It’s a name that might evoke serenity and relaxation. But Letchworth Village was anything but.
For decades, the massive complex was home to thousands diagnosed with physical or mental disabilities. Too many, in fact. Residents — especially children — were forced to live in filthy conditions, many times with no clothes to wear and nothing to do.
It was enough to create a national outcry so loud, an entire nation radically reformed disability services.
“I’ve visited penal institutions all over the country,” U.S. Rep. Mario Biaggi said. “I’ve visited hospitals all over the country. I’ve visited the worst brigs in the military. I’ve never seen anything like” Letchworth.
How could he know, less than a half-century later, his granddaughter would experience something tragically similar. But it wasn’t Letchworth Village state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi toured last month — instead, it was Rikers Island. A place also hidden far away from inquiring eyes, this time on a one-square-mile plot of mostly landfill-created dirt in the middle of the East River. But not hidden far enough.
By Joseph De La Cruz, Michael Hinman, Sarah Belle Lin & Ethan Stark-Miller | 10/24/21