New Site Found for Remains From Turnpike Construction Site

Thu October 02, 2003 - National Edition

TRENTON, NJ (AP) Thousands of bodies found at the site of a planned turnpike interchange will be reburied at a Bergen County cemetery.

Pending a judge’s approval, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority hopes to rebury the remains within the next two weeks at Maple Grove Park Cemetery in Hackensack. The decision comes several weeks after the authority canceled its plans to bury the remains at a North Bergen cemetery because bone fragments were found in the area intended for the remains.

"We had the (Maple Grove Park) cemetery dig test pits in six locations in the area we are proposing to use, and we brought in our archaeologists," John M. Kelly, the authority’s assistant supervising engineer, told The Record of Bergen County. "The archaeologists examined the soil, and everything seems very clean."

The cemetery will be paid $150,000 to reinter the bodies in a 60-by-50 ft. parcel and, as part of the contract, Maple Grove Park had to certify that the area was free of previous burials. Barbara Kirby, president of the cemetery’s Board of Trustees, said she offered it as a reinterment site after reading about the problems at the North Bergen cemetery.

"[The authority] really got a raw deal, and they are nice people," Kirby said. The remains will be placed in cardboard boxes and buried in vaults that can each hold approximately 50 boxes.

The remains of nearly 3,500 people were found two years ago when work began on a new $250 million interchange in Secaucus between Exits 16E and 18E. The authority then hired an archaeological consultant to conduct a court-ordered exhumation at what was a potter’s field serving a Hudson County mental institution and hospital complex.

The authority has reserved an extra 600 sq. ft. at the cemetery in case it unearths more remains at the Secaucus site.