“The buffer fence our clients installed was meant to keep the dogs [away] … It wasn’t a concession of property, or the functional equivalent of a demilitarized zone.”
Written by Dean Balsamini
Managers of a historic city cemetery say it’s being overrun by the junkyard dogs next door.
Established in 1852, St. Michael’s Cemetery in Queens is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city and the final resting place of composer Scott Joplin and boxing great Emile Griffith.
The East Elmhurst graveyard is also the setting for a vicious legal battle with adjacent junkyard owner Tom Tiseo, who allegedly allows his Rottweilers to roam the 88 acres of sacred ground and menace mourners.
For years, the unidentified junk yard, designated only as “ABC Corporation” in court papers, “engaged in a pattern of systematic harassment, encroachment and trespass upon the personnel, property … and visitors of St. Michael’s,” the Queens Supreme Court filing says.
In the late 1990s, the junkyard “permitted a hole” to languish in a partition between the “24-37 [49th Street] and St. Michael’s properties,” the complaint says.
The scrap yard’s dogs would enter St. Michael’s through the broken fence, “terrorizing patrons and staff at the cemetery and disrupting funerary services,” the complaint says.
St. Michael’s requested Tiseo repair the broken fence or restrain the dogs, but Tiseo did neither, the suit says. St. Michael’s Cemetery even offered to repair the fence at its own expense, but was ignored, the suit alleges.
St. Michael’s “had no choice” but to build a buffer fence on its own property “to ensure the safety and sanctity of the cemetery,” the suit says.
“Thereafter, Tiseo began aggressively encroaching upon the St. Michael’s property. Tiseo began storing and piling debris, bulldozing and building make-shift structures on St. Michael’s property,” the suit says.
“Despite complaints, which Tiseo ignored, Tiseo systematically began usurping greater swaths of St. Michael’s property, ignoring complaints and taunting St. Michael’s representatives to ‘sue’ him,” court papers say.
Tiseo got his wish when St. Michael’s filed suit Sept. 30.
The complaint charges that Tiseo is attempting an illegal land grab between his broken fence and the St. Michael’s buffer fence. Attorneys for the cemetery got a court order this week to halt any activity pending a court hearing next month.
St. Michael’s — a still-active cemetery owned by St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan — is asking the court to determine the correct boundary line between the two properties and has submitted land surveys. The church wants a judge to order the junk yard to clear the land it’s encroaching on and have Tiseo cover the costs. The suit also seeks unspecified damages.
“The buffer fence our clients installed was meant to keep the dogs [away] … It wasn’t a concession of property, or the functional equivalent of a demilitarized zone,” cemetery lawyer Greg Nahas told The Post.
Tiseo could not be reached for comment.