Turnpike bows on disinterment

Deal signed with kin of man in mass grave

Saturday, November 30, 2002

By Michaelangelo Conte
Journal staff writer

SECAUCUS - Patrick Andriani's 20-year search to recover the remains of his grandfather from the abandoned Hudson County Burial Ground and give him a proper burial came closer to fruition this week when he signed an agreement with officials from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

The Turnpike Authority is seeking court approval to move 1,200 graves from the burial ground to a mass grave at another location in order to make way for construction of a new interchange at the New County Road site.

Until recently, its lawyers took a hard line in fighting Andriani's drive to reclaim the remains of his grandfather, Leonardo Andriani, who came to America alone in the 1920s, lived in Hoboken and died alone in a county hospital near the burial ground on Christmas Eve in 1948.

On Nov. 1, at what was to be the final hearing in the legal process required to conduct the disinterments, state Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri postponed making a ruling until Dec. 6 and told Turnpike officials to try to work with Andriani.

Two days later, Turnpike Authority Executive Director Michael Lapolla called the attorneys and ordered them to stop fighting Andriani and work something out.

A two-hour meeting, held on Nov. 15 at the Turnpike's New Brunswick headquarters and at- tended by Andriani, 42, his mother and father, and 15 Turnpike representatives, led to a plan allowing Andriani to take his grandfather's remains to a family burial plot.

Andriani received and signed the written agreement earlier this week.

"It was a very good, productive meeting and I think it showed good faith on the part of the Turnpike. It seems pretty fair to me," said Andriani.

Andriani said that according to the agreement, the archeological company doing the disinterment will conduct the excavation in a very precise manner, digging within a grid and using archeological machinery that digs small amounts of soil at a time.

The burial ground has been completely covered by about three feet of fill, so the archeologists will contact Andriani as they approach the area where they believe his grandfather is buried, beneath a small marker baring the number 6408.

Andriani may be allowed to be present when the remains are exhumed but that has not been decided yet. Digging is to begin in January and is expected to be completed by April, said Andriani.

Turnpike officials said the other bodies recovered are to be moved to a mass grave somewhere in Hudson County.

"We are happy Andriani finds the plan satisfactory and that we are not going about this in an uncaring way," said Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority.

"The Andriani family were very compelling people and I think meeting with them and seeing their sincerity had a tremendous influence on everyone."

Orlando said Andriani should be congratulated for spending 20 years being run around by bureaucracy in his attempt to recover his grandfather's remains.

"We inherited this problem and it is time someone did something about it," said Orlando.

Andriani is very grateful for the cooperation of Turnpike officials, but he does not deny that the numerous newspaper articles, television and radio broadcasts on the issue played a part in bringing about his happy ending.

Andriani said the area being disturbed by the project contains the remains of burials from 1922 to 1955 but the older section of the cemetery is not being touched by the project.

According to Andriani, that older section may contain the remains of 6,000 to 9,000 bodies buried between 1880 and 1922.

No trace of any part of the burial ground is visible because some areas have no markers and are now overgrown, while other areas have been covered by landfill.

Copyright 2002 The Jersey Journal.

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