NY Daily News
As the number of coronavirus deaths overwhelms New York’s morgues, funeral homes and crematoriums, city officials are scrambling to find locations to temporarily store the dead.
Fort Totten, a former cemetery that’s now a park in Queens, is the likely place where the glut of bodies will be kept during the pandemic.
“If the current outbreak escalates, burials will occur at Fort Totten and Hart Island," said a March 29 email shared among high-ranking city officials. The email lays out the work required to turn Fort Totten into a burial site.
Temporary burials at Hart Island, the city’s public cemetery on the Long Island Sound where unclaimed bodies have been buried for decades, come with a slew of logistical challenges due to regular flooding and the island’s remote location.
With at least 6,182 city residents dead from COVID-19 as of Sunday night, Fort Totten will soon be tapped for temporary burials, according to sources with knowledge of the operation.
Mayor de Blasio has for more than a week declined to discuss the city’s plans for the bodies of coronavirus victims during public briefings. And his office has denied Fort Totten will be used as a site for public burials.
On Sunday, mayoral spokeswoman Avery Cohen declared, “We are not considering temporary burials at this time.” Later, Blasio’s press secretary Freddi Goldstein added: “We’ve increased capacity enough that we do not believe we’ll have to move to temporary burials.”