ADVOCACY UPDATE: The New York State Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act is Authorized.
After Governor Hochul vetoed the Burial Site Protection bill in late 2022, New York remained one of only four states lacking adequate legal protections for human burials. Under the prevailing state law, human remains and funerary objects unearthed in burials on private land were considered to be the property of the landowner.
Thankfully, the Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act (S630) was put back on the legislative agenda in 2023. We are grateful to State Senator Leroy Comrie, for taking the lead in sponsoring this important bill once again. With the unanimous approval by both chambers in 2022, we anticipated that the bill would proceed quickly through the legislative process in 2023.
The provision was included in the New York State budget announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul in April 2023 and passed both houses on May 1, 2023. The new law will require private landowners to halt development if a burial site is found on their property, and contact the state. The bill would make it a crime to remove, deface or sell the remains or funerary objects and would apply to Native burial sites, African Americans and Revolutionary War veterans.
Preservation Long Island supported the new provision and the efforts to ensure that all human burials in our state obtain equal dignity and protection under the law, regardless of land ownership.
Click HERE to read the New York Times coverage of the new legislation:
Recent Burial Site Advocacy on Long Island
In September 2020 after developers unearthed human remains when building a house on Sugarloaf Hill, the Shinnecock Nation’s ancestral burial grounds, the Southampton Town Board voted unanimously on September 8th to approve its own Graves Protection Act and the Shinnecock Hills Building Moratorium.
Click HERE to read our Preservation Update about the outcome of the 2020 Shinnecock Nation advocacy effort.