The girl was between three and five years old when she was found in a bag inside a cooler dumped in a wooded area just off a highway in July 1991.
Nobody had reported her missing, and investigators later said she was undernourished and had been sexually abused.
A law enforcement official tells the Associated Press that investigators used DNA to identify a woman they believe is the mother of the dead child.
Police received a tip from someone who knew the woman after that person learned of the cold case from a publicity push by the NYPD over the summer,the official said.
The official was not authorised to speak about the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The New York Times also reported the break in the case.
The case dates to July 23, 1991, when a road worker discovered the girl's remains inside a picnic cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway after smelling something rotting.
Detectives theorised at the time that she had been suffocated before being dumped like garbage on a grassy incline.
They estimated she was dead six to eight days before the cooler was found.
In an interview in July, retired Detective Jerry Giorgio said he had pursued hundreds of leads but none panned out.
He had the case from 1991 until he retired from the force.
"It was so frustrating," Mr Giorgio said recently. "We initially thought we'll get her identified and go from there and probably solve the case. It didn't happen."
As the frustration mounted, so did detectives' affection for the victim.
They began calling her "our baby", and eventually she became "Baby Hope" because they hoped and prayed they would solve the case, Mr Giorgio said.
He was instrumental in organising a burial in a Bronx cemetery for the girl in 1993.
Hundreds attended the funeral.
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