Vandals attack historic Green-Wood Cemetery

Thugs rip through historic burial ground, toppling statues and tombstones

The Brooklyn Paper
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Vandals tore through Green-Wood Cemetery with a twisted vengeance on Monday night, causing more than $100,000 worth of damage as they toppled and shattered 150-year-old tombstones and statues, employees said.

Perps damaged at least 51 memorials and monuments — including marble crosses and large statue of an angel — according to a spokeswoman for the cemetery.

“An inordinate number of crosses were damaged. Things were absolutely crushed and pushed over,” she said.

No historical monuments were destroyed, but workers estimated the vandals caused at least $100,000 worth of damage, which shocked employees.

“I have been visiting Green-Wood since 1986, and, while I recall some incidents of vandalism, I cannot remember anything on this scale or close to it,” cemetery historian Jeff Richman wrote on Green-Wood Cemetery’s blog on Thursday. “Gravestones were pushed over and shattered. Urns were cracked and pushed off their bases. Four marble crosses were toppled — three of them broke into pieces.”

But the vandals didn’t stop there: the thugs scratched out porcelain photographs of those interred. Another porcelain picture was smashed with a rock said Richman, who was amazed that the vandals were able to scale the cast-iron fence and avoid notice inside the immense property that borders Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Sunset Park.

“We have an around-the-clock, 24-hour car patrol of the grounds,” Richman said. “We have video cameras mounted throughout to discourage vandals. But, sadly, no cemetery security system is a guarantee against vandalism.”

Cemetery employees didn’t identify which tombstones and statues were damaged, but did say that a security camera recorded one of the vandals.

Groundskeepers discovered the widespread desecration, which was first reported by the Daily News, on Tuesday morning.

The footage was handed over to the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force, which is investigating the vandalism as a possible bias crime.

A spokeswoman for Green-Wood said the cemetery is now accepting donations, which can be made on online at to repair the statues and tombstones.

Green-Wood Cemetery opened in 1838 and became the final resting place for a host of historical figures and celebrities, including artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, musician Leonard Bernstein, William Meager “Boss” Tweed, and Samuel Morse, the inventor of the Morse code.

This is not the first time vandals had desecrated a Brooklyn burial ground. In 2010, more than 200 tombstones were spray-painted, then knocked over inside Washington Cemetery on Bay Parkway. Vandals also decapitated several religious statues found outside of Visitation Academy in Bay Ridge earlier this year.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the NYPD CrimeStoppers hotline at (800) 577–8477. All calls will be kept confidential.

Reach Deputy Editor Thomas Tracy at or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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