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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
NY property tycoon sues cemetery
The Woodlawn Cemetery, New York (courtesy of Woodlawn Cemetery)
A final resting place for some of New York's most famous sons and daughters
US property billionaire Leona Helmsley is suing the New York cemetery where her husband is buried for $150m.

Mrs Helmsley, famous for pronouncing that "only the little people pay taxes", says the vaults in the Woodlawn Cemetery obscure the mausoleum's view.

"She believes that it violated her agreement with them," her spokesman Howard Rubenstein told BBC News Online.

Mrs Helmsley now plans to move the mausoleum from the graveyard to a quieter resting place, he says.

In the complaint filed with New York's Supreme Court, Mrs Helmsley says building a mass burial site near the mausoleum is contrary to the peaceful solitude she had hoped for her property magnate husband.

'Emotional distress'

She is claiming $100m in compensation for the "severe anguish and emotional distress" brought on by the construction work.

She is also claiming $50m to cover the costs of moving her husband's memorial.

The mausoleum to her husband, who amassed his fortune in New York real estate over half a century, includes a stained glass depiction of the city's skyline.

Mrs Helmsley paid $60,000 in 1978 for the land in the private Woodlawn Cemetery.

The cemetery is home to many of the great and the good of New York society including Jazz legends Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, as well as former mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

A lawyer representing Woodlawn Cemetery, Jim Zirin, told BBC News Online that the case had no merit whatsoever.

Mrs Helmsley is in her eighties and, according to Forbes magazine, is one of the world's richest people, worth an estimated $2.2bn.


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