Compiled by Prof. James A. Kaser, Archivist.
About the Guide
This guide helps researchers locate Willowbrook State School primary source materials, particularly archival collections and New York State publications.
Table of Contents
Hal Kennedy, Esq.
Willowbrook State School was built in the 1930’s in Staten Island, NY to care for individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. It did not receive its first residents, however, until after World War II. A combination of rising placements, budget cuts, ignorance, arrogance and indifference, created notorious conditions at Willowbrook. By 1965, with over 6,000 residents in an institution planned for just 4,000, Senator Robert Kennedy was calling Willowbrook a “snake pit.” In November 1971, The State Island Advance published a series of articles detailing the horrible conditions at the school. Following these articles, in January 1972, Geraldo Rivera, the television reporter, began a series of programs that shook the conscience of New York State and the nation and inspired parents and others to take legal action. The end result was the signing of a consent judgement in federal court in 1975. Willowbrook finally closed its doors in 1987.
The Consent Judgement has been called “revolutionary” because of what it accomplished and for what it inspired. The closure of Willowbrook, the placement of individuals with developmental disabilities in community residences, the growth of voluntary agencies and the expansion of day programs and special education can all be linked to the Judgement. The Judgement finally recognized and enforced the rights of individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. The Judgement is the model used throughout the United States and in many parts of the world.
Bartels, Judge John Ries. Papers.
75 Cubic Feet
Judge Bartels was a Senior Judge for the Eastern District Courthouse at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. Appointed by President Eisenhower, he kept this post until his death in 1997. He is most widely known for presiding over the Willowbrook and John Gotti trials. The papers were given to Brooklyn College by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The papers include two subject folders on the Willowbrook case and files of Bartels' decisions, correspondence, diaries and telephone messages.
A finding aid is available at Archives & Special Collections, Brooklyn College Library and at Archives & Special Collections, College of Staten Island Library.
Archives & Special Collections. Brooklyn College Library, CUNY.
Bronston, William. Papers.
75 record center boxes
Dr. William Bronston, MD worked as a staff physician at Willowbrook (from 1970-1972) and was dismissed after agitating for change. Later he was a star witness in a legal case brought by parents to improve conditions at the School. This collection includes the evidence he presented in court and other materials he gathered and includes photographs, legal documents and case histories. Significant portions of the collection are slated to be digitized as part of the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement collection.
Unarranged and unavailable for use.
Inquiries regarding these materials should be directed, in writing, to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library.
Bancroft Library/UC Berkeley. Call number BANC MSS 2002/227 c
New York (State). State Commission on Quality Care for the Mentally Disabled. Executive Bureau. “Special project” files of the Assistant Counsel to the Governor, 1975-1978.
16 cu. ft.
This series consists files generated by commission chairman Clarence J. Sundram dating from his service as assistant counsel in the Governor’s Office. The files include reports, draft memoranda, studies, correspondence, notes, and background materials. Subjects include the Willowbrook State Hospital investigation; Department of Mental Health reorganization…mental hygiene and criminal justice legislation; and a state prison taskforce.
There is a finding aid for this collection.
New York State Archives. Call number: 19357
New York (State). State Commission on Quality Care for the Mentally Disabled. Executive Bureau. Chairperson’s daybooks, 1975-1998.
5 cu. ft.
Collection contains the outgoing correspondence of commission chairman Clarence Sundram. Sundram was the Executive Chamber's representative to the state's defense during the Willowbrook class-action suit and a member of the Willowbrook Review Committee established to oversee compliance with court orders related to that case.
Files are arranged chronologically and a subject index is available.
New York State Archives. Call number: 19355
Rothman, David J. Willowbrook Developmental Center Research Collection, ca. 1971-1986.
36 boxes, 41 cu. ft.
David J. and Sheila M. Rothman wrote The Willowbrook Wars; these records are the Rothmans’ research files on the Willowbrook case. Included are publications relating to mental health care and photocopies of reports, memoranda, legal briefs, correspondence, and other records from official sources (such as: the State Office of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, the Willowbrook Review Panel, and New York City mental health agencies). Also available are an extensive number of community placement files that include information on individual cases, reports on other community placement programs, reports on the Willowbrook community placement program, legal papers on community placement, and duplicate copies of professional literature on community placement.
This collection is unprocessed and no finding aid is available, however a partial index is available within the collections. Access to the collection is restricted.
