When Deborah Salant heard that victims of the coronavirus pandemic were being stored in refrigerated trucks in New York City, she knew she wanted to donate her family’s two burial plots at Greenfield Cemetery to those who could not afford to bury their loved ones during this pandemic.
She was not going to use the plots, which can fit four graves, she said, as she has no children of her own, and she plans to be buried with her grandparents and parents at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington.
“I’m sitting on this cemetery plot I’m not going to use,” said Salant, a 66-year-old Franklin Square resident, and she thought donating it to a family who lost a loved one to the coronavirus would ease the family’s trauma because they would not have to worry about what could happen to their relative’s body.
But when she spoke to a representative from Greenfield about transferring the burial rights to a family in need, Salant was surprised to learn that she would need to spend more than $12,000 on the site her great-grandfather purchased more than a century ago, and would not be able to transfer her rights to the property to a non-relative, under the Town of Hempstead code.
Feeling dejected, she then wrote to town officials who own and operate the Uniondale facility, asking them to change the law during the pandemic, and was ready to plead her case at the Dec. 8 board meeting when town officials announced that they had already unanimously passed a resolution to allow people to transfer their rights to families of Covid victims and suspend all costs associated with the transfer.
Her family’s debts on the property were also expunged.
“I was just speechless that they accepted this,” Salant said. “Walking out, I feel like I was shaking.”
“She broke down in tears,” Town Supervisor Donald X. Clavin recounted at a news conference about the new policy on Dec. 10, “but we gave her the applause she deserves.”
The town is on track to double the number of funerals it held last year, he said, with state records showing that there have been more than 2,200 Covid-related deaths in Nassau County since the pandemic began, and Clavin told Salant that her idea “is potentially going to help hundreds of people in this pandemic” by providing them with funerals at a town-owned cemetery that are half the cost of funerals at private cemeteries.
“You might say you’ll have an everlasting memory,” Clavin told Salant, adding that the town is “here to help people” and “here to do what’s right.”