A leading New York City lawmaker said Monday that officials may be forced to temporarily begin burying the city’s coronavirus victims in local parks — as morgues and hospitals struggle to keep up with the mounting death toll, Councilman Mark Levine said Monday.
“Soon we’ll start ‘temporary interment’,” Levine (D-Manhattan) wrote in a series of tweets. “This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line.”
“It will be done in a dignified,
orderly–and temporary–manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take,” Levine wrote, adding in another tweet, “The goal is to avoid scenes like those in Italy, where the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets.”
He later clarified his tweets, saying this “is a contingency NYC is preparing for BUT if the death rate drops enough it will not be necessary.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about the grim matter during a coronavirus press briefing Monday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“We may well be dealing with temporary burials, so we can deal with each family later,” the mayor said. We will have the capacity for temporary burials – that’s all I’m going to say.”
“I’m not going into details,” de Blasio said. “I don’t think it’s a great thing to be talking about.”
However, Hizzoner did mention city-owned Hart Island — the city’s longtime potter’s field and nation’s largest public burial ground, which sits just off The Bronx’s southeast coast in the Long Island Sound.
“We’re going to try and treat every family with dignity, respect religious needs of those who are devout, and the focus now is to try and get through this crisis and obviously also put all of our energy and resources into saving those we can save,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the city’s Medical Examiner’s office, Aja Worthy-Davis, told The Post there are no plans currently to begin temporary burials and that the freezers at agency facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn have “adequate space.”
“We have no plans right now to bury anyone in city parks,” said Worthy-Davis, noting that the disturbing scenario is mentioned in a previous OCME disaster plan, but “it’s not in the works at this time.”
Levine explained that city hospital morgues have filled up and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has sent out 80 refrigerated tractor-trailers with a capacity to hold 100 bodies to hospitals around the city.
“These are now mostly full too,” Levine said. “Some hospitals have had to add a 2nd or even 3rd trailer.”
According to Levine, “Grieving families report calling as many as half a dozen funeral homes and finding none that can handle their deceased loved ones” and that “cemeteries are not able to handle the number of burial requests and are turning most down.”
More than 2,470 people have died in the city as a result of coronavirus and more than 64,900 people in the city have tested positive for the virus.
“[T]he number of bodies continues to increase,” Levine tweeted. “The freezers at OCME facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn will soon be full.”