Southern Brooklyn

Washington Cemetery: Gravestones Destroyed By Sanitation Workers In Snow 'Cleanup'

Photo by Yana Zhuravel

When residents demanded that heads roll after the city’s shameful response to the blizzard cleanup, they didn’t mean headstones.

But that’s exactly what happened when Department of Sanitation workers packed load after load of snow and ice against the fence of Washington Cemetery on Bay Parkway, between McDonald Avenue and 57th Street. The metal gates buckled under the weight, toppling approximately 30 gravestones over the weekend.

“[Sanitation workers] were continually dumping snow there for several days,” said Washington Cemetery (5400 Bay Parkway) employee Mike Ciamaga, who added that cemetery officials first noticed the broken gravestones on Sunday morning.  “As of this morning they were still dumping there.”

A full tally of the broken gravestones hasn’t yet been determined, since many are buried under the snow and ice, according to Ciamaga. Most of the families affected have not yet been notified.

But at least one family made the shocking discovery when they went to pay their respects to a deceased relative on Sunday. They were outraged at the city’s lack of concern.

“It was just unbelievable that the city would be so careless and absolutely negligent,” Yana Zhuravel told Sheepshead Bites. Zhuravel, a Brooklyn lawyer, said she is also dismayed that the city is making no attempt to clean the mess, inform the families or pay for the damage. “The failure of the city to foresee such damage and their failure to respond or communicate with the families about it is the truly appalling part. We all understand that accidents happen sometimes, but when you screw up in such a profound matter, there should be some accountability.”

Cemetery officials don’t know if the expense will be paid by taxpayers through the city government, or if the families themselves will have to shoulder the cost.

“We don’t know yet, it’s still early,” said Ciamaga. “We havent had any formal discussions with [the city] yet.”

It’s the second blow to families with deceased relatives in Washington Cemetery in a month. In mid-December, more than 200 gravestones were destroyed in the Jewish cemetery, sparking a hate crime investigation. Several of those toppled in that incident belonged to Holocaust survivors; others were hundreds of years old.

Councilman David Greenfield, who represents the area around the cemetery, has been an outspoken critic of the Sanitation Department‘s lackluster blizzard response. This latest Sanitation snafu sparked further condemnation of the beleaguered agency.

“I am incredibly disheartened to learn that Washington Cemetery, the target of hate-filled vandalism in recent weeks, was needlessly damaged by the Sanitation Department during our city’s botched snow removal,” said Councilman David Greenfield. “It is shocking that the Sanitation Department is incapable of serving the living, or respecting the dead.”

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  1. I am speechless ! As if vandalizing the cemetary was not enough, Sanitation had to use it’s place as a dumping ground for snow? Couldn’t they dump it on the beach? Or somewhere else, less disrespectful to the dead? ”It is shocking that the Sanitation Department is incapable of serving the living, or respecting the dead.” – I totally agree – but I wonder – what, if anything, will be done?

  2. good job sanitation!
    lawls, they have no respect or work ethics at all. oh well, thats america for you!
    personally, dont give a crap about “respecting” the dead. they are fucking dead. we shouldnt be wasting land space for worm food anyways. its expensive and very odd in my opinion. dead humans should be either used for spare parts or turned to ash imO!
    “oh honey, lets go lay flowers on some dirt where some dead person you know is 6 feet under it.”. i think im becoming less “human” every day. none of it makes sense to me

  3. This is crazy. In order to have done this they would have had to go past the sidewalk and with intent use private property for a public function. Even if there was no damage incurred it would have been improper.

    Something is very wrong here. Was this caused sanitation personnel, or by contractors they hired. The process for doing that seemed to almost guarantee that something like that was going to happen. From what I understand the process was not vetted. People were hired with our any scrutiny.

  4. I drove past Bay Parkway and 59th earlier today. Not only were they still dumping snow but they closed the entire block to traffic. That area is a major traffic juntion connecting Bay Parkway to Ocean Parkway. They forced tons of traffic onto residential streets where cars were still skidding tires to move out of parking spots, not yo mention snow piled nearly a foot high as residents tossed it in the street digging out their cars a week later.

    Whomever is in charge of this lil project gets the moron of the week award!

  5. “The U.S. Attorney and the Queens and Brooklyn District Attorneys reportedly have launched criminal investigations into the City’s response to last week’s blizzard. Prosecutors are looking into allegations that some Department of Sanitation employees took part in a work slowdown that left hundreds of roads impassable for days.”

    from NY 1 news The Call blog

    This also warrants criminal investigation…

  6. This makes me sick to my stomach. Why not use parks and beaches for this? Shame! Shame! Shame! No respect for the living or the dead. They wanted to prove something to the mayor, but who got hurt at the end? I am ashamed to be part of this city, never thought I would be a witness to something like this.

  7. They didn’t go “past” the sidewalk. What this article doesn’t mention is that they piled the plowed snow on top of the cars parked at the curb, the sidewalk, and up against the fence. Under that 20 or 30 feet of snow are cars that have been crushed by the weight of all that snow and ice.

  8. As soon as they are able to get the info, I wonder if Washington Cemetery would post names from the damaged graves & gravestones, especially for graves that have been there some years, as the deceased may no longer have family, or family in the area, to check on the matter & see that it is corrected.


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