“Because there have just been unfortunately more people passing away, including those who are not claimed by any family, that's what has been happening at Hart Island,” de Blasio confirmed.
The mayor added, "These are people who no one, after a period of time, has claimed them, and not just COVID-19 victims, they are victims of all diseases, all reasons for a fatality, and they are being buried."
In recent weeks, the Hart Island Project non-governmental organization, which seeks to provide information and access to the public cemeteries on the island, published drone video footage showing the digging of mass graves.
New photos published on Thursday appear to show at least 40 caskets being buried in a single mass grave.
De Blasio emphasized that New York City is taking the time to provide every measure of respect and dignity for those buried on Hart Island, adding that if at any point a family or a friend comes to claim a decedent, the casket will be exhumed and returned.