From the NY Times:
As the Hindu population has grown in Queens over the last decade, so too has the amount of ritual debris — clothing, statues, even cremation ashes — lining the banks of the bay in Gateway National Recreation Area.
But to the park rangers who patrol the beach, the holy waters are a fragile habitat, the offerings are trash and the littered shores are a federal preserve that must be kept clean for picnickers, fishermen and kayakers. Unlike the Ganges, they say, the enclosed bay does not sweep the refuse away.
The result is a standoff between two camps that regard the site as sacrosanct for very different reasons, and have spent years in a quiet tug of war between ancient traditions and modern regulations. Strenuous diplomacy on both sides has helped, but only to a point.
...as new immigrants arrive, unaware of the rules, and others refuse to change their ways, park rangers have intermittently forsaken good-cop sensitivity for bad-cop force: installing signs, closing the parking lot at night and threatening to hand out $75 fines, to little avail.
“It’s been a mounting problem for years,” said Kathy Krause, the supervisory park ranger. “The breakdown of these items is very, very harmful.”
Cremated remains are a particularly touchy subject. The scattering of ashes in water is among Hinduism’s most sacred rituals, necessary for a successful transition to the next life. The practice has drawn concern from park officials; they issue special permits for spreading ashes on a case-by-base basis, but Hindu leaders acknowledge that some bereaved families do not wait for permission.