Brooklyn Boro

Scrivani, ‘architect’ of Sunset Park trailer morgue, appointed as OEM commissioner

May 23, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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The New York City Emergency Management Department welcomes John Scrivani back to Brooklyn in his new role as commissioner of the agency, it was announced Friday. 

Scrivani will be working at the city Office of Emergency Management headquarters at 165 Cadman Plaza East, Downtown Brooklyn. 

But this isn’t the first time the Staten Islander has been working in the borough. In April 2020, Scrivani, who at the time was serving as director of safety, security and emergency management for the Virginia Department of Transportation, drove his camper put to the Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, where the established the Brooklyn Temporary Morgue.

Currently, many Sunset Park residents want to the refrigerated trailers holding bodies that make up the morgue out of the neighborhood and its “residents” buried in Potters Field or elsewhere. 

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However, at the time, the morgue was considered a huge improvement over the existing situation in which funeral homes were overwhelmed with bodies, and at least one became notorious for storing decaying bodies in unrefrigerated trucks.

As was described in a Virginia newspaper at the time, the morgue facility, when it was most active, consisted of three huge warehouses as well as the refrigerated shipping containers themselves. Scrivani, who was picked for the job because of his experience with crisis management, lived in his camper onsite while the work was being done.

Before working in Virginia, Commissioner Scrivani held several leadership roles within New York City government, including NYC Emergency Management and the NYPD. 

“As emergency management leaders we learn from every disaster, and that is why there is such a strong effort to communicate and prepare the public on emergencies. In New York City, events like Hurricane Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic have really showed the importance of communicating between agencies and the public,” said Scrivani.

During the time of Superstorm Sandy, Scrivani was special assistant to the deputy mayor for operations working on Sandy-related recovery projects, such as the city’s debris removal task force, which was especially active in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Coney Island, Sea Gate and Sheepshead Bay. 

From 2008 to 2009, Scrivani was deputy director of the special operations division at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner, where he also oversaw operations and safety for the World Trade Center Potential Human Remains Recovery Project and managed the special operations response team. 

For 14 years, he worked as a member of the NYPD, where he retired as commanding officer of the Emergency Service Unit (ESU) Hazardous Materials-Weapons of Mass Destruction Response Team and Training School. He was a member of the ESU and a first responder during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

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