Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fire Place History Club Wins Cemetery Maintenance Lawsuit

Fire Place History Club
Preserving the Past for Future Generations


August 30, 2010

Contact Person:
Martin Van Lith
(631) 286-5897

We Won!
Judge rules: Town of Brookhaven Must Resume Care of Historic Family Burying Grounds in Brookhaven and South Haven Hamlets

Following a decision of Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum of the New York State Supreme Court, the Town of Brookhaven, Long Island, NY, is required to resume care of nine historic family burying grounds in the hamlets of Brookhaven and South Haven.

The Town of Brookhaven had been caring for these burying grounds from as early as 1937, according to articles published in the Patchogue Advance, and it continued to do so for at least the next thirty years. By 1964, the Town was providing care for sixteen burying grounds in the hamlets of Brookhaven and South Haven, but it stopped performing most work on the cemeteries a few decades ago.

Under a number of laws enacted by the New York State legislature, Town governments have been given some minimal responsibilities regarding the care of neglected burying grounds. For such cemeteries, a Town is to remove the grass, brush and weeds twice each year and maintain “suitable fences.”

Members of the Fire Place History Club have been active in restoring damaged gravestones in historic family burying grounds and researching the lives of those interred in them. Those include Revolutionary War soldiers, a State Senator, a nationally recognized civil engineer, the Civil War Supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven, and many others important to the life and history of the residents of Fire Place Neck.

The Fire Place History Club’s efforts to preserve the grave markers has been made much more difficult because the Town had allowed trees and brush to overtake the burying grounds and failed to maintain the rights-of-way to them.

Over the last several years, the Club attempted to persuade the Town of Brookhaven to fulfill its ethical and legal responsibility and resume providing some minimal care for neglected family burying grounds. Months of effort by the group’s leader and chairman, Marty Van Lith, were to no avail. He scheduled meetings with Town officials, showed them the cemeteries, and informed them of the legal responsibilities the Town had under state law, but the Town repeatedly failed to resume its care of the historic sites despite its promises to do so.

Finally, on July 16, 2009, with the pro bono assistance of attorney Regina Seltzer of Bellport, the Club resorted to filing an Article 78 petition with the New York State Supreme Court regarding ten family burying grounds. An Article 78 filing seeks to have a government entity perform a function that it is legally obligated to perform.

Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum of the New York Supreme Court made his decision on August 20, 2010, and the decision was released last week. He ruled that the Fire Place History Club was correct in stating that state law requires the Town to care for nine of the ten cemeteries and directed the Town to resume its care for them.

Reggie Seltzer commented, “This was undoubtedly an easy decision for the Judge since the actions of the Town itself over many decades indicated that the Town understood it had a obligation to preserve these sites for the public.”

Marty Van Lith said, “The Fire Place History Club is looking forward to working with the Town of Brookhaven in maintaining and preserving these important historic cemeteries for the benefit of all residents, both present and future, of the Town.”

Members of the Fire Place History Club gathered at the Azel Hawkins Family Cemetery in Brookhaven Hamlet to celebrate the New York State Supreme Court decision that mandates the Town of Brookhaven to mow grass and keep brush and weeds in check at nine historic family cemeteries located in the area known as Fire Place Neck. Pictured are (from left): Gloria and Bob Brown, Marty Van Lith, Betty Budny, Richard Thomas, Ron Kinsella, Barbara Kresse, John Deitz, Diane Martens, Faith McCutcheon, Phoebe Downs and Eben Ludlow.

High resolution image at http://brookhavensouthhaven.org/cemeteries/AzelHawkins/100830/historyclubatazelhawkinscemetery.jpg


Monday, August 30, 2010

Hamlet History Club Wins Cemetery Court Case

On August 20, 2010, New York State Supreme Court Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum issued a decision in the Fire Place History Club's lawsuit against the Town of Brookhaven. His decision required the Town to maintain nine of the ten cemeteries in the Club's July 2009 petition. The 10th cemetery—the "Miller Cemetery"—he judged to still be "privately" owned.

Specifically he:
"ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that the petition seeking a writ of mandamus is granted. Respondent [the Town of Brookhaven] is directed to provide the assets necessary to comply with the requirements of Town Law Section 291 for such nine cemeteries* within 90 days of service of a copy of this Judgment with notice of entry."

* Rose Family Cemetery, David Hawkins Cemetery, Nathaniel Hawkins Cemetery, South Haven Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Carman Family Cemetery, Hulse Cemetery, Corwin Family Cemetery, Azel Hawkins Cemetery, and Barteau Cemetery.

The full decision may be found here.

The members of the Fire Place History Club are meeting to determine their next steps.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Carmans River Television Program Scheduled Oct 1.

We had a beautiful day yesterday for the filming of the Pine Barrens Society's TV program about Carmans River, helicopter took off at 9 AM. It was quite a production, scripted by Dick Amper and filmed by Black Sheep Television Ltd. I was only one of many people who will be on the show, others include Jim Tripp, Tom Williams, Kevin McAllister, Marilyn England and MaryAnn Johnston. At some point I have to go back to the studio to do voice overs. The target date for viewing is Oct 1. 

I tried to take some pictures with my own camera but it was hard to do because of the vibration, window glare and because I was supposed to be paying attention and talking about what we were looking at. By noon we were on the river in canoes and later along the shore doing interviews. We had to end filming at Wertheim Refuge and didn't make it to Squassux Landing because it was 5 PM and the TV crew called it quits. Here are a few dozen small-file size pics that you might find interesting.  --Marty 

6.  West Island Moriches Inlet

8.  Looking West Over Old Inlet Fire Island 2

9.  Smiths Estate

10.  Looking West Over Squassux

11.  Little Neck Run & Yaphank Creek 2

12.  Little Neck Run & Yaphank Creek 4

13.  View Wertheim RR bridge North

14.  Sunrise & Montauk Looking West

15.  Hards Lake & Estate

16.  Hard Estate

17.  Lower Lake 2

18.  North End Of Lower Lake

19.  Upper Lake 3

20.  Lower Lake From East Side

21.  Looking South From Cathedral Pines 6

22.  Looking South Toward Hards Lake 2

23.  Hards Lake Sunrise Highway & South

24.  View East Over Robinson Farm 2

25.  View East Over Refuge HQ 2

26.  View East Over Wyndotte

27.  View South East Lower Carmans River

28.  View South East Yaphank Creek Lower Carmans River 2

29.  Yaphank Creek Indian Landing And  South 4

30.  Indian Landing Little Neck Run & South 2

31.  Squassux Landing & South 4

32.  Squassux Landing

33.  Gull Island & Bridge

34.  Looking South Over Old Inlet

35.  Pelican Island Old Inlet & South

36.  Old Inlet Pelican Island & East

37.  Old Inlet & East

38.  Carmans River Camp Olympia

39.  Karen Interview 2

40.  Marilyn Interview 3

41.  Jan & Jock @ Wertheim

42.  Marty @ Wertheim