June 20, 2013
The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor, City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
As the National Anti-Defamation Chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the oldest and largest Irish American Catholic Organization in America, I am writing to you regarding the tragic and reprehensible event that occurred on 16 June in the Bronx. As I hope you are by now aware, on that date a young Irish immigrant, Kevin Bell, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist. The loss of anyone so young, especially by all accounts a vivacious and talented young man who was both a champion Irish Dancer and Gaelic Football player, is a tragedy, but what transpired next was a disgrace that shamed the name of the City of New York. When the Medical Examiner’s van arrived to transport Mr. Bell’s body, it was found that the van was filled with bags of recyclables. Young Mr. Bell’s body was then wedged into the van as though it was another piece of refuse and then transported with the rest of the garbage. This shameful treatment was caught on camera and broadcast to the world, no doubt to the anguish of Mr. Bell’s family and to the shame of New York and America.
As a member of the Jewish community, which has its own respected rituals that call for the dealing with the deceased in a reverent manner, I do not need to tell you what an outrage this is. The treatment of the remains of the deceased with dignity is a basic ecumenical value shared by the majority of the world’s religions and cultures; it is certainly a matter of profound significance to the Irish community. That a member of the Medical Examiners staff should during working hours be collecting bottles for the deposit using a city van is a serious conversion of city resources and should be subject of disciplinary action, but that the driver and those at the scene did not have the humanity to at a minimum mitigate the situation by removing the garbage from the van before resting Mr. Bell inside is a disgrace.
Even more troubling Mr. Mayor is that several days after this degradation to Mr. Bell you have yet to formally speak out on the matter. To be frank Mr. Mayor, you have a well-deserved reputation for never being reticent to give public voice to your opinions to the media when you are outraged. Your silence on the treatment of Mr. Bell’s remains involving horrific behavior by city employees, intentional or unintentional, is deafening.
I remind you of the old Latin phrase Mr. Mayor “Qui Tacet Consentit”, “Silence implies consent”. I am sure that you agree the humiliating degradation of Mr. Bell’s body does not represent the true New York, a city whose generosity and humanity to those in need is legendary. In that spirit, we call upon you Mr Mayor, as the City’s leader and first citizen, to make a public apology to Mr. Bell’s family for the inhuman degradation of their loved one and to the citizens of New York who have been shamed by this act. Let us make crystal clear that the city that is often regarded as “the Capital of the World” does not consent to this ultimate defamation of a human being and that steps are being put in place that this shall never occur again.
Neil F. Cosgrove
National Anti-Defamation Chairman, Ancient Order of Hibernians
5 Bel Aire Terrace
New City, NY 10956