A few years ago, a young man who called himself Stephen became a fixture in Manhattan's Riverside Park. Locals started noticing him sitting on the same park bench day after day. He said little and asked for nothing. When Stephen's body was found dead in 2017, the police were unable to identify him, and he was buried on Hart Island. Then, one day, a woman who knew him from the park stumbled upon his true identity, and his backstory came to light.
"The Unmarked Graveyard: Stories from Hart Island" is a new series from Radio Diariesthattells the stories of seven people buried on Hart Island through a range of circumstances. Hart Island, an uninhabited strip of land off the Bronx in Long Island Sound, is America's largest public cemetery, sometimes known as a "potter's field." Since 1869, more than a million people have been buried on Hart Island, including early AIDS patients, unidentified and unclaimed New Yorkers, immigrants, incarcerated people, artists, and about ten percent of New Yorkers who died of COVID-19.