Altar-ation: City won’t landmark entire Green-Wood Cemetery — only parts of it

Green-Wood not set in stone: Cemetery out of landmark running
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

What a plot twist!

City preservation bigwigs have buried a controversial proposal to landmark the entirety of Green-Wood Cemetery, instead opting to keep just three structures on the site in the running for the designation — and that is just fine by historic-building buffs, who say the famed burial ground would be hellish to maintain under the full protective shroud.

“I think this is a very good decision and compromise,” said Simon Bankoff of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council. “We are acknowledging and protecting the importance of Green-Wood, while the agency is not overburdening the cemetery.”

Landmarks Preservation Commission officials revealed at a hearing on Tuesday they are now only looking to landmark the graveyard’s Gothic chapel and a couple of 19th-century gatehouses.

Cemetery honchos had been dead-set against an earlier plan to bestow the historic designation on every inch of the sprawling graveyard, which holds hundreds of thousands of tombstones and still functions as an active cemetery.

The graveyard is already home to one city landmark — a giant archway at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue — but they feared turning the entire property into one would make it difficult for grieving plot-holders to change loved one’s gravestones, as landmarked structures can’t be visibly altered without going through a lengthy city approval process.

The caretakers indicated they are open to adding a few more individual landmarks to their collection, however, and welcomed the commission’s change of heart.

“We look forward to our continued conversations with staff of the Landmarks Preservation Commission about the future landmarking of extraordinary Green-Wood-owned structures,” said cemetery president Richard Moylan in a statement.

Green-Wood is one of seven storied sites around the borough the city had been considering bestowing the protected status upon as part of a recent push to purge its backlog of languishing suggestions.

The agency announced on Tuesday that five other Kings County structures had also made the cut — dropping only a Coney Island’s 1930s Art Deco pumping station from its list — and it will hold final hearings on each sometime before the end of the year.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobb[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.