Sunset Park group sets up petition to relocate bodies from trucks on 39th Street Pier

May 12, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
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Most are headed to potter’s field on Hart Island

A group of Sunset Park residents are calling for the city to transfer the approximately 750 bodies from New York — victims of COVID-19 that are being stored on refrigerated trucks at the foot of 39th Street Pier in Sunset Park — out of the area.

Tony Giordano, founder of both the popular Sunset Parker Facebook page and the Sunset Park Restoration organization, has set up a petition for residents to sign to ensure that the bodies are given a final resting place.

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“The main thrust right now is through the use of the Freedom of Information Law — we have filed multiple requests with the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office,” he told the Home Reporter. “Of course, our goal is a respectful treatment of the victims of COVID, but [also] to rattle the cages of our city government.”

The  waterfront still has the bodies of about 750 New Yorkers who died during the pandemic in refrigerated trucks with no timetable for their remains to be moved to Hart Island or elsewhere, officials last week told the online publication THE CITY.

The same article quoted Dina Maniotis, a deputy commissioner with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, as saying that most of the families of those in cold storage have told the city they prefer to have their loved ones moved to Hart Island, the city’s potter’s field, or have stopped communicating with city officials.

“Typically, bodies destined for city burial on Hart Island have no next of kin — no families to step forward for them or they are from families without financial resources — our most needy and vulnerable,” Giordano told the Eagle.

The city will try to reduce the number of bodies being held on the Sunset Park pier “in the near future” and let families know about the transfers, Maniotis told a City Council committee.

The Sunset Park group is looking into which vendors are providing the trucks and whether the companies have any ties to elected officials. The group is also investigating the possible air pollution caused by 24-hour-a-day refrigeration systems and what it calls the waste of city funds at a time when areas are financially hurting.

Tony Giordano of the Sunset Parker Facebook group and Sunset Park Restoration. Eagle file photo by Jaime DeJesus

Giordano said the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office is looking into the situation, along with U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats representing New York State.

“We haven’t totaled the petitions yet, but we are not using any of the online petition sites,” Giordano said. “We could get thousands of signatures overnight. When we total ours, we’ll be happy that they [the petition singers] are all Sunset Parkers.”

He added that the group hasn’t heard from the City Council or the Public Advocate’s Office.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who represents the area, told NY1 that he is disappointed to hear that bodies are still being stored on the waterfront.

“It was a surprise to hear that there are still remains in Sunset Park at the 39th Street Pier,” Menchaca said. “I think that the city has failed with communication, and we’ve made that clear.”

He also said, “We want to make sure that the city is constantly moving with dignity, but we also want to make sure that the city is communicating all of this with a neighborhood that has been impacted, a neighborhood that has seen what they’ve seen.”

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