NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – On Thursday, CBS2 showed you the Weehawken Cemetery in North Bergen – its management cutting down trees around graves, leaving headstones overturned in the process.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman demanded answers and Friday the state ordered the cemetery to stop working.
Less than 24 hours after CBS2’s Ali Bauman stood on a hill overlooking the dangerous mess left behind from clearing the trees, state inspectors were on the scene, declaring the landscape work illegal.
Headstones were overturned and under debris. Tree trunks were stacked unsecured on steep hills. Those were the conditions CBS2 brought to light after trees were cut down around several 100-year-old graves.
“If they’re clearing this for additional grave sites they need to do it with respect, they can’t decimate what’s here,” said Frank Ciappi of North Bergen.
Earlier in December, the cemetery’s management said they embarked on a project to “beautify the entire cemetery.”
Cemetery management has repeatedly refused CBS2’s requests for an interview, saying in statements “no graves have been sold on the hill, not one” and “we have professionals removing the trees so it is being managed and nothing is dangerous.”
“The mud and soil is going to flood down without the erosion controls in and wind up in the municipal storm order system,” said State Soil Inspector Matt D’Alessandro.
Friday morning, state inspectors for the Hudson Essex Passaic Soil Conservation District came to the cemetery to check it out.
“There will be a stop work order today effective tomorrow and they will have to get in compliance with the state law under that stop work order,” D’Alessandro said.
According to the stop work order, the cemetery failed to obtain certification prior to disturbing over 5,000 square feet of soil.
The cemetery could be fined up to $3,000 per each day of violation.
“The response time was phenomenal,” said Ciappi. “I think CBS had a lot to do with it, you guys airing it. Thank you.”
The cemetery board of directors also told Bauman the memorials workers found while doing this work had been covered by brush and overgrown trees, and the board said it has every intention of erecting them once work is completed.
We’ll be sure to hold them to that promise.