Nelson Demands City Pay For Cemetery Damage

Photo of the damage by Yana Zhuravel, whose grandmother's tombstone is on the bottom right.

The bill to taxpayers from the city’s botched blizzard response continues to go up, with the government being prodded to cover the cost of Washington Cemetery gravestones toppled during snow removal.

Since Sheepshead Bites broke the story yesterday, local leaders are rushing to criticize the Sanitation Department, which piled mountains of snow against a fence bordering the largest Jewish cemetery in New York City. The fence collapsed, causing about 30 headstones to topple.

Local Councilman Michael Nelson, chairman of the Jewish Caucus, blasted the agency yesterday evening, demanding an immediate investigation and monetary relief for the families of the deceased.

“Weeks after dozens of gravestones were vandalized, it is absolutely disheartening and tragic to find out that Washington Cemetery and the deceased buried there have been disturbed again,” Nelson said. “This time, however, it was not done by mischievous individuals but rather by more carelessness and negligence on the part of the city.  The Department of Sanitation and the City should take full responsibility for their inattention to common sense so that the families of the deceased do not incur any out of pocket cost.”

Gravestones are not covered either by the cemetery’s insurance or the insurance policies of the families.

Meanwhile, Councilman David Greenfield continues to be outraged that the agency didn’t come clean as soon as the damage occurred, and instead had to find out from Sheepshead Bites.

“That we have to find out about it from a reporter, it’s very hurtful,” Greenfield told WNYC. “It’s quite shocking that (the families) weren’t informed about it, either.”

After our report, the councilman trekked down to Washington Cemetery (5400 Bay Parkway) to see it for himself.

“The scene was nothing less than appalling,” he said in a statement. “By my count, over a dozen headstones were toppled under the weight of the collapsed snow mountain that was placed there by the Sanitation Department. I am certain that more headstones will be discovered when cemetery caretakers clean up Sanitation’s mess.”

Greenfield is urging those with family affected to call his office at (718) 853-2704 for assistance in filing a claim.