Covid US: NYC gives 30 days to claim bodies of 350 victims STILL stored in refrigerated morgues


New York City families have 30 days to claim the bodies of loved ones who died during the COVID-19 pandemic that are currently being stored in a refrigerated morgue on the Brooklyn pier.

Earlier this week, the city’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner began its last-ditch efforts to contact a next of kin, but many families ignored city officials’ previous calls. 

Many of the bodies are people who were likely estranged from their families or come from families who can’t afford the burial or cremation fees, which can cost between $6,500 and $9,000, The Wall Street Journal reported.

There are about 350 unclaimed bodies still in the ‘disaster morgue,’ which was set up on the 39th Street Pier in April 2020 to aid overwhelmed funeral homes, that have been there for months to a year.

That number was as high as 3,000 bodies, The Wall Street Journal reported. There were 750 unclaimed bodies last week.

If the bodies are unclaimed, they will be buried in New York City’s public cemetery on Hart Island, a public cemetery off the Long Island Sound in the northeastern part of the Bronx, Dina Maniotis, an executive deputy commissioner of the medical examiner’s office, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. 

That’s expected to be completed by August.  

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Brooklyn’s 39th Street Pier is storing the bodies of around 350 New York City COVID-19 victims in refrigerated trucks (pictured last Friday) 

Unclaimed bodies will be buried on Hart Island like they were in this photo last April

Unclaimed bodies will be buried on Hart Island like they were in this photo last April

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, last Friday

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, last Friday

Families have 30 days to claim bodies of COVID-19 victims that are being stored in refrigerated morgues at a Brooklyn pier, pictured last Friday

Families have 30 days to claim bodies of COVID-19 victims that are being stored in refrigerated morgues at a Brooklyn pier, pictured last Friday

The unclaimed bodies are expected to be buried or cremated by the end of August. Pictured: Refrigerated truck at a Brooklyn pier holding the bodies of coronavirus victims in November 2020

The unclaimed bodies are expected to be buried or cremated by the end of August. Pictured: Refrigerated truck at a Brooklyn pier holding the bodies of coronavirus victims in November 2020

During normal times, bodies can remain in the city’s morgues for up to 60 days before the city usually buries people free of charge in on Hart Island. 

That policy was paused during the pandemic to lighten the burden on the city’s funeral homes and to accommodate victims’ families who needed time make final arrangements. 

The waterfront morgue was open from 8:30am to 10:30pm each day so families would have time to claim bodies.

 But with the city and society beginning to reopen, Maniotis told the Wall Street Journal that they’re resuming its pre-pandemic procedures and is winding down the temporary mortuary.  

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, last Friday

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, last 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, last 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, last Friday

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.’ 

The unclaimed bodies will be buried on Hart Island, which is located in the northeastern section of the Bronx

The unclaimed bodies will be buried on Hart Island, which is located in the northeastern section of the Bronx 

What is Hart Island? 

Hart Island, 131-acre mass burial site in the Long Island Sound on the northeastern edge of the Bronx, has served as New York City’s public cemetery for centuries

Over a million people are buried on the island, most are unknown 

Since 1869, prison labor has been used to bury unclaimed and unidentified New Yorkers in mass graves of 150 adults or 1000 infants. 

NYC Parks and Recreation assumed jurisdiction on December 4, 2019. 

The Hart Island Project created a database that includes 72,251 people buried on the island since 1980. 

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.

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 last Friday

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 last 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

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.



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