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Newark must detail cleanup of cemetery



A Superior Court judge has given Newark until the end of November to come up with a tentative plan for the cleanup and restoration of City Cemetery, the old potter's field that was turned into a dump.

Judge Kenneth Levy told the city to present a general idea by Nov. 29 of how it plans to remediate the 5-acre graveyard that was turned into an industrial storage yard in the 1960s.

The transformation was discovered by 86-year-old Elsie Spade Lascurain after she went to the Bessemer Street site in search of her father's grave two years ago and found it strewn with garbage and debris.

Lascurain sued the city, demanding the return of the remains of her father, George Spade. She wanted to have him disinterred and buried in the family plot near her home in Hackensack, alongside her husband and infant daughter.

The elderly woman also sought a proper resting place for the more than 18,000 other indigent people, including several veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II who were buried in the graveyard, later known as Floral Rest.

Her case for compensatory damages was thrown out by Superior Court Judge Carol Ferentz, who ruled that too much time had passed since Spade was buried in 1921 for her to make a case for emotional distress.

The city has begun work on the site, removing the piles of garbage and leveling the mounds of dirt. Levy asked City Attorney Hugh Gallagher to meet with Lascurain's attorney, David Freeman, so they could work out an agreement.

Nancy Costello Miller, a deputy state attorney general and counsel to the New Jersey Cemetery Board, is closely monitoring the case and said she is helping the two sides reach an agreement. The state office is functioning as a friend of the court to assist in the resolution of the case.

"The (fine) details we're not going to be dictating, but we'll be participating in discussions in regards to concept designs," Miller said. "It's appropriate involving issues of public importance. The attorney general has a strong interest in participating in issues involving cemeteries."

The city previously has said it will turn City Cemetery, which abuts the Anheuser-Busch brewery and lies in the shadow of Newark International Airport, into a park- like memorial garden with plaques and benches.

The city claims it has lost burial records and grave markers of the decedents.

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