Images show new trenches and rows of caskets at New York City’s public burial site

Workers bury bodies in a trench on New York City's Hart Island
Workers in protective gear bury bodies Thursday in a trench on Hart Island in the Bronx borough of New York.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
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As New York City deals with a mounting coronavirus death toll and dwindling morgue space, the city has shortened the amount of time it will hold unclaimed remains before they are buried in the city’s public cemetery.

Under the new policy, the medical examiner’s office will keep bodies in storage for just 14 days before they’re buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island.

Normally, about 25 bodies a week are interred on the island, mostly for people whose families can’t afford a funeral or who go unclaimed by relatives.

In recent days, though, burial operations there have increased from one day a week to five days a week, with around 24 burials each day, said Department of Correction spokesman Jason Kersten.

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Aerial images taken Thursday by the Associated Press show workers digging graves on the island, a one-mile, limited-access strip off the Bronx that’s the final resting place for more than a million mostly indigent New Yorkers.

About 40 caskets were lined up for burial on the island Thursday, and two fresh trenches have been dug in recent days.

A backhoe is seen next to large burial trenches on New York's Hart Island.
In an aerial photograph, a backhoe sits near burial trenches and abandoned buildings on Hart Island. The island was once a Civil War prison camp, a tuberculosis patient colony and a burial site for unclaimed HIV/AIDS victims.
(Justin Lane / EPA/Shutterstock)
Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island.
Workers perform burials. New York City’s 2008 Pandemic Influenza Surge Plan states that Hart Island would be used as a temporary burial site in the event the death toll reaches the tens of thousands and if other storage is full.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
New York public burials on Hart Island
An aerial photo shows Hart Island, a strip of land in Long Island Sound that has long served as New York City’s potter’s field.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
New York public burials on Hart Island
Bodies are buried in a trench on Hart Island on Wednesday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

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Workers arrive at a dock after leaving Hart Island.
Workers wearing personal protective equipment and New York City Department of Correction vehicles arrive at a dock after leaving Hart Island.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
New York public burials on Hart Island
Normally, about 25 unclaimed bodies a week are interred on the island. New York City is now burying about that many there every day, five days a week.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
New York public burials on Hart Island
Two fresh trenches have been dug in recent days on Hart Island. About 40 caskets were lined up for burial Thursday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
New York public burials on Hart Island
A ferry carries a truck holding bodies to Hart Island on Thursday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

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