Grave concerns starting to mount

Petition asks Turnpike to abandon reburial plan

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

By Michaelangelo Conte
Journal staff writer

A second Hudson County resident has come forward seeking to recover the remains of a relative buried in the old Hudson County Burial Ground in Secaucus before the New Jersey Turnpike Authority moves the 3,500 people buried in the cemetery to make way for a new interchange.

The Turnpike is currently seeking the approval of Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri to rebury the dead in a mass grave at another Hudson County location.

"I would like to see that the cemetery is not moved at all, and that is the feeling of many people who have signed our petition," said Bill Hastings, 33, of Bayonne. Hastings - whose great-great-great-grandfather, James Brew, is buried at the Secaucus site - said he has about 360 signatures on a petition seeking to keep the cemetery where it is.

"I don't believe the public has been informed properly of this matter, because 90 percent of the people we show our petition to have not heard anything about it. I think it is immoral and I am shocked that they would want to put them in a common grave. It is very disrespectful."

If the project can't be stopped, Hastings said he would settle for retrieving his relative's remains.

Hastings said he inadvertently came across Brew's name while reviewing a list of people buried at the Secaucus site. The list was posted on the Internet by the Turnpike. He was looking for his great-grandmother's sister, Hannah Sweeney, who died as a child at the turn of the century.

Hastings did not find Sweeney's name on the list. Instead he found Brew, who was born in Ireland, lived in Jersey City and died at the county hospital in Secaucus on Oct. 13, 1884.

The Secaucus cemetery was used for patients and inmates in nearby county facilities, as well as indigents, from the 1880s until 1962. Since then, the cemetery has been covered with several feet of fill, masking any trace of it.

Hastings, a self-employed carpenter, learned of the Turnpike's plans after reading articles in The Jersey Journal that detailed Patrick Andriani's quest to recover the remains of his grandfather Leonardo Andriani.

Olivieri set a Nov. 1 deadline for the Turnpike to present its plan for moving the cemetery. Andriani has requested that he be allowed to observe the digging so he can search for his grandfather's grave marker. But Olivieri adjourned the Nov. 1 hearing until Dec. 6, telling Turnpike attorneys he wanted to see a more detailed plan of how the graves would be moved. He also told them to try to work with Andriani.

At the hearing, Turnpike attorneys argued against helping Andriani, but three days later, Turnpike Authority Executive Director Michael Lappolla called his lawyers and told them to try to work something out. Andriani is scheduled to meet with Turnpike officials on Friday.

Hastings said he sent his letter to Olivieri a week after the Nov. 1 deadline, but hopes the judge will consider his wishes. He said he has organized an online petition against moving the graves. The petition has about 160 signatures, and there are another 200 signatures on a petition circulating around Bayonne, he said.

Copyright 2002 The Jersey Journal.


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