Borough Park

NYPD rules out vandalism in Washington Cemetery

Dozens of headstones found toppled over

March 6, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dozens of headstones in Washington Cemetery were discovered dislodged over the weekend. Photos courtesy of Assemblymember Dov Hikind’s office
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NYPD has concluded that a mishap in a predominantly Jewish cemetery in Borough Park in which more than three dozen headstones were found toppled over during the weekend was not an act of vandalism but the result of soil erosion and neglect.

Local elected officials, however, remained skeptical of NYPD’s findings regarding Washington Cemetery and called for further investigation. The 100-acre cemetery, which was established in 1850, is located at 5400 Bay Parkway.

Assemblymember Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park-Midwood) held a press conference outside the cemetery on Sunday and stated that he believed the headstones were thrown out of place on purpose by anti-Semitic vandals.

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Councilmember David Greenfield (D-Borough Park-Midwood-Bensonhurst) also attended the press conference and demanded answers.

On Saturday night, 42 headstones in Washington Cemetery were discovered toppled over.

The discovery took place at a time when the nation is dealing with scores of anti-Semitic attacks across the country in recent weeks, including the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia, and bombs threats against Jewish community centers.

Hikind said as soon as he was alerted to the situation at Washington Cemetery, he contacted police and members of Shomrim, a local volunteer patrol group, to ensure that the matter would be fully investigated.

“More than 40 headstones were overturned. It’s heartbreaking — not just to the loved ones of those who are buried here, but to all of us. Is there anything more cowardly than desecrating a cemetery in the middle of the night?” Hikind said in a statement.

“Anti-Semitism exists, but we don’t have to tolerate it — and we won’t,” Hikind added.

Following a preliminary investigation by NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit, it was determined that what took place at the cemetery was not vandalism.

“There’s no evidence of vandalism. It appears to be the result of neglect of maintenance combined with environmental factors, such as the soil giving way,” an NYPD spokesperson told the Daily News.

Thousands of people are buried in Washington Cemetery. Among the notable figures interred there is Hon. Louis B. Heller (1905-1993), a former congress member who served on the New York State Supreme Court from 1966 until his retirement in 1977.

Actress Lilyan Tashman (1896-1934), who appeared in dozens of silent films in the 1920s, is also buried at Washington Cemetery. Her burial attracted a crowd of 10,000 mourners, according to historical accounts.


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