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Town cleans out ornaments left at Greenfield Cemetery grave sites

A tent is filled with decorative items that

A tent is filled with decorative items that have been removed from their respective gravesites at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale since they did not comply with the rules and regulations of the cemetery Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Prohibited grave site ornaments that had piled up at Hempstead Town's Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale are almost gone, officials said.

"We have tried to be accommodating by sending letters to those with family members here, asking them to pick up these memorial items if they want them," town spokesman Michael Deery said. "We give them two weeks, but usually have held the items longer before discarding them. Now, we have begun sticking closer to the deadline as these items were becoming plentiful."

Ornaments collected included toys, metal designs, vases, stuffed animals and statues.

Gordon Lints, 85, of South Hempstead, who buried his wife, Shirley, at the cemetery five years ago, said he took pictures of mounds of items as they were collected and piled up outside the cemetery's administration building. He said they were gone by last week.

Last week there were fewer than 100 items inside a tent away from the building.

"We wanted to give everybody a chance to come collect their things," said Steve Desposito, the town's Department of General Services commissioner.

Lints said a brochure given to families with a member buried in the cemetery states that placing "signs, boxes, shells, toys, metal designs, ornaments . . . settees, vases, wood or iron crosses, and similar articles" is prohibited.

"Settee? Who uses that term these days? That indicates how old these regulations are," Lints said. "Plus, you see these items at a lot of grave sites."

He said he received letters in April and this month, asking him to remove items from his wife's grave site.

"I had vases for flowers," he said. "People were stepping on stuff and breaking things."

Deery said the safety of the public and cemetery workers, and the ability to maintain the grounds, are the main reasons for the regulations and cleanup.

"Most cemeteries in the area are similar," he said. "In fact, we probably are more liberal about this. Changing town policy is not under consideration, but we will always listen."

No other Long Island municipality manages an operating cemetery. Some Long Island towns, such as Huntington and North Hempstead, are responsible for historic cemeteries where there are no new burials and no need for rules about what can be left at the sites and for how long, officials said.

Lints said he knows of other people upset over Hempstead's actions. But Deery said the town has been praised for removing items from grave sites.

The 158-acre Greenfield Cemetery, separated into eight sections, has been in operation since about 1870 and has nearly 94,000 graves, Deery said. There were 700 burials last year and 536 so far this year.

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