A Tenth of N.Y.C.’s Covid Dead May Be in Mass Graves on Hart Island

If those bodies are buried on Hart Island as well, and all are counted as pandemic deaths, the total would exceed 3,000 — about one-tenth of the 30,793 coronavirus deaths recorded in the city as of Wednesday, according to a New York Times database.

About a million people are estimated to have been buried on Hart Island since it became a public cemetery in the 19th century, The City said.

City officials recently considered ending burials on the island and shipping bodies out of the city instead. But during the pandemic, when funeral homes were overwhelmed, Hart Island became a last resort, preferable to having bodies languish indefinitely in refrigerated trucks.

Melinda Hunt, the founder of the Hart Island Project, a nonprofit group that has pushed for greater awareness and access to the island, said in January that she hoped that the exigencies of the pandemic would help lawmakers and the public regard burials on Hart Island differently.

“It’s not some Dickensian thing,” Ms. Hunt said. “It’s an orderly and secure system of burials that works, especially when you have deaths on the scale of an epidemic.”

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