New York State Library. Manuscripts and Special Collections. Call number: SC18831
Staten Island Developmental Center. Patient Case Files, 1950-1980.
246 cu. ft.
This series consists mostly of case files of patients who died while residing at Willowbrook. The case files document patients’ admission, treatment, therapy, and education. Case files typically contain: admission phase sheets, records of visitors and correspondents, ward admission records, legal admission records, psychiatrists’ psychological reports, Willowbrook school reports, physical examination information, progress notes by doctor, social service notes by case social worker, laboratory notes, consultation requests (for x-rays, etc.) signed by doctor, prescription records, nurses’ notes, dental and weight charts, clothing lists, and correspondence from other institutions.
Access permanently restricted in accordance with Mental Hygiene Law relating to confidentiality of clinical records.
New York State Archives. Call number: 19452.
6 linear feet
Primarily documents the activities of the One-to-One Foundation, an organization
concerned with de-institutionalization and group homes. Record types include correspondence, news-clippings, books, and videos.
Unprocessed, but open to researchers with a preliminary inventory.
Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University.
Willowbrook Review Panel Records, 1970-1985.
117 cubic feet
In 1975, newly elected Governor Hugh L. Carey signed the Willowbrook Consent Decree, a civil rights law that obligated New York State to provide appropriate housing and programs for more than 6,000 individuals at Willowbrook State School. The law established the Willowbrook Review Panel, a temporary federal authority to oversee the transfer of residents from the Willowbrook Center to group homes. These records document the work of the review panel over a twelve year period and capture a significant aspect of the history of New York state mental health policy and include reports from monitoring agencies, complaints, correspondence, meeting minutes, and related research materials. The collection is currently unprocessed and closed. A grant is underway to process and create a finding aid for the collection. The collection will be available for access in January 2005. Access to some materials is restricted due to privacy. Questions should be forwarded to the Head of the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives.
A finding aid is available here.
Collection Number: APAP-0127
M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany, SUNY
Wolf, Benjamin H. (1909- ) Arbitration Papers, 1972-1982.
45 linear feet
Wolf was an arbitrator, labor mediator and attorney. He represented the Civil Service Employees Association in State of New York Departments of Mental Hygiene, Agriculture and Markets, Health, and Transportation and New York State hospitals at Rockland and Willowbrook vs. Civil Service Employees Association (1972-1975) on issues of improper personal conduct, discipline, negligence, dismissal, fringe benefits, and insubordination.
Open to researchers in keeping with repository rules
Finding aid available in repository or through interlibrary loan, folder level control.
Kheel Center, Cornell University. Call number: 5539
N.B. All of these materials are housed at the New York State Library. Some items, as noted, are also held by the New York Public Library Research Library. The New York State Library call number is given.
Compliance Audit: Willowbrook Developmental Center; May 6, 1976.
WIL 600-4 COMAW, UNCAT
Martiniano, Robert. The Willowbrook Consent Decree: A Case Study of the Judicial Impact on Budgeting. Albany, NY: Rockefeller Institute of Government: Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, 1984.
GOV 012.1-4 WILCD 92-43572
New York (State). Office of General Services. Public Buildings Design and Construction. Department of Mental Hygiene Building Inventory, Willowbrook State School, Staten Island, New York. Albany: The Office, 1970(?).
GEN 645-4 DEPMH 99-5838 WILLOWBROOK
New York (State). Office of the Comptroller. Division of Audits and Accounts. Audit Report on Financial and Operating Practices. Willowbrook State School, Staten Island, New York. Albany: The Office, 1966.
AUD 200-4 WILSS 1960/64.94-79896
New York (State). Office of the Comptroller. Division of Audits and Accounts. Audit Report on Willowbrook Developmental Services: Actions Taken to Implement Recommendations of Prior Audit Reports NY-St-27-73 and NY-St-23-71. [Albany]: The Division, 1975.
AUD 200-4 WILDS 1975.75-14962
New York (State). Office of the Comptroller. Division of Audits and Accounts. Follow-up on Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Efforts to Comply with the Willowbrook Consent Judgment, March 31, 1979. Albany: The Division, 1980.
AUD 200-4 WILCJ 197679.80.70297
New York (State). Office of the Comptroller. Division of Audits and Accounts. New York State Department of Mental Hygiene Efforts to Comply with the Willowbrook Consent Judgment: April 30, 1975-1976. [Albany]: The Division, 1977.
