New York State health officials have suspended the license of a funeral home in Brooklyn that is co-owned by a Barbadian national after decomposing bodies were found inside two U-Hall trucks outside the home in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn.
Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc., on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, is co-owned by African American Andrew T. Cleckley and his Barbadian-born wife, Alva Stuart.
Authorities said about 100 decomposing bodies were found inside the two non-refrigerated U-Haul trucks and a U-Haul van on Wednesday.
“Funeral homes have a responsibility to manage their capacity appropriately and provide services in a respectful and competent manner,” said New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in a statement, describing the discovery of the decomposing bodies as “appalling” and “disrespectful to the families of the deceased,” while announcing that his office will conduct a probe into the matter.
Guyanese-born New York State Sen. Roxanne Persaud has also called for a full investigation.
“I am calling for a full investigation of this funeral home and holding the responsible persons accountable for their actions,” said Persaud, who represents the 19th Senatorial District that encompasses Flatlands.
“Families have an expectation that the remains of their loved ones are handled in a respectful and dignified manner,” she added.
Persaud said she was informed by New York Police Department (NYPD) 63rd Precinct Sector D Non-Commissioned Officers that “a horrendous situation was occurring at an area funeral home located at 2037A Utica Ave.
“There were bodies of deceased individuals stored in two U-Haul trucks and a car on the property,” she said. “Also, a foul odor and fluids were coming from vehicles onto the street and sidewalk.”
Persaud said she and her staff immediately contacted the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs about “this dilemma.”
“They took action to rectify the situation,” she said.
During a coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic briefing on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said “funeral homes are private organizations, private businesses,” and that “they have an obligation to the people they serve to treat them with dignity.
“I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen,” he said.
Cleckley told reporters that his funeral home was overwhelmed by the unceasing dead bodies amid the pandemic.
“I ran out of space,” he said. “Bodies are coming out of our ears.”
New York authorities said over 23, 000 people have died in the state since the onset of the novel coronavirus.
A notice on the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc.’s website describes Cleckley as the owner/manager and Stuart as the co-owner.
The website says Cleckley is a graduate with honors from Nassau Community College, Class of 2011, and is a native New Yorker of African-American descent.
“Andrew is a devoted, compassionate and experienced Funeral Director, whose primary objective is to provide your family with the attention and care necessary during your time of bereavement,” the website says. “He is the master embalmer, responsible for restoring loved ones to their before death appearance.”
For Stuart, it says she was “born and raised in the beautiful island of Barbados,” and that she graduated with honors from American McCalister Institute of Funeral Service as a licensed Funeral Director in 2011.
“Professionalism, integrity and attention to detail represent the core values that Alva is admired for and trusted by the people with whom she encounters,” the website says.
“Alva is responsible for ensuring your loved ones look as radiant in their passing as they did while alive. She also plans and directs the funeral services,” it adds.