The New York neighborhood that the Covid emergency has transformed into a morgue for the poor and forgotten

Sunset Park is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural neighborhood in Brooklyn, inhabited mostly by Hispanics but with a fast-growing Chinatown. So called because it develops around the park of the same name that offers a unique view of the Statue of Liberty, while in the rural cemetery of Green-Wood rest famous people, such as the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and Henry Rutgers, philanthropist and hero of independence of the United States, which gave its name to the university of the same name. Along the East River, the Industry City warehouse complex also hosts creative and recreational activities, confirming itself as a meeting point for the neighborhood. At least until the arrival of the pandemic that has not only upset the lifestyle of New Yorkers but has transformed Sunset Park into a sort of cemetery for the forgotten. A dramatic and sad reality but visible to the naked eye with the fleet of refrigerated trucks where the bodies of hundreds of coronavirus victims are kept.

These are mostly people whose families cannot be traced or cannot afford a proper burial, according to the office of the chief medical examiner of the city. There is talk of about 650 bodies still in the trucks of the morgue set up in April on 39th street, right in the heart of Sunset Park. In particular, officials are unable to trace the relatives of some 230 deceased people. Those found instead have financial problems and are unable to provide for the expenses for a burial. The City of New York increased the contribution for the necessary expenses and celebrating the funeral from $ 900 in May to $ 1,700. But that’s a far cry from the average cost of $ 9,000 for a traditional burial service in New York, according to the New York State Funeral Directors Association. A cremation with service costs approximately $ 6,500.

A reality that takes you back in time to the tragic spring months when the peaks of infections and deaths had transformed New York into the hotbed of America. So much so that the city was forced to set up field morgues and refrigerated trucks to house the bodies of the dead in different areas of the five neighborhoods. Just in April we told about our trip

in an improvised “black” area between the Streets and the Avenues hidden by the shadows of the skyscrapers that define the “skyline” of the Big Apple. The images that were seen walking along 30th Street from 1 Avenue towards FDR Drive, the island’s eastern ring road, brought us back to memory the “day after” of September 11, 2001, when the forensic office of the city ​​was tasked with identifying tens of thousands of body parts from the 2,753 people killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center. Nineteen years later New York witnessed the same spectacle of macabre camps this time besieged by an invisible enemy and therefore more dangerous than that terrorist hand that 19 years ago hurled two planes on the Twin Towers like flying bombs on the Twin Towers.

“This time it’s going to be much worse than Ground Zero,” the medical and military personnel told us on that dramatic afterlife tour. And in fact almost eight months later New York is grappling with the second wave of Covid-19. NY Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the closure of public schools and it is not excluded that other restrictions may soon be triggered in an attempt to contain the virus. In fact, the pandemic does not give up its hold on the whole of the United States which, on average, have registered more than 110,000 cases a day in the last month, with peaks of up to 200,000. The restrictions have taken place in almost all US states in view of the Thanksgiving holiday, which will be celebrated next Thursday at a height of austerity and uncertainty.

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