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Archives & Special Collections

A Guide to Willowbrook State School Resources at the CSI Library

About the Guide

This guide is intended to help researchers identify and locate Willowbrook State School materials in the College of Staten Island Library.

Table of Contents


CSI has a growing collection of materials that document the history of the Willowbrook State School. Included are printed books, reports, dissertations, and manuscript materials. News clippings dating from 1947 to 2000 provide context and an idea of the public's impression of the school at various times. In addition, photographs document buildings that were either renovated or demolished to create the current CSI campus in the early 1990's.



Ferguson, Nancy Jean. The Willowbrook Consent Decree and Its Ramifications on Residential Services in the State of New York. Master’s Thesis. New York Medical College, 1990. 42 pp. —KD 3412 .F47 1990 (Special Collections Reserve Collection)

The bulk of this work, which is primarily based on interviews with New York State employees, deals with the challenges of deinstitutionalization. The direct treatment of Willowbrook State School is brief.

Lambert, Paula. The Willowbrook Consent Decree: A Study of A Social Reform Movement. Dissertation. Yeshiva University, 1982. 330 pp (132 pp of the text are appendices). —JK 3441 .L36 1982 (Archives & Special Collections, Room 216)

Drawing upon theoretical analyses of social reform movements, Lambert analyzes the background of the Consent Decree, including legal precedents. She also examines the Willowbrook litigation, plaintiffs and plaintiff attorneys in the case, and the implementation of reforms after the Consent Decree was issued. Lambert concludes by considering the future of the deinstitutionalization movement and making observations about the nature of the Consent Decree as the basis for a social reform movement.

O’Connor, Patty. The History of Institutionalization and the National Deinstitutionalization Movement in America (with Special Focus on Willowbrook State School). Master’s Thesis. The College of Staten Island/CUNY, 1998 30 pp. —Thesis RC 443 .O36 1998 (Special Collections Reserve Collection)

This essay places the history of Willowbrook in the context of treatment in of the developmentally disabled in the United States, with a particular concentration on the twentieth century. The two-page bibliography is particularly helpful.


 Fusillo, Maureen C. The Willowbrook State School: An Oral History. Student Project. [S.I. s.n., 1994]. —HV 3006 .N7 W5f 1994 (Archives & Special Collections, Room 216)

This book is only available in the Library's Archives & Special Collections Reading Room on the second floor in Room 216. This student project includes interviews with persons who had been associated with the Willowbrook State School including educators, recreation therapists, ward attendants, parents, former residents, and a nurse, a psychologist and a social worker.

New York State. State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Willowbrook: From Institution to the Community. A Fiscal and Programmatic Review of Selected Community Residences in New York City. New York: The Commission, 1982. 113 pp. —HV 3006 .N69 N489 1982 (Special Collections Reserve Collection)

This post-Consent Decree study focused on the costs of small, community residential facilities for the developmentally disabled. Data was gathered and analyzed for a total of twenty-four community residences that divided evenly between those serving six to fifteen clients and those serving two to three clients in the New York City metropolitan area. In general, the study concluded that community residences provided “safe, attractive, comfortable and homelike environments capable of addressing the identified care and treatment needs of severely and profoundly disabled persons” at a comparable or lower cost than institutionalization. Problems that were discovered at some community residences were documented and a follow-up to the study found that these problems had mostly been addressed.

Reiss, Jean. They Learned to Do Without: Untold Stories from Willowbrook State School 1958-1970. Staten Island, N.Y.: s.n., 1994. 95p. —HV 3006 .N7 W5r 1994 (Archives & Special Collections, Room 216)

Jean Reiss was a member of the staff at Willowbrook for over 11 years. She originally wrote these stories in 1976. Names have been changed and chronology of some incidents altered but the children existed and the events occurred as described in the book.



Unforgotten: 25 Years After Willowbrook. New York : City Lights Home Video, c. 2002. 1 videodisc (DVD) (56 minutes). —1446 HV

This video examines the impact on patients and their families of Geraldo Rivera's expose in 1972 of conditions at the Willowbrook State School for people with developmental disabilities. The DVD includes Rivera’s thirty minute ABC news special, “The Last Great Disgrace,” as a bonus feature.