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The city will attempt to reduce the number of bodies held at Sunset Park Pier “in the near future” and notify families of the transfers, Dina Maniotis, deputy commissioner of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, told a city council committee . Wednesday.
Most families in the cold storage have told the town that they would prefer their loved ones moved to Hart Island, the town’s potter’s field – where they have completely stopped “talking” with officials, Maniotis said, which makes the bodies probable. will end on Hart Island.
In a follow-up statement to THE CITY on Thursday, the medical examiner’s office said it would have “a more in-depth discussion with the families on their final decision and the timeline.” “
Hart Island is the final resting place for more than a million New Yorkers, many of whom lacked funds for a private burial. The history of the island as a public cemetery dates back to the Civil War.
The medical examiner’s office said 2,666 burials had been performed on Hart Island in 2020 and 504 so far in 2021 – well above the typical annual total of 1,100 to 1,200 in recent years. These figures echo the burial figures analyzed by Columbia and THE CITY, which Council members referred to during the hearing and show that one in 10 New Yorkers who died of COVID-19 in 2020 were buried on the island.
Several council members criticized the slow process of burying people in the warehouse, while others questioned whether the state and FEMA funeral assistance programs would meet the growing demand from families.
“Why do we have these temporary storage facilities? Asked City Council member Mark Gjonaj, a Democrat whose Bronx district largely includes Hart Island. “If there is a capacity and these families have already expressed a willingness to have their loved ones buried at a public funeral on Hart Island, why are we delaying this longer than necessary?”
The city’s human resources administration is evaluating bids to operate Hart Island through the Department of Parks and Recreation, after years of stewardship by the Department of Correction.
HRA said it could not disclose further details about the offers, which closed on March 5. Twice-daily trips to Hart Island, which will be open to the public, are scheduled to resume on May 15 and will be capped at 10 people, according to the city.
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