So that’s why they’re building fences around the new Canarsie Cemetery!
The ink on the deal isn’t even dry yet, but owners of the Cypress Hills Cemetery — poised to take over the neighborhood boneyard this fall — said they already have a waiting list of 10 people wanting to be interred there when they shuffle off their mortal coil.
“There’s a big interest in the cemetery,” John Desmond, the president of Cypress Hills Cemetery, told Community Board 18 members on June 16. “People found out that we are going to take over and asked to be considered for burial plots when we start developing graves there.”
Desmond reminded members that if they, too, want to purchase a plot in the historic graveyard, they can contact Cypress Hills as the city continues to jump through the legal hurdles they need to sell off the property bounded by Remsen Avenue, Avenue K, Church Lane and E. 86th Street.
Earlier this month, the city announced it was going to hand over the famed 167-year-old resting place to Cypress Hills for $50,000.
In addition to the purchase price, Cypress Hills will have to buck up an additional $1 million — $500,000 at closing and an additional $500,000 over the next 10 years — for a permanent maintenance fund that will guarantee the cemetery’s perpetual care. Cypress Hills also agreed to keep Canarsie Cemetery’s name — which other parties interested in purchasing the graveyard refused to do — and work with a community advisory board on any future changes.
The deal will save the city the $250,000 per year it was paying to keep the cemetery up — which many neighbors said was left in deplorable condition.
Desmond said once the graveyard’s in their hands, they will fix up the Canarsie Cemetery’s fence, as well as the roads inside. They will also begin construction of crypts and mausoleums over parts of the 13-acre cemetery where burial plots cannot be mined.
“There’s four-and-a-half acres in the back that were nothing but a swamp in the 1960s,” said former Assemblyman Frank Seddio, who is a member of the cemetery’s community advisory board. “They put building debris in there to fix the problem and now its unusable for graves.”
Seddio, who has seven family members interred in Canarsie Cemetery and plans to make it his permanent resting place when his time comes, said he’s optimistic about the changes.
“They’re going to make it look like a park,” he said. “I never want to go Long Island while I’m alive, why would I want to go there when I’m dead?”
Yet there are those who were unclear on just how Cypress Hills was going to make these changes without disturbing the cemetery’s current residents.
Mary Anne Sallustro, the president of the South Canarsie Civic Association, said she didn’t receive clear answers to questions about the proposed mausoleums and crypts, as well as plans to raise Church Lane — which is below the water table — to make it even with the cemetery.
“[The answers] were ambiguous and need to be written in their contract with the city,” said Sallustro, who was cut off when she started asking her questions at the CB18 meeting.
“Let [Cypress Hills] own it first,” said Seddio, breaking her line of questioning. “If you have a suggestion, we’ll put you on the advisory board so you can talk all you want about what color you want the bricks to be.”
Community Board 18 has no say in the sale. The deal needs to be approved by the New York State Cemetery Board and the City Council before the keys to the graveyard can be handed over to Cypress Hills.