JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - The fundraising efforts of an historic New Jersey cemetery has one family speaking out, saying it disrespects the dead.
Over the past several years, Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery has raised tens of thousands of dollars with parties and events on the six-acre grounds. Video and pictures of the fundraisers show they often spill over onto grave sites.
At the cemetery's recent Halloween fundraiser, video shows blankets and lawn chairs spread across graves, plus port-o-potties and a hot dog stand also on the grounds.
Olga Mustelier, whose son is buried, in the cemetery was outraged.
"He's supposed to be resting in peace," she said. "That's what a cemetery is for."
Jose Torruellas learned about the fundraisers when visiting his brother's grave site.
"In other cemeteries, you would never see this," he said. "There would be an outrage, and it would have never gotten a permit."
Torruellas said that seeing such an event is like "ripping a scab from a wound."
But the head of the cemetery board, Eileen Markenstein, disagreed.
"Nothing is disrespectful," she said. "We have transformed what was an abandoned, forgotten place into a cultural heritage park."
Markenstein's own parents and grandparents are buried in the cemetery. Money raised has gone to restore the cemetery gatehouse, which now houses homeless veterans. The maintenance garage has also been rebuilt with fundraising money.
Torruellas commends the cemetery board for their efforts, but he believe they could still raise money while respecting the dead and their families by holding the events in nearby public parks.
"It seems like nothing in this world is sacred anymore," he said. "If the last thing you feel is sacred, it should be a cemetery, this one is not."
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