AUD 200-4 WILCJ 1975/76.77-54945
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Annual Reports. 20 vols. Albany: The Commission, 1978-98.
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Medication Practices in New York State Developmental Centers: A Post-Willowbrook Report of Practices at Five Developmental Centers. Albany: The Commission, 1986.
MEN 960-4 MEDPN 87-029587
Also at NYPL
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Procedures of the Mental Hygiene Medical Review Board. Albany: The Commission, 1980.
MEN 960-4 PROMH 80-70785
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Protecting the Rights of Developmentally Disabled Persons: Establishing a Statewide System of Advocacy Services: A Report. Albany: The Commission, 1980.
MEN 960-4 PRORD 82-70591
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Public Hearings Held by the Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled, October 1978: The Establishment of Priorities. Albany: The Commission, 1979.
MEN 960-4 PUBHC 80-70742
New York (State). State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Quality of Care: A Newsletter Published by the NYS Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled. Albany: The Commission, 1980-.
MEN 960-3 QUACN 84-56650
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. [Albany]: The Commission, 1982.
CSI, Special Collections HV 3006 N69 N489 1982
United States. District Court (New York: Eastern District). New York State Association for Retarded Children, Inc... . .: [et al.] and Patricia Parisi . . . [et al.], Plaintiffs Against Hugh L. Carey, Individually and as Governor of the State of New York . . . [et al.], Defendants, United States of America, Amicus curiae. [New York]: The Court, .
362.385 qU587 96-13255
Also at CSI, see Archives and Special Collections.
United States. District Court (New York: Eastern District). New York State Association for Retarded Children, Inc... . .: [et al.] and Patricia Parisi . . . [et al.], Plaintiffs Against Hugh L. Carey, Individually and as Governor of the State of New York . . . [et al.], Defendants, United States of America,1987 Settlement Agreement. 1987.
Also at CSI, see Archives and Special Collections.
Willowbrook Review Panel. Proposed Community Placement Plan for the Members of the Willowbrook Class in NYSARC and Parisi v. Carey / Prepared Under the Direction of the Willowbrook Review Panel [in Cooperation with the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene]. [New York?]: The Panel, 1976?]
MEN 455-4 PROCP 79-70818
Willowbrook State School. Annual Report of Willowbrook State School, Staten Island, N.Y., to the Department of Mental Hygiene for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31. 14 vols. Utica, NY: State Hospitals Press, 1949-1962.
SCH 590-1 99-65
Ferguson, Nancy Jean. The Willowbrook Consent Decree and Its Ramifications on Residential Services in the State of New York. M.P.H. thesis, New York Medical College, 1990.
CSI Special Collections, KD 3412 F47 1990
Lambert, Paula Adrian. “The Federal Court and State Government as Salient Variables in a Social Reform Movement: The Willowbrook Consent Decree.” Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1982.
CSI Special Collections, JK 3441 L36 1982
O'Connor, Patty. “The History of Institutionalization and the National
Deinstitutionalization Movement in America (with Special Focus on
Willowbrook State School).” M.A. thesis, College of Staten Island/CUNY, 1998.
CSI Special Collections, RC 443 O36 1998
Rivera, Geraldo. Willowbrook: A Report on How it is and Why it Doesn’t Have to Be That Way. New York: Random House, 1972.
CSI Special Collections, HV 3006 N7 W57 1972
Rothman, David and Sheila Rothman. The Willowbrook Wars. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.
CSI Special Collections, KF 228 N48 R67 1972
Archives & Special Collections
Brooklyn College Library
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
(718) 951-5346; fax (718) 951-4557
email: Professor Anthony M. Cucchiara at: firstname.lastname@example.org
College of Staten Island
Archives & Special Collections
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, New York 10301
(718) 982-4128; fax: (718) 982-4127
M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives
State University of New York, Albany
New Library Building, Room 352
1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 437-3931; fax (518) 437-3930
Martin P. Catherwood Library
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
227 Ives Hall
Ithaca, New York 14853-3901
607-255-3183; fax 607-255-9641
New York State Library
Manuscripts and Special Collections
Cultural Education Center
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12230
(518) 474-6282; fax (518) 474-5786
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Library
E.S. Bird Library, Room 600
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
(315) 443-2697; fax (315) 443-2671