In the Real Estate Section of the Sunday New York Times, the big feature was about very tiny, very expensive, pieces of real estate – burial plots in a town that is running out of space for the dead.
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.
Per square foot, burial plots in centrally located 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.
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. One of those extraordinary circumstances was when former Mayor Edward I. Koch asked that a special Jewish enclave be created in the Episcopal cemetery so that he could be laid to rest in the heart of the city he once ran. He paid $20,000 for the privilege.
The largest Jewish graveyard in Brooklyn, Washington Cemetery, 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.
Some people are considering disinterring relatives to sell the plots back and make some money. But there are all kinds of issues related to these tiny pieces of very valuable real estate.
Here’s the link to the entire New York Times story. It’s fascinating reading.