ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers were faced with tough decisions regarding end-of-life care and the rising cost of dying. In an effort to reduce overall costs, the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus led by Chair Assemblymember Michaelle Solages (AD-22), are supporting two pieces of legislation that would both update the wrongful death law and allow for cemetery alternatives that are economic and eco-friendly.

The first bill, A.6770/S.74, would modernize New York State’s wrongful death law, which was adopted in 1847. While New York State was among the first to “modernize” its law by creating a death statute in the mid-19th century, most states have since updated their laws to more fully recognize the impact of the loss of life wrongfully taken.

Some states such as Arkansas, Florida, and Michigan, whether by legislative or judicial action, allow survivors to recover the damages for their emotional losses. Advocates for the bill say New York State must follow suit. First Introduced by Assemblywoman Weinstein in 2009, the bill currently has 49 bipartisan co-sponsors in the NYS Senate and 65 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Assembly.

The Caucus is also supporting bill A.7848/S.6842, which would allow for more opportunities for conservation partnerships in New York State by allowing conservation-oriented companies and organizations to partner with local land trusts to offer more sustainable end-of-life options. By creating a permanent process through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), this bill would provide these organizations and their land trust partners with regulatory certainty while also protecting consumers who want to leave a legacy of conservation, having their ashes spread at a memorial lands facility.

Also, this would ensure that the land will be managed and maintained in its natural state in perpetuity and will not be developed. This legislation clarifies that ashes may be spread on land that is permanently protected via environmental conservation law. Nearly every state in America allows ashes to be spread on private land, and conservation areas for ashes are operating today in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Illinois, Arizona, and California.

This model is supported by several land trusts and environmental conservation organizations in New York State, including Open Space Institute, Scenic Hudson, Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Housatonic Valley Association, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“New Yorkers deserve a sustainable choice for their end-of-life planning that contributes to the conservation of valuable natural areas,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “Memorial lands provide an option for New Yorkers that is economical and environmentally friendly and allows us to help preserve valuable natural assets. I truly cannot think of a more tranquil, peaceful resting place than to be surrounded by the beauty of nature. We urge the legislature to pass this bill before the end of session.”