City to bury unclaimed COVID-19 victims on Hart Island
BY JASON COHEN
The place that is home to an estimated million people
who were often unidentifi ed at the time of their deaths
during the AIDS crisis, will soon be the burial ground
for unclaimed COVID-19 victims.
On April 9, the city announced unclaimed COVID-19
bodies will be interred at Hart Island. A spokesman for
the mayor stressed this is not the same thing as the temporary
burials that have recently been in the news. He
said they do not anticipate needing to conduct those.
The New York City Offi ce of Chief Medical Examiner
provides temporary storage of a decedent for 14 days.
“For decades, Hart Island has been used to lay to rest
decedents who have not been claimed by family members,”
the spokesman said. “We will continue using the
Island in that fashion during this crisis and it is likely
that people who have passed away from COVID who fi t
this description will be buried on the Island in the coming
In December 2019 Mayor de Blasio signed legislation
to transfer the potter’s fi eld out of the jurisdiction of the
NYC Department of Corrections and into the hands of
the NYC Parks Department.
During the AIDS crisis, Hart Island served as mass
burial site for AIDs victims, whose bodies went unclaimed.
Often those who die in city detention are buried
there by fellow detainees, hence DOC’s authority over
the small island.
The City Council recently passed legislation that
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez sponsored for the transfer
of Hart Island to Parks Department jurisdiction.
The 131-acre island has a storied past in the city’s
During the Civil War, it served as an internment
camp, then as a psychiatric institution, and a Nike Missile
launch site, according to the mayor’s offi ce.
Hart Island, which will be the home of unclaimed COVID-19 bodies. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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