Queens cemetery fined for West Nile Virus concerns

May 22, 2012 1:46:11 PM PDT
There is outrage over a little known New York City ordinance that some families claim is not allowing them to properly mourn their loved ones buried at cemetery in Queens. The ordinance forbids cemetery visitors to place flowers in water. It's all part of a citywide effort to prevent West Nile Virus, but many people say it's ridiculous. "This is a place that's supposed to be after life peaceful not people giving out tickets," says Andy Pilizota. Daniel Austin runs the cemetery, and he says two days before Mother's Day, their busiest week, an inspector from the Health Department walked the grounds. He had no idea, until Monday, he got a notice in the mail, saying the inspector found, "conditions conducive to the breeding of mosquitoes. Water in vases and flower pots throughout the property, some that contained larvae." It's a violations, something officials take very seriously in order to prevent cases of West Nile Virus. Daniel was fined $1,200. "I've done everything physically to curtail water or standing water with the grounds of this 225 acre sprawling cemetery," he says. That's the irony, there is a zero tolerance for standing water there. Signs clearly warn visitors not to bring it in from mid-April to the end of October. Staff looks for empties containers, even going as far as completely closing down facets but with only 15 full time workers and roughly 250,000 grave sites, Daniel says it's impossible to be everywhere at every time. He feels the health department is unfairly targeting him and other cemeteries.

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