|Last name||Plot||Permit date|
|Melfi||289 - Section III||11-21-2001|
|Age||Grave||Date of death|
|Burial date||Place of death||Source code|
|12-20-2001||Mount Sinai Medical Center||A2001_12_18_Vol12_079.pdf|
Leonard Melfiage 68
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FROM THE NEW YORK POST:
The curtain has fallen on the final act of a tragedy starring a late New York playwright.
A Manhattan judge last week ordered Mount Sinai Hospital to pay $1.25 million to the family of Leonard Melfi, ending a bizarre 12-year battle over the bungling of his death and burial, The Post has learned.
Doctors failed to notify the artist’s next of kin of his death in 2001, then sent his body to a community college so students could use it for embalming practice.
The unclaimed corpse eventually was buried unceremoniously in a mass grave alongside 150 indigents.
Melfi co-wrote the Broadway hit “Oh! Calcutta!” with Beatle John Lennon, Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett and others. The most celebrated of his 70 works, “Birdbath,” has been performed around the world.
But the prolific playwright’s lifelong struggle with alcohol eventually got the best of him. His drinking bouts got him dumped from the posh Upper East Side duplex he bought with his Broadway earnings, and he wound up alone — his Smith-Corona typewriter by his side — in a Manhattan welfare hotel called The Narragansett.
When his niece Dawn Melfi, a New York state trooper, would come to visit, he would talk to her through the door.
It was from that room that Leonard Melfi, 69, dialed 911 on Oct. 28, 2001, with breathing problems. An ambulance rushed him to Mount Sinai, where medics filed a report containing his name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. A friend was listed as next of kin.
He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Medical records don’t show that any treatment was administered, according to court records.
Four hours later, Leonard Melfi was dead.
His death certificate included his name and age but omitted the rest of his contact information, court records show. His family was never notified.
Melfi’s body went unclaimed at the city morgue in Bellevue Hospital for several weeks. It was then transferred to Nassau Community College for embalming class. Finally, on Dec. 20, he was buried by city inmates on Hart Island.
With Melfi missing for two months, concerned neighbors at The Narragansett called around to city hospitals. The hotel’s owner finally reached Mount Sinai and learned of the playwright’s death. He called the Melfi family upstate with the bad news.
The next day, John Melfi drove to New York City to search for his brother. He got the runaround at the hospital and city morgue. Nobody seemed to know where the body went.
Nearly three months later, Melfi’s pine coffin was finally found in plot 290 at Potter’s Field, the surname scribbled hastily on the side in black crayon. The body was exhumed on April 10, 2002.
“It was a horrible sight. It was a sight I’ll never forget. I’ve had nightmares over the years,” said John Melfi, describing his brother’s corpse covered in incisions and marks from the practicing students.
Eight days later, the body was buried in the family plot in Binghamton.
After 11 years and three lawyers, John Melfi’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, took the matter to the New York Appellate Division, claiming negligence in the loss of the right to a proper burial and punitive damages for medical malpractice.
In Manhattan Supreme Court, Judge Milton Tingling ordered the hospital to pay Melfi’s family $1.25 million, according to papers filed by the court Jan. 7.
Mount Sinai spokesman Jim Mandler declined to comment. The hospital considers the matter under active litigation, he said.
“What can they possibly say?” Arnold fired back. “The case is not in litigation. It’s over. The fat lady sang.”
John Melfi now wants to establish a theater group in his brother’s name. “He may be dead, but his work will never die,” he told The Post.
Melfi’s last play, “The Violinist,” was about an alcoholic playwright. It was found in one of three dusty boxes given to his family by The Narragansett, along with his typewriter.