Willowbrook State School

Willowbrook State School was a state-supported institution for children with mental retardation located in central Staten Island in New York City. The school gained notoriety in the 1960s for an unethical medical study conducted there, and in the 1970s further abuses uncovered at the school were the stimulus for new civil rights legislation. The school was closed in 1987, and the former grounds were redeveloped extensively to serve as the campus of the College of Staten Island.



In 1938, plans were formulated to build a facility for children with mental retardation on a 375 acres (1.5 km²) site in the Willowbrook section of the Staten Island. Construction was completed in 1942, but instead of opening for its original purpose, it was converted into a United States Army hospital and named Halloran General Hospital, after the late Colonel Paul Stacey Halloran. After the war, proposals were introduced to turn the site over to the Veterans Administration, but in October, 1947 the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene opened its facility there as originally planned, and the institution was named Willowbrook State School.

Hepatitis Studies

Throughout the first decade of its operation, outbreaks of hepatitis were common at the school, and this led to a highly controversial medical study being conducted there between 1963 and 1966, in which healthy children were intentionally inoculated, orally and by injection, with the virus that causes the disease, then monitored to gauge the effects of gamma globulin in combating it. A public outcry forced the study to be discontinued.

More Scandals and Abuses

Further problems dogged the institution: In early 1972, Geraldo Rivera, then an investigative reporter for television station WABC-TV in New York City, conducted a series of investigations at Willowbrook (on the heels of a previous series of articles in the "Staten Island Advance" and "Staten Island Register" newspapers), uncovering a host of deplorable conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate sanitary facilities, and physical and sexual abuse of residents by members of the school's staff. Rivera later appeared on the nationally televised Dick Cavett Show with film of patients at the school.

The school was originally intended to house 2000 students, but around the time the scandals at the institution gained attention there were almost 5000 residents. This resulted in a class-action lawsuit being filed against the State of New York in federal court on March 17, 1972. A settlement in the case was reached on May 5, 1975, mandating reforms at the site, but several years would elapse before all of the violations were corrected. The publicity generated by the case was a major contributing factor to the passage of a federal law, called the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980.

Closing the School

In 1975, a "Willowbrook Consent Decree" was signed. This committed New York State to improve community placement for the now designated "Willowbrook class". [http://www.omr.state.ny.us/journal/20aniv/hp_journal2mile.jsp Milestones in OMRDD's History] , "OMRDD", (2001-09-19)accessdate|2007-09-05]

In 1983, the State of New York announced plans to close Willowbrook, which had been renamed the Staten Island Developmental Center in 1974. By the end of March 1986, the number of residents housed there had dwindled to 250 (down from 5,000 at the height of the scandal exposed by Rivera), and the last children left the grounds on September 17, 1987.

After the developmental center closed, the site became the focus of intense local debate about what should be done with the property. In 1989 a portion of the land was acquired by the City of New York, with the intent of using it to establish a new campus for the College of Staten Island, and the new campus opened at Willowbrook in 1993 (at the same time, one of CSI's two other existing campuses, located in the island's Sunnyside neighborhood, was closed and that site became the home of a new high school, Michael Petrides). At 0.8 km² (204 acres), this campus is the largest maintained by the City University of New York.

The remaining 0.7 km² (171 acres) of the state school's original property, at the south end, is still under the administration of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, which maintains a research laboratory facility there called the Institute For Basic Research in Developmental Disorders.

On February 25 1987, the Federal Court approved the Willowbrook "1987 Stipulation", which set forth guidelines for OMRDD that required OMRDD community placement for the "Willowbrook Class".

ee also

*New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton
*Walter E. Fernald State School
*Developmental disability
*Tuskegee Syphilis Study
*Geraldo Rivera


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Willowbrook High School — Infobox Secondary school name = Willowbrook High School picture = principal = Mr. Dan Krause established = 1959 type = Public secondary grades = 9–12 city = 1250 S. Ardmore Ave. Villa Park state = Illinois country = U.S. enrollment = 2,239… …   Wikipedia

  • Syracuse State School — Syracuse State Idiot Asylum on Wilbur Avenue in Syracuse, New York about 1855 The Syracuse State School was a residential facility in Syracuse, New York for mentally disabled children and adults. Founded in 1851 in Albany, New York as the New… …   Wikipedia

  • Willowbrook — may refer to some places in the United States:* Willowbrook, California * Willowbrook, DuPage County, Illinois * Willowbrook, Will County, Illinois * Willowbrook, Kansas * Willowbrook, Staten Island, a neighborhood of Staten Island, New York **… …   Wikipedia

  • Willowbrook, Staten Island — Willowbrook is a neighborhood in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of the U.S. s largest city, New York. It is located in the region of the island usually referred to as Mid Island, immediately to the south of Port Richmond, to the west of… …   Wikipedia

  • Willowbrook, Houston, Texas — Willowbrook is a neighborhood located in northwest Houston, Texas. State Highway 249, FM 1960 and Beltway 8 pass through the district. Willowbrook Mall and Sam Houston Race Park are located in the district. Champions Forest is located next to the …   Wikipedia

  • Willowbrook, California — Infobox Settlement official name = Willowbrook, California settlement type = CDP nickname = motto = imagesize = image caption = image imagesize = image caption = image mapsize = 250x200px map caption = Location of Willowbrook in Los Angeles… …   Wikipedia

  • Mohansic State Hospital — (a/k/a Mohansic State Insane Asylum, Mohansic State Hospital for the Insane) was a hospital which existed near Yorktown Heights in Westchester County, New York. On October 17, 1909, the State Commission in Lunacy purchased 550 acres… …   Wikipedia

  • New York State Psychiatric Institute — Haven Avenue The New York State Psychiatric Institute, established in 1895 and located on Riverside Drive at the foot of Washington Heights, the far upper west side of Manhattan in New York City, was one of the first institutions in the United… …   Wikipedia

  • Addison Trail High School — Infobox Secondary school name = Addison Trail High School picture = principal = Scott Helton established = 1965 type = Public secondary grades = 9–12 city = 213 N. Lombard Road Addison state = Illinois country = USA enrollment = 1,927 faculty =… …   Wikipedia

  • Hinsdale Central High School — Infobox Secondary school name = Hinsdale Central High School motto = Partnership in a lifelong learning principal = Kevin Pobst established = 1879 type = Public secondary grades = 9–12 city = 5500 S. Grant St. Hinsdale state = Illinois country =… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.