Every city has its dark places, but New York may have one of the darkest. Only a few kilometres from the bright lights of Times Square and the beauty and tranquility of Central Park is a piece of land that can tell of hundreds of thousands of tragedies. It is Potter's Field, a public cemetery where visitors are not welcome - at least not when they are still alive. An island nestled between the Bronx and Long Island, this is where the city buries the unloved, illegal and unidentified in mass, virtually unmarked graves. Bodies are placed in cheap pine coffins and put, one on top of another, in common graves, with 150 in each. And they do not have gravestones, although there is one monument erected in 1948 with a cross and the word 'peace' engraved on it. It would be easy to assume that it is done this way because there is no space for anything less degrading. But that may not be the case. It seems that little has changed in the way Potter's Field operates since its 41 hectares were first put into use as a public cemetery in 1869. It is now home to more than 750,000 bodies, with about 900 adults buried there each year in more recent times. And yet 'there is still virgin territory' says Thomas Antenen, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, which operates the cemetery. However, the city is not considering giving private graves to the unclaimed bodies any time soon. 'I don't speak as to what's possible. I can tell you what the practice is,' said Mr Antenen. This is about as stark as it gets. The bodies are buried by inmates from the nearby Riker's Island prison. The public is rarely invited to visit. Relatives of the dead have to file an application. Reporter's requests for photographs are usually turned down. 'We used to take many people out there. But it became like a circus atmosphere,' said Mr Antenen, who decided to close the area to the media nine years ago. For New York's large communities of illegal immigrants and the friends and relatives back in their native countries, this is a place of untold heartache. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised every year to send bodies home and, thus, prevent them from ending up there. In Spanish-speaking immigrant communities, where it is not unusual for people to die alone far from home, Potter's Field is often referred as the 'dumpster' and the bodies sent there are said to have been 'thrown away'. 'We call Potter's Field luan fen gang in Chinese, meaning body piles,' said Amy Mak, president of Ng Fook Funeral Services, in Chinatown. 'It's the last place one would like to end up after one dies, because we believe that when bodies are piled up, the souls will never rest.'