Before disinterment, turnpike officials pay respects

Associated Press Writer

February 9, 2003, 2:40 PM EST

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Except for a caretaker's cottage that has fallen into disrepair, there are no clues that these 3 acres off the New Jersey Turnpike are the burial grounds for more than 3,000 people, most of whom died poor and unknown decades ago.

About 15 people attended a memorial service held Sunday, a week before the New Jersey Turnpike Authority plans to begin disinterring the graves to make way for a railroad transfer station and commercial hub.

The remains will be reburied at a cemetery in North Bergen.

"Listen, I would like for the bodies to stay here," said Patrick Andriani, whose grandfather is buried in plot No. 6408. "But they will be better off. Right now, they're under 5 feet of garbage and refuse."

The old graveyard, used by Hudson County from the late 19th century until 1962, was covered with fill when the original eastern spur of the turnpike was built. It was disrupted again when the county built a now-abandoned jail on part of the cemetery.

Four clergymen attended the memorial service held in a white tent beneath the eastern spur. Overhead, car horns blared and planes from Newark Liberty International Airport roared by.

The authority plans to use the site for a $235 million interchange between Exits 15E and 16E that will serve the new Secaucus Transfer Station along NJ Transit's Northeast Corridor Line.

The $500 million station will be a northern New Jersey rail hub, and also serve planned office towers, hotels and retail space nearby.

A marker will identify the site as a former burial ground and direct visitors to the cemetery in North Bergen.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press

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