Grave circumstances: Green-Wood Cemetery may close due to rule breakers

Greenwood Cemetery honchos say rowdy rulebreakers may ruin it for the rest of us.
Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Managers of Green-Wood Cemetery are threatening to close the gates of the borough’s biggest burial site because bad-behaving Brooklynites looking for open space have been breaking rules on the grounds, said the cemetery’s president.

“The conduct of a small percentage of our visitors has created an unacceptable situation,” wrote Richard Moylan in an email to supporters. “If things don’t change we may be left with no choice but to close our gates as many other cemeteries have done.”

The 182-year-old National Historic Landmark has served as a refuge to cooped up Brooklynites since New York State instituted a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus — yet visitors had been flouting the rules by riding bikes, walking dogs, climbing trees, and taking flowers off of gravestones. 

“None of these actions is appropriate or permitted,” said Moylan. 

To help make the space more easily accessible, the burial ground — which spreads through Green-Wood Heights, Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park — had gone so far as to open up its Kensington-adjacent gates to provide access to those who live far from the normal Fifth Avenue entrance. 

Yet, Moylan says, some visitors have abused the space and disrupted the “connection to nature” that the cemetery aims to provide. 

“Green-Wood is a cemetery. It is an arboretum, and a place of tranquility,” Moylan wrote. “It is not a place of recreation.” 

With weather this weekend projected to reach the 70’s, Green-Wood is expecting crowds once again and will be deploying volunteers as cemetery ambassadors to make sure rules are followed. If they continue to be flaunted, the gates may be closed for an indefinite period of time, graveyard officials said.

“Our rules are clear on what is allowed and what is not,” said Moylan.

Update (7 pm): The language of this story’s lead has been updated.