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On Monday, New York City councilmember Mark D. Levine of the 7th District and chair of the city council’s health committee, claimed that the city had a contingency plan to start burying victims of the coronavirus in city parks. In a tweet Levine stated:
The tweet was part of a longer thread where Levine was describing the crisis New York is facing in the wake of the coronavirus. “NYC’s healthcare system is being pushed to the limit and sadly so is the city’s system for managing our dead… NYC’s city morgue is the office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) which luckily is the best in the world. But they are now dealing w/ the equivalent of an ongoing 9/11. And so are hospital, morgues, funeral homes & cemeteries. Every part of the system is now backed up.”
Levine elaborated to explain the drain the deaths were taking on the mortuary system of the city:
The tweet regarding the “temporary internment” was quickly trending on Twitter which led the councilman to clarify his statements in multiple threads:
Facing mounting criticism Levine who is the chair of the City Council's health committee and previously served as chair of the City Council's Parks Committee concluded with:
Such internments would likely be at Hart Island off the Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. After the firestorm surrounding the statements on Twitter, the office of the Chief Medical Examiner says it is not considering temporary burials in New York City parks. Authorities in New York have brought in refrigerated trucks to store bodies, similar to their actions post the terrorist attacks on the city on 9/11. A makeshift morgue has been built outside of Bellevue Hospital.
As macabre as the idea of using a park as a cemetery may be, Bryant Park and Washington Square Park in New York City were both originally fields for potter’s graves. City Hall Park was once an African American burial ground. In 2008 the city drafter protocols proposed multiple internment solutions in the event of a catastrophe but did not mention parks.
According to NBC news: “At some hospitals, like Lenox Hill in Manhattan, the trucks are parked on the streets, along sidewalks and in front of apartments. Cars and buses passed by as corpses were loaded by forklift at Brooklyn Hospital Center.” Since the outbreak began, New York City has reported 67,551 cases of coronavirus with 3,048 deaths.
At his daily briefing on the pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was not aware of alternative internment plans or for any need for them.