Haunted photos show an aerial view of freezer trucks being converted into makeshift morgues where the unclaimed bodies of 650 COVID-19 patients are parked on a Brooklyn waterfront.
The disturbing images show around 50 trucks neatly lined up in the parking lot of 39th Street Pier in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The morgues were set up after the city's morgue and private funeral homes were overflowing with bodies in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when New York City was America's virus epicenter.
Around 50 freezer trucks parked on 39th Street Pier in Sunset Park in Brooklyn have been converted into makeshift morgues that store 650 unclaimed bodies of COVID-19 dead
City officials continue to store the bodies as many of them have either not yet been identified or their immediate relatives have not yet been contacted
The makeshift morgues were established in April when New York City was in the middle of its coronavirus battle that essentially shut the metropolitan area down as cases and deaths increased
The city continues to hold the bodies there because 230 of the deceased were from people whose relatives have not yet been contacted, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A spokesman for the city's chief medical officer said it was not uncommon to hold bodies of people who have become estranged from loved ones or whose contact information for loved ones is old or out of date.
In some cases, the deceased's immediate family members have died themselves, according to city officials.
Those whose relatives have been contacted have yet to collect the bodies because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of a proper burial.
As of April 1, New York City had more than 83,000 infections and only 1,941 deaths. At that point, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that there was only a 20 percent chance that patients using a ventilator would ever fall off the device
Those whose relatives have been contacted have yet to collect the bodies because they cannot afford the exorbitant costs of a proper burial
The Wall Street Journal reports that New York City's funeral service increased from $ 900 to $ 1,700 in May – a whopping $ 7,300 less than the average price of $ 9,000 for a traditional funeral service
The New York State Funeral Directors Association said the average cost of a cremation is around $ 6,500
The image above shows a medical examiner truck leaving the Brooklyn boardwalk on Monday
In New York, the average cost of a traditional burial can be $ 9,000, while a typical cremation is $ 6,500, according to the New York State Funeral Directors Association.
As the pandemic left more deaths, the city increased its funeral aid for residents from the usual $ 900 to $ 1,700 – still well below the average cost.
Families who can't afford these options can ask the city to bury loved ones for free on Hart Island, the small area in Long Island Sound off the Bronx coast.
On Hart Island, the city maintains a burial site for the poor and needy. In pre-pandemic times, unclaimed bodies would have been interned on the island, one of the largest public cemeteries in the country.
Hart Island is operated by the City's Correction Department. The burials were traditionally performed by inmates at the nearby Rikers Island prison.
In the first three months of the pandemic that began in March, the city reported 203,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of these, 18,679 people died and more than 54,000 people were hospitalized.
In total, more than 24,000 New York residents have died from COVID-19 disease. More than 301,000 city residents have tested positive for the disease.
The city numbers make up the brunt of the New York state numbers, which show more than 33,800 deaths and 607,000 cases.
With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in March, New York City morgues and cemeteries were overwhelmed and freezer trucks were installed to hold additional bodies
Drone images captured on April 9 show bodies buried on Hart Island in New York, where the corrections department is handling more burials overall amid the coronavirus pandemic
In May, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would withhold mass burials and make efforts to notify loved ones as the city struggled with the growing piles of bodies.
The employees of the city doctor's office were simply ill-equipped to deal with a one-time pandemic.
The unit only employs 15 people whose job it is to identify bodies, while seven others are tasked with contacting their relatives.
In normal pre-pandemic times, the unit could handle 20 deaths a day. At the height of the pandemic, it was inundated with around 200 new cases a day.
The labor shortage resulted in delays of weeks and even months in notifying concerned relatives, who kept calling the office for information on death certificates, visits to corpses, and funeral arrangements.
Lea-Anne Carafa was informed of the death of her husband, from whom she had been separated, three months after he was found dead in his bed.
Frank Joseph Carafa died of cardiovascular disease on May 6th in his Manhattan apartment. His wife, who lives in Westchester County, wasn't informed until July 28th.
Frank's death certificate does not mention COVID-19 as a factor in his death.
Before the pandemic, the office was making up to 40 calls a day. At the height of the pandemic, 1,000 calls were made daily.
New York was believed to be behind the worst of the pandemic, but Governor Andrew Cuomo is now warning of serious COVID-19 spikes during the holiday season
New York State has recorded an average of nearly 5,500 new confirmed cases per day for the past seven days. The most serious peaks were reported in Staten Island, parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx. An increase in cases has also been reported in western New York state
Cuomo warned Monday that COVID hospital stays could double in the next three weeks, meaning new lockdown measures may be put in place
City officials said they are sensitive to the needs of the bereaved in New York, who now must be guided through the delicate task of retrieving the bodies of loved ones.
"It was traumatic," Dina Maniotis, deputy executive commissioner of the chief physician's office, told the Wall Street Journal.
“We work with [loved ones] as gently as possible and persuade them to make their plans.
"A lot of them will decide they want to go to Hart Island, which is fine."
When city officials are unable to track down loved ones, they attempt to identify the body using forensic means, including fingerprints, medical or dental records, or DNA data.
Officials also search police records or other available documents.
The city has slowly managed to reduce the exposure to unclaimed corpses. In mid-September there were 698 bodies there.
The truck freezers are planned to continue to be used until the pandemic is declared over. It could take a while.
The New York governor said Monday he was reopening an emergency COVID-19 field hospital on Staten Island as the number of infections continues to rise. This is the first of its kind in the state to reboot since the state partially tamed the summer pandemic.
The makeshift hospital on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Hospital cared for 200 patients in the spring when New York wards were overwhelmed by critically ill and dying coronavirus patients.
According to Cuomo, officials are concerned that it may need to do it again as the virus has spread faster in the community than the rest of the city.
Staten Island has seen an average of 209 new cases of COVID-19 per day for the past seven days – an 86 percent increase from two weeks ago.
New York State has recorded an average of nearly 5,500 new confirmed cases per day for the past seven days.
Hospitals and nursing homes have reported 665 COVID-19 deaths in the state in the past 30 days – more than July, August and September combined.