Law student crusades for Grant's Tomb

· September 22, 1993, 5:00 am

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For the great-great-grandson of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, first year Law student Frank Scaturro is a "hero." But to administrators of the historic Grant's Tomb in New York City, Scaturro is nothing more than a nuisance and a troublemaker. Scaturro, who volunteered as a tour guide and park ranger at Grant's Tomb since 1991, has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Park Service for what he sees as "a total misappropriation of manpower." When Scaturro's plight gained national media attention last year -- on the CBS Evening News and in Time Magazine and The New York Times -- he was dismissed. Grant's Tomb Deputy Supervisor Doug Cuillard said yesterday that despite Scaturro's charges, reforms of the historic site were in progress "long before Frank came on the scene." But U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who has proposed a bill to speed up improvements on the 18th president's grave site, said in a statement that the monument "has been overlooked." "I worked with Frank on the Grant's Tomb National Memorial Act," Nadler said yesterday. "He is very dedicated to preserving President Grant's legacy." In response to the national media attention Scaturro's complaint received, the Illinois State Legislature passed a resolution to pay for the tomb to be transferred to Illinois, Grant's home state. Scaturro said he is overwhelmed by the impact his "whistle-blowing" has had on the nation. "I went into this thing hoping to be a friendly volunteer park guide and ended up suing the Secretary of the Department of Interior [Bruce Babbitt]," Scaturro said. "I really had become attached to this monument, as strange as this may sound, and I really wanted it to be special to the American people." Ulysses Grant Dietz, Grant's great-great grandson and a spokesperson for the Grant Association, is also named as a plaintiff in the cases against the Department of Interior and the National Park Service. "I'm angry partly because he's family," Dietz said. "But the real insult is that it is dishonoring the president -- and a president responsible for saving this country in its most dire moment of need." "[Scaturro] is sort of a hero to me," he added. "He has the determination and stamina to do something." In a complaint circulated among 100 different political officials -- including President Clinton -- Scaturro stated that Grant's Tomb supervisors violated 10 counts of historic preservation laws. "It was being used as a bathroom and a rest shelter by the homeless," he said. "Apparently it was a nice spot for people to get drunk or get stoned and the government was doing absolutely nothing about it." Cuillard said, however, that there have been no "documented cases" of graffiti or defecation since Scaturro's complaint, and that surveillance of the site has been increased to 24 hours a day.

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