For the first time ever, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is offering free walking tours of Hart Island, the country’s largest public cemetery, twice a month beginning today. Historically, the massive gravesite, accessible by ferry only from City Island, has been notoriously off-limits and difficult to access, with little to no transportation options for the public.

Dating back to 1869, Hart Island is the final resting site for more than 1 million people. Plots have historically been occupied by people who “died indigent” or whose bodies went unclaimed after their death. More recently, it has been used to bury those who died from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We’re thrilled to begin offering free public history tours of Hart Island, allowing New Yorkers an intimate look at the island for the very first time,” said NYC Parks commissioner Sue Donoghue. “Our Urban Park Rangers have created informative and reflective programming that highlights the island’s important role in New York City history.” 

The 2.5-hour educational tours are being led by NYC Parks rangers and participants are selected by lottery and provided ferry transportation to and from the island. Registration is open on the Hart Island Tours webpage and the next tours are being held on Dec. 5 and Dec. 19.