Demanding Answers: Why Is Newark Cemetery Being Neglected?

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The main building at Woodland Cemetery in Newark is a Gothic revivial gatehouse, abandoned and boarded up.

Inside is overgrown brush covering gravesites. The majority of headstones, with German names on them, are turned over or broken. Most were placed there in the late 1960s.

For more than 80,000 people, it was their final resting place. But now the cemetery in which they’re buried in is complete disrepair and covered in weeds.

So what happened?

“It used to be absolutely beautiful,” a man told CBS2’s Christine Sloan. “I used to work in there when I was like 16, 17.”

Laurie Latini’s husband worked there, too, in the 1990s. She has watched the cemetery, also the final resting place for hundreds of veterans from the Civil War to Vietnam, fall into disrepair.

“They used to come in there with stolen cars, knock over the headstones,” said Latini, of Newark. “You can’t even come in here and find your loved ones anymore.”

The cemetery, owned by the Woodland Cemetery company, is run by a board of managers.

Sloan spoke to board member Rosemary Hilbert by phone.

“We all have family in the cemetery,” Hilbert said.

When asked why there isn’t enough money to clean it up, Hilbert said: “Because the cemetery is no longer active. We cannot by law touch that money.”

She’s talking about a $600,000 fund from plots bought over the years. The interest is used for yearly cleanups, mostly on the perimeter near South 10th Street.

“As long as someone owns a plot and there is room in the cemetery, if they approach us, we will bury somebody there,” she said.

“It’s sad,” a woman told Sloan. “It’s pitiful. I wouldn’t want to be buried there. That’s not a graveyard.”

But to people who have families there, it is.

Board members say they’re asking corporations to help them repair the cemetery after years of neglect.

The councilwoman in charge of the ward where the cemetery is located said while it’s not the city’s property, officials will look to see if they can fix the broken fences. She’s also going to help the board reach out to corporations.

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