Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brookhaven Hamlet Cemetery Update

After the Fire Place History Club’s victory in getting specific historic gravesites maintained by the town via a lawsuit and subsequent New York State Supreme Court decision, this statement was issued by Brookhaven Town: “The Town respects the decision of Justice Tannenbaum and at this time does not plan an appeal. We currently maintain a number of cemeteries throughout the Town and will now review our schedule, prioritize for the additional needs and commence work as soon as possible.”

This statement is disingenuous. That the Town maintains a few abandoned historic cemeteries within the Town was never in dispute. The Fire Place History Club in its court filings pointed to at least two cemeteries within the hamlets of Brookhaven and South Haven that received some maintenance from the Town as examples of the Town conceding that it had maintenance authority and responsibility. They were but a small fraction of the burying grounds that required attention. Members of the Fire Place History Club when it was attempting to get additional cemeteries maintained, asked how the the Town determine their priorities for maintenance? A Town official responded, "Is the cemetery on a parade route?" The implication being that if the site was not highly visible, the Town was not going to do anything.

At least with respect to those cemeteries named in the suit, the Town has lost its ability to prioritize. They have been ordered by the court to resume maintenance on the cemeteries listed. Failure to do so will make the Town in violation of the court order.

The principals enunciated in by the court in its interpretation of State law would not seem to give any ability to prioritize the Town's maintenance duties toward abandoned cemeteries. All one hundred or so such cemeteries within the Town require Town maintenance. While we might concede that some prioritization is needed while the long abandoned work is re-instituted (and the Fire Place History Club consciously prioritized its cemeteries named in the suit from the twenty or so found in the two hamlets), basing priority on visibility is certainly not the most important.

Working with the many local civic organizations and historical societies within the Town would certainly seem a better approach in developing consistent, rational work priorities.

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