Seven hundred fifty New Yorkers' bodies are still sitting in a refrigerated morgue on the Brooklyn waterfront over one year following the detection of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Big Apple. The remains of an estimated 750 people are in long-term storage in the specially developed disaster morgue.
COVID-19 Victims' Bodies in Refrigerated Trucks
Officials divulged that for those bodies at Brooklyn's 39th Street Pier, there is no timetable as to when they will be moved to Hart Island or another location. The city will make efforts to diminish the number of bodies being held on the Sunset Park pier soon and let families be made aware regarding the transfers, according to Dina Maniotis, a deputy commissioner with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
According to Maniotis, the facility was set up to provide families extra time. However, the arrangement was always supposedly temporary. She stated very shortly; they will start notifying all the families that they have been working with that they are now going to ramp their operations down gradually. They will provide them the time they need and keep the operation going as they need it.
Since April last year, hundreds of bodies have been stockpiled in trucks. They fluctuate from 500 to almost 800, according to various medical examiner estimates compiled during the past 13 months by Columbia's Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting and THE CITY as part of the MISSING THEM project, reported Brooklyn News Review.
Families of many of the fatalities remaining in storage have requested that the city bury their remains on Hart Island. It is the city's potter's field. The families of others have fallen out of contact with New York City, according to Maniotis, reported New York Post.
The families who have stopped engaging with officials entirely, Maniotis remarked, have made it likely that the bodies will end up on Hart Island. According to her, "We will continue to work with families. As soon as the family tells us they would like their loved one transferred to Hart Island, we do that very quickly," reported The City.
A follow-up statement released by the medical examiner's office indicated it would have further discussion with the families. This would be regarding their timeline and final decision.
'Why are We Delaying?'
Hart Island is the final resting place of over one million New York locals. Several of them cannot afford a private burial. Since the Civil War, the island has been known as a public burial ground.
City Councilman Mark Gjonaj questioned why several remained in storage when the families had already requested burial on the island. He asked the reason behind why they are delaying any longer than they have to.
According to the medical examiner's office, 2,666 burials were conducted on Hart Island last year and 504 so far in 2021. This is far above the usual yearly total of 1,100 to 1,200 in the past few years.