Hart Island’s Last Stand - The New York Times

The report also observed, however, that some of the island’s old buildings were not irrevocably deteriorated. The red-brick Records Stor...


The report also observed, however, that some of the island’s old buildings were not irrevocably deteriorated.

The red-brick Records Storage Building, constructed around 1910 facing a U-shaped young men’s reformatory that also still stands, “is suitable for repair and can be put into service,” the report observed. “With a footprint of approximately 35 feet by 35 feet, the building is not complicated to repair.”

The report recommended that the building, which has a shallow pyramidal roof with high clerestory windows, be made safe by fencing it rather than razing it, and city engineers rated its “ease of restoration” as “moderate to good.” But the structure is now slated to be leveled.

The 2020 report also described a one-story red-brick pumping station, dating to around the 1920s, as “viable for storage,” but it recommended demolition anyway.

The red-brick-and-stone Catholic Chapel, built by the Catholic Charities around 1935, “still stands in surprisingly good condition” despite the removal of its bell and stained-glass windows, noted a guidebook published in 2018 by the Historic Districts Council, a citywide preservation group. By 2020, Buildings Department engineers described the church’s “ease of restoration” as “moderate,” but they nonetheless recommended that it be razed.

The cornerstone for the chapel, at the time of its construction the only separate prison building in the United States set aside for Catholic services, was laid in 1931 by the rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at a ceremony attended by Protestant and Jewish clergymen, prominent citizens and about 1,000 prisoners. The house of worship replaced wooden chapels that had been built on the island by Catholic, Episcopal and Hebrew organizations, and it was used by all faiths.

In the 1950s, the chapel served homeless men living in a Hart Island rehabilitation center, but the religious building was abandoned in 1966, after the island’s workhouse closed. Under the city’s current emergency order, the chapel will be bulldozed.

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