Commemorative Path Opens on Former Grounds of Willowbrook State School
Local Leaders officially opened the Willowbrook Mile Wednesday, a new walking path through the College of Staten Island.
The route will weave through the grounds that used to house the notorious, Willowbrook State School.
That facility closed in the late 1980's after a series of tv reports exposed gruesome conditions inside where children with disabilities were living.
“How horrifying they were, how nightmarish, something that has haunted me all those years since then 44 years 45 years in January since those exposes, said reporter Geraldo Rivera, who initially broke the story.
Rivera says the story was a turning point for people with disabilities.
“In many ways the Willowbrook state school on Staten Island was the worst, and now it's leading the way, it's going to be the best way for educating people about the developmentally disabled.”
Bernard Carabello lived at the facility for most of his childhood and teen years.
"This is history, I lived here for 18 years,” said Carabello.
The Willowbrook Mile has ten different stops along the route.
It weaves through the Memorial Garden, where a plaque commemorates the school’s closing in 1987.
When you enter the path, each of the stations has signage describing what life was like at Willowbrook State School.
Officials say eventually theses stations will have an interactive tech component with audio and video to better tell the story.
“Our young students did not live through Willowbrook, so it's very important that we bring to them the remembrance of the horror so society never goes back, so instead we move forward, Michael Kress, with the College of Staten Island.
School officials say they hope the Willowbrook Mile with attract international visitors.
And that the pathway is symbolic of how far society has come in the treatment of people with disabilities.