A graphic with a dark background and photo of the Willowbrook State School.

The Path Forward

How Willowbrook continues to inspire our work toward community inclusion.

The New York Exposé That Changed the World

The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook

The DDPC, in partnership with the New York State Digital and Media Services Center, spoke with Geraldo Rivera, Bernard Carabello, and other game-changers in 2022 about the impact of the Willowbrook story and the path forward. 

About the Video
The Story Behind the Story

In 1972, Geraldo Rivera produced an exposé on the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, shocking the nation and forever changing the treatment of people with disabilities in the state and across the country. The investigation also produced a lifelong bond between he and Bernard Carabello, a former Willowbrook resident who went on to become the founder of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS).

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of this landmark moment, the DDPC is highlighting the importance of the lessons learned, the positive change that resulted, and how to move forward from the legacy of Willowbrook.

"It is important we never forget the atrocities that happened at Willowbrook so we can make sure this horrible chapter of history is never repeated." Vicky Hiffa, DDPC Acting Executive Director

Disclaimer: Some footage used in the video contains images that may be disturbing for some viewers. The piece also uses older video clips that include outdated language referring to people with developmental disabilities; these clips are used solely for historical context.


Watch Now The Path Forward: Willowbrook in Conversation

Dr. Michael Wilkins, a physician who worked at Willowbrook and a key whistleblower on its conditions and practices, talks about how he met Bernard Carabello, the challenges they faced together, and the special bond they share.

Video Playlist: The Impact of Willowbrook

Key players in the Willowbrook exposé and other community leaders look back on the progress made and the work to be done.
An original key from Willowbrook School mounted on wood plaque
The Willowbrook Mile:
Never Forget. Share the History.

DDPC helped celebrate the opening of the Willowbrook Mile, cutting the ribbon on the College of Staten Island campus, the very site 35 years earlier where the Willowbrook School was officially and finally closed down. One of the markers along the mile trail reads: “As you walk the mile, note not just the struggle, but also the progress that came from decades of advocacy."

Special Insert from Staten Island Advance of Jane Kurtin’s original articles from 1971-1972

Staten Island Advance (The College of Staten Island)

Learn more about the history of Willowbrook State School and the Willowbrook Mile

Willowbrook Mile | Reporting Units and Initiatives | College of Staten Island Website (cuny.edu)

Landmark Policy Since Willowbrook
The Exposé That Started It All

Watch the full 1972 piece on Willowbrook, “The Last Great Disgrace,” on Geraldo Rivera’s website.

The Closing of Willowbrook

Read a timeline of the Willowbrook legal case and the legislation that followed on the Disability Justice website.

Learn About DDPC’s Work
The DDPC receives federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities.