Keene and his team are telling. Today I listened to the segment one featuring Russell Shorto, To start at the very beginning was a great move. Too often when the public thinks of the history of New York they think it begins with the British. In reality it was the Dutch who set the tone and character of what they called New Netherland. Much of that Dutch ethos remains with us today.
There are already three episodes of Talking Hart Island available for listening, with a new episode coming weekly. Give it a listen by clicking on the image above.