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New Cemetery Regulations Proposed

Cemetery corporations in New York state may be getting a new layer of rules and regulations.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Howard Beach, has introduced S.9517 to create more strict oversight of cemetery corporations, make sure proper consideration is given to religious needs and to provide legal recourse for those who want to file a complaint.

The legislation could be discussed when the new state legislative session begins in January.

“These regulations are necessary to assure the safety of cemetery employees, dignity to those buried on their plots, and compliance and respect for religious customs,” Addabbo wrote in his legislative justification.

Addabbo proposes adding a new section in the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law to require cemetery associations to carry liability insurance to cover claims filed if someone is injured or is killed by the collapse of any cemetery monument or marker. The legislation also would require a cemetery corporation have liability insurance for monuments and other embellishments on a plot or cemetery lot.

Activities like excavating a grave, setting concrete vaults, excavating foundations, concrete pouring, monument installation, maintenance and use of heavy machinery would require guidance from a licensed engineer.

“Presently, no such requirements exist,” Addabbo wrote. “Tragically, this lack of over-sight and maintenance resulted in the death of a cemetery worker at Baron Hirsch Cemetery when a 2,000-pound monument fell and crushed her. This tragedy could have been avoided if the gravestone and surrounding ground was properly maintained.”

Cemeteries would also be required to remain available for grave openings and interments outside of normal business hours in the case of persons belonging to a religious and/or ethnic tradition that requires burial or interment prior to sunset on the date of a person’s death, though cemeteries would be able to include the additional costs as part of their bill. Every cemetery corporation that maintains and designates a burial section for persons of a particular religious belief or ethnic tradition will be required to appoint an inspector to ensure the cemetery is in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations governing those religious beliefs or ethnic traditions with respect to burials. Inspectors would be appointed in consultation with local religious leaders.

“A religious inspector is imperative to assure dignity in death and that all proper religious protocols and customs are followed, which includes allowing burials to occur outside of normal business hours,” Addabbo wrote. “Additionally, cemeteries must provide customers with the detailed break-down of all costs for materials labor. Without a proper breakdown of expenses, families can be overcharged. If a monument or gravestone does collapse, whether as a result of vandalism, negligence, or any other circumstance, the cemetery must have an adequate insurance to cover repairs and not place an undue burden on their customers.”

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