New York City has stored the bodies of 750 coronavirus victims in refrigerated trucks parked on a Brooklyn pier for up to a full year – with some families ignoring requests to reclaim their relatives’ remains.
The ‘disaster morgue’ was set up on the 39th Street Pier in April 2020 to aid funeral homes that were overwhelmed with the number of funerals and cremations needed.
Dina Maniotis, executive deputy commissioner of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the set-up was always meant to be temporary, according to the New York Post.
However, multiple victims’ families have ignored attempts from city officials to claim their relatives’ remains, and there is no timeline for how soon the victims will be buried, either on Hart Island or elsewhere.
Brooklyn’s 39th Street Pier is storing the bodies of around 750 New York City COVID-19 victims in refrigerated trucks (pictured on Friday) one year after the pandemic hit
The ‘disaster morgue’ was set up in April 2020 and was supposed to be temporary to help overcrowded funeral homes and morgues. Pictured: Refrigerated trucks holding the bodies of COVID-19 victims at a Brooklyn pier, Friday
During a meeting on Wednesday, officials from the medical examiner’s office said they will try to reduce the number of bodies being held at the pier ‘in the very near future’. Pictured: Refrigerated trucks holding the bodies of COVID-19 victims at a Brooklyn pier, Friday
It is unclear how soon the bodies will be moved and whether they will be buried on New York City’s Hart Island or elsewhere. Pictured: Refrigerated truck at a Brooklyn pier holding the bodies of coronavirus victims in November 2020
Maniotis told the City Council’s Committee on Health during a meeting on Wednesday that officials will try to reduce the number of bodies being held ‘in the very near future.’
‘We will begin to notify all the families that we’ve been working with that we are now going to ramp our operations down slowly, give them the time that they need, and we’ll keep the operation going as they need it,’ she added, according to the Post.
At the time the site was set up on the Brooklyn pier, city officials said it was meant to free up space at morgues and other refrigerated trailers.
It would also help the city’s funeral industry, with funeral homes unable to set up services or even store bodies.
The waterfront morgue was open from 8:30am to 10:30pm each day so families would have time to claim bodies.
When the morgue first opened, it operated from 8:30am to 10:30pm each day so families would have time to claim bodies. Pictured: Refrigerated trucks holding the bodies of COVID-19 victims at a Brooklyn pier, Friday
Many families of deceased loved ones in the trucks have asked that they be buried on Hart Island or have stopped contacting officials. Pictured: Refrigerated trucks holding the bodies of COVID-19 victims at a Brooklyn pier, Friday
Hart Island, a former potter’s field in the Bronx, has buried more than 2,600 bodies in 2020 and more than 500 in 2021. Pictured: Workers burying bodies in a trench on Hart Island, April 2020
Most families of the victims have requested that their loved ones be buried on Hart Island, a former potter’s field in the northeastern Bronx with mass burials.
An estimated 2,666 adults were buried on Hart Island in 2020 and 504 so far in 2021, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Typically, between 1,000 and 1,200 people are buried there each year, with the island believed to have witnessed around a million burials since it was turned into a cemetery.
According to an analysis from the Columbia Journalism School’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and nonprofit news organization THE CITY, the number of bodies buried since the start of the pandemic is equivalent to about one-tenth of the number of New York City residents who have died from COVID-19.
Maniotis said that other families have stopped ‘engaging’ with city officials, meaning the bodies will likely be buried on Hart Island regardless.
‘We will continue to work with families,’ Maniotis told the Council’s health committee, THE CITY reported.
‘As soon as the family tells us they would like their loved one transferred to Hart Island, we do that very quickly.’
New York City Council members say they don’t understand why the medical examiner’s office has been so slow in burying the deceased, some of whom sit in these trucks, pictured Friday
New York City has reported 934,052 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32,760 confirmed and probable deaths since the start of the pandemic
Several Council members, including Mark Gjonaj, a Democrat whose district in the Bronx includes Hart Island, say they don’t understand why the city has been so slow in burying the deceased.
‘Why do we have these temporary storage facilities?’ he asked, according to THE CITY.
‘If there is capacity and those families have already expressed the willingness to have their loved ones buried in a public burial at Hart Island, why are we delaying that any longer than we have to?’
Since the start of the pandemic, New York City has reported 934,052 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 32,760 confirmed and probable deaths.