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.
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 The piece also uses older video clips that include outdated language referring to people with developmental disabilities; these clips are used solely for historical context.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
A conversation with Kerri E. Neifeld, Commissioner of the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the state’s lead agency in providing services and supports to the IDD community.
New York State Sen. John W. Mannion, Chair of the Committee on Disabilities, talks about what drives his work and how we can continue providing inclusive opportunities within the IDD community.
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
Learn more about the history of Willowbrook State School and the Willowbrook Mile
Geraldo Rivera, Bernard Carabello, and Dr. Edmond Volpe, College of Staten Island president, at the Willowbrook State School closing ceremony, September 17, 1987. (CSI Archives & Special Collections)
Geraldo Rivera and Bernard Carabello speak at the Willowbrook State School closing ceremony, September 17, 1987. (CSI Archives & Special Collections)
The path forward continues: Governor Kathy Hochul establishes the Office of the Chief Disability Officer to advocate for persons with disabilities, February 14, 2022.