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Sanitation Dept. Gets Earful In Wake Of Cemetery Destruction

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Loved ones lashed out at the New York City Department of Sanitation on Wednesday after piles of snow were dumped into a Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn.

This week, the sanitation commissioner gave his department an A-plus grade for snow removal. But a new video tells a different story.

Headstones, destroyed by mounds of dirty snow.

Would you call this an A-plus job?

Sanitation workers piled the snow twice as high as the cemetery's fence, iron and chain-link. And the damage it caused was shameful and shocking.

"It's unbelievable," said Faina Esterman of Brighton Beach.

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About 30 headstones were toppled, with many buried under heavy mountains of ice.

"They just came and dumped snow and had no respect," said John Middleton of Bensonhurst. 

Snow cemetery
What's left of few of the headstones at Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn that were impacted by Sanitation Department's decision to pile snow to close to a fence. (Photo: CBS 2)

Middleton demanded the city workers responsible, who he calls reckless and negligent, immediately dig out the crushed grave of his Aunt Ida -- and before he has to break the terrible news to Ida's elderly sister.

"How do you tell a 91-year-old woman that her sister's grave was destroyed? What do you say?" Middleton said.

CBS 2's Dave Carlin asked one sanitation officer who was responsible, but he said was not allowed to comment.

There were also no explanations from several Sanitation Department workers as they moved snow and ice, some in 30-foot tall sections, away from the cemetery fence and off crushed cars.

In a statement city sanitation leaders said, "The Department is reaching out to cemetery officials to provide them with the necessary paperwork to file a claim."

But there was no formal apology. And that has City Council member David Greenfield of Brooklyn furious.

"This sanitation commissioner has his head buried in the snow. He says his sanitation workers deserve an A-plus. I shudder to think what an F is," Greenfield said.

Also angry were the managers of Washington Cemetery. They said even though the city agreed to pay for the damage they worry what's left of the unstable fence could fail and more headstones could break.

"They may be digging it out by hand so they don't put any more pressure on the fence," manager Marisa Tarantino said.

"I think the person who did it should be brought up on criminal charges," Middleton said.

People with loved ones here said since when is it appropriate to move mountains of snow alongside a cemetery? They want this process changed so a final resting place never again becomes a dumping ground.

Washington is the same cemetery where last month vandals knocked over and spray-painted approximately 50 headstones.

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