The College of Staten Island hosted the Groundbreak Ceremony for the Willowbrook Mile on Wednesday, September 14th 2016.
The Willowbrook Mile Commemorative Walking Trail is a community partnership to memorialize the former site of the Willowbrook State School.
This event was in collaboration with President William J. Fritz and Former VP for Information Technology & Economic Development Dr. Michael Kress along with the College of Staten Island, the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council, the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, and the Elizabeth Connelly Resource Center/Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
In a message to the College community, President Fritz stated, “Willowbrook State School, which operated on these grounds from 1947 through 1987, came under national scrutiny for its deplorable conditions emanating from the systematic warehousing of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through institutionalization. Efforts leading to the eventual closing of Willowbrook collectively represent a seminal moment in United States history leading to greater protection of the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Willowbrook Mile involves the creation of a pathway through existing walkways around the campus and neighboring properties marked by commemorative stations providing important information about the Willowbrook State School.”
Dr. Kress (left) has left an ever-lasting impact on not only the campus but throughout Staten Island with his work in
technological advancements as well as his work with Lifestyles and the disabled community to increase support, education, and awareness. Geraldo Rivera (right) was a guest speaker, reflecting on his initial interview that led to the Eyewitness News exposé in 1972.
The Willowbrook Mile features 10 stations commemorating particular places and moments of the campus history. “Once people leave the Mile, it is hoped that they will now be more keenly aware of not only the struggle but also the results of the advocacy efforts over so many years.” Megan Ernst and Christine Purelis of the Staten Island SBDC attended the Groundbreaking Ceremony and walked the trail of the Mile. Reading along at each station helped develop a greater understanding of the history here at the Willowbrook Campus, along with listening to the speakers of today’s event. It is highly encouraged the next time you are on campus to take a walk through the Willowbrook Mile and read for yourself. The map and more information can be downloaded here. We commend the efforts of the College of Staten Island in cooperation with our state & city resources for developing and providing a safe haven of education and development. “Never forget…never again”
Photo: Station 8, “Building 29”:
This building remains in an unimproved state from nearly 40 years ago. Specifically, this building housed people whose families had originally lived on Staten Island. Visual examples of institutional life, as well as an interactive media presentation to denote the strides in the field of developmental disabilities, are proposed to be housed here.