For this Tombstone Tuesday: New York City Cemeteries Face Gridlock.
THOSE of us among the living all know New York City can be maddeningly expensive, whether one is shopping for a $40 million mansion on Fifth Avenue or a $2,500 studio walk-up in a former tenement on the Lower East Side.
For the dead, however, virtually no amount of money will secure a final resting place in the heart of a city that is fast running out of graveyard space.
And in the parts of town where a burial plot is still available, the cost has in some cases more than tripled in less than a decade; aboveground mausoleums can fetch upward of $3 million. Cemeteries are scrambling to create more space, and as plot prices have soared, the number of cremations has also risen, with a quarter of New Yorkers choosing the less expensive alternative.
Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights, the last operating graveyard in Manhattan, has stopped selling plots, offering burial only in the most “extraordinary circumstances,” or to people with long-held reservations.
The largest Jewish graveyard in Brooklyn, Washington Cemetery (seen above), ran out of land in the winter after tearing up roads and pathways to utilize every cubic inch of ground. Evergreens and Cypress Hills, also in Brooklyn, may sprawl, but not enough, and dozens of smaller cemeteries spread across the five boroughs are squeezed, too. The city’s largest Catholic cemetery, Calvary in Queens, is close to capacity. And even the most famous of them all, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, has only about five more years before it will be forced to stop selling plots.
More than 50 years have passed since a major cemetery was established within the city, and no new burial grounds are planned. But New Yorkers continue to die, some 60,000 a year.
Accordingly, per square foot, burial plots in centrally located New York City cemeteries rival the most expensive real estate in the city. A private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx can easily cost more than $1,000 per square foot.