Watery graveyard: Local pol wants sidewalk along flooded street near Canarsie Cemetery

Watery graveyard: Local pol wants sidewalk along flooded street near Canarsie Cemetery
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

A century-old problem has risen from the dead!

Canarsie Cemetery honchos must build a sidewalk along one of the parcel’s surrounding streets to make it easier for homeowners and visitors to cross over a permanent flood there, according to Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie). The privately owned cemetery abuts part of the private Church Lane, a street that has been flooded with stagnant water for years because the city refuses to drain the thoroughfare unless it is acquired by the Department of Transportation.

A sidewalk that replaces the swampy grass outside the burial ground’s gates would allow for better drainage, prevent the dirty water from seeping into nearby graves, and keep visitors from sloshing through puddles that are deep enough to fish in, according to the pol.

“lt would allow for pedestrian traffic, it might create a better system for draining, but they need a sidewalk there anyway, there’s no place to walk,” Maisel said. “Also the cemetery was complaining about water from ponding that was seeping into it — if a sidewalk was there, it would stop that.”

Private company Cypress Hills bought the graveyard bounded by Remsen Avenue, Church Lane, E. 86th Street, and Avenue K from the city for $50,000 in 2011, and municipal law requires it to construct the pathway, according to Maisel and the Department of Transportation.

“It’s the company’s responsibility,” the pol said.

But as the graveyard’s former owner for a near-century, the city never bothered to pave over the swampy grass — an irony not lost on Maisel.

“For most of the last 100 years, the city owned it — the city does not follow its own rules,” he said.

A Department of Transportation rep could not say why a sidewalk was never built on city land before it was sold to a private company, claiming it is not the agency’s responsibility unless specifically requested.

The confusion over who is responsible for fixing the flooded land surrounding the cemetery doesn’t stop there. Church Lane, which runs from E. 86th to E. 92nd streets, is only private between E. 88th and E. 89th streets — the site of the stagnant water. The rest of the span is city-owned, but is still continuously neglected, according to residents who live along it.

But now the owners of the burial ground, which has more than 6,500 graves, are open to laying down a path outside of it in order to end years of complaints about the convoluted street’s lack of maintenance, according to Cypress Hills’ vice president, who said he and other honchos also question why the city never made the fix years ago.

“I don’t know anything about legality; the city owned this for a 100 years, they didn’t put the sidewalk in. There is a need for a discussion to see how we are going to go about doing this,” said Patrick Russo. “And water does flow in different ways throughout that street, it has nowhere to go. At one point it does enter the cemetery at our driveway. I’m not an engineer, I don’t know how it has to be addressed, but somebody needs to see it because that is standing water there.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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