Some Notable Quotes & Observations From the Case History:
10/10/2011 – Defendant Counsel Russel Steinthal in a letter to Judge Debra James following the judge’s dismissal of the case where she sites in her decision actions being taken by the NY State Attorney General regarding the Bayside Cemetery matter – “It has recently come to my attention that a statement made in the memorandum of law in support of [Defendant’s] motion to dismiss could be read to suggest that the Attorney General’s office has taken a position on the merits of this action. […] Of course, Shaare Zedek does not have the right to speak on the Attorney General’s behalf and, to the extent the quoted language […] in our briefs could be construed as representing the Attorney General’s views, we withdraw the statement. […] We […] apologize to the Court and to the Attorney General for any inconvenience or confusion our choice of language inadvertently engendered”
06/03/2010 – Judge Debra James – Court Transcript – “The Court will thoroughly review all the papers […] I didn’t go through each paper separately. I don’t have time. I did say, though, I will review each of the papers that have been submitted on the motion, but there is no time to do that on oral argument, but I certainly will.” — Then on Sept 15 2011, Judge James dismissed the case because, she ruled, Plaintiff was not a Legal Representative of the deceased – which she would have known the Plaintiff was a Legal Representative of the deceased had she actually looked at the filed court papers as she said she would (the paperwork was in the court file)
06/03/2010 – Russell Steinthal – Attorney for Defendant Congregation Shaare Zedek – Court Transcript Dated June 3, 2010 – “the plaintiffs, obviously, are legitimately concerned with the condition of the cemetery graves”
03/28/2008 – Chief Judge Dearie – Court Transcript Dated March 28, 2008 – “But if you [plaintiff John Lucker] are not satisfied at the end of a six-month period — if you are willing to do this [delay]; I can’t impose this on you — then by simple letter to the Court the case will be reopened, returned to the calendar. I will take it, or if you want, and I won’t take it, if you want. That doesn’t matter to me. [new paragraph] And then we will put it on an expedited basis. That would be my salvo back to you, because I understand your point. You don’t want to sit in neutral without any real assurance that not only is the cleanup not going to happen, but the real problem, the continued maintenance, has not been provided for. So I understand your hesitation. [new paragraph] But if we find ourselves back in that environment six months from now, if you and your clients are willing to consider this, I will put it on an expedited discovery basis, motion schedule, trial basis, whatever it takes to get you back those six months. That’s my offer to you, and I will do it personally.”
10/04/2007 – NY Daily News – Steven Axinn – Attorney for Congregation Shaare Zedek and Bayside Cemetery – “[…] some cemetery funds were borrowed [from the cemetery trust accounts] to repair the synagogue roof […]”
10/18/2002 – Jewish Week – “[Congregation Shaare Zedek Board of Directors’ interest in Bayside Cemetery began to wane because it] needed to focus more of its attention on maintaining [the synagogue] which needs a new boiler and possibly a new roof, and on developing more programming for young families”
01/06/2009 – Rabbi Julia Andelman of Congregation Shaare Zedek in the blog http://citynoise.org/article/8696 – “Only a very large-scale professional restoration, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, can address the situation effectively. Beyond the execution of a one-time restoration of this nature, providing for the long-term care of Bayside Cemetery is a very complicated multi-million dollar endeavor”
10/22/2007 – Defendant’s Letter to Judge Raymond Dearie – “The Congregation [Shaare Zedek] does not deny that Bayside [Cemetery] is an unfortunate state of disrepair”
10/05/2007 – Jewish Week – Rabbi Julia Andelman of Congregation Shaare Zedek – “[the situation of the cemetery is] not in keeping with the values we hold of honoring the dead”
10/04/2007 – NY Daily News – Rabbi Julia Andelman of Congregation Shaare Zedek – “[the cemetery conditions are] very distressing”
08/17/2008 – NY Times – “the cemetery’s groundskeeper, […], said the cemetery had no equipment, not even a lawn mower, to clean up the property”
10/18/2002 – Jewish Week – Honorary Trustee of Congregation Shaare Zedek Joel Shaiman – “Personally, I feel the synogogue has a responsibility [to the cemetery]”
So, you might be asking, what’s the story here? Why is someone suing Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park, Queens? Why is someone suing the jewish Congregation Shaare Zedek in New York City?
Hopefully this website will answer some of your questions based on allegations made in the lawsuit’s complaint document:
- Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park, Queens is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in New York City. The cemetery was founded in the mid-1800’s and houses the graves of Jewish veterans of the Civil War and subsequent conflicts. It is the final resting place for approximately 35,000 jews.
- Over the nearly 150 years since Congregation Shaare Zedek (SZ) has owned BaysideCemetery, SZ has been paid for burial plots, burial services, perpetual and annual care, and other fees. Perpetual care was specifically paid by numerous individuals, families, and burial societies so that the graves and burial society areas (known as gates) could be maintained in perpetuity. This is common practice in the cemetery business.
- According to common practice in the cemetery business and according to New York State Membership Corporations Law, SZ should have kept the funds received in several separate and distinct trust accounts and the earnings from those accounts was to be used to maintain the cemetery. The principal of the trust accounts was to have remained intact.
- Unfortunately at some point in time, as admitted by SZ, the trust funds were invaded by the congregation and the funds were improperly withdrawn.
- As a result, Bayside Cemetery has fallen into complete disrepair.
- In late 2007, a man from Connecticut whose paternal grandparents are buried at BaysideCemetery, filed a class action lawsuit against Bayside Cemetery and Congregation Shaare Zedek based on several aspects of law emanating from the fact that his grandparent’s gate area is not being maintained as was contracted for. Furthermore other separate lawsuits have been filed on similar grounds from other individuals whose families or burial societies paid for perpetual care which SZ has not, and is not, providing.
- In late 2009, the federal district judge hearing the case dismissed the case from federal court on non-specific jurisdictional grounds despite promising on the record that he (the judge) would expedite the case in return for the plaintiff agreeing to twice delay the case for a total of 9 months. The judge did not deliver on his promise. So, on October 21, 2009 the plaintiffs refiled the class action lawsuit in NY State Supreme Court.
- Anyone visiting Bayside Cemetery will see what this case is all about. Browse the photographs in the “Photos” section at the top of this web page.
Please take the time to explore this website and read the Blog to learn about what is going on atBayside Cemetery.