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Capitalism is dead — at least in Canarsie Cemetery.
The city said it spent $350,000 last year operating the non−sectarian cemetery, and received just $45,000 back in revenue.
“It is not a significant source of revenue,” conceded Mark Daly, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), the agency that manages the cemetery, the only one in its portfolio.
The numbers are a key motivator driving the city to shed itself of the asset, considered dead weight: the cemetery is up for sale and the city is currently seeking a qualified operator.
“The city inherited this former town cemetery over a hundred years ago, and it’s long been recognized that everyone’s interests would be best served by transferring it to a nonprofit operator,” DCAS Commissioner Martha Hirst said last month.
DCAS issued a request for proposals in May, and set a June 30 deadline for responses.
As reported here last week, Community Board 18 is enthusiastic about the sale, but has some reservations about its particulars.
CB 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano attended a June 3 meeting with city officials and potential RFP respondents. There, she urged the city to compel a new owner to keep the name Canarsie Cemetery, and to maintain the character of the cemetery’s walkways and gravesite area. The building of a crematorium must also be forbidden, she said.
According to DCAS, retaining the cemetery’s name will not be a condition of the sale. Any changes to the walkways must be approved by the New York State Cemetery Board, which determines whether the work will affecting existing graves, pathways, or the surrounding community.
A crematorium would not be allowed at the site, as the cemetery sits in a zoning district where it is not allowed, according to DCAS.
Turano said representatives from Washington, Green−Wood, and Rockville cemeteries attended the early June meeting. Cypress Hills Cemetery inquired by phone, she added.
“I hope they do sell it,” Turano told the community board at its June 17 meeting. “It has not been maintained by the city. It’s an abomination.” Daly said he had no comment about the cemetery’s upkeep.
The cemetery, located at 1370 Remsen Avenue, consists of 13 acres, four and a half of which are without graves, according to DCAS.
State legislation approved in 1998 authorizes the sale of the cemetery, subject to certain conditions and oversight. The sale, if there is one, must be approved by the mayor, City Council, the New York State Cemetery Board, and a state Supreme Court judge.
The cemetery was acquired by the Town of Flatlands in 1888 from the estate of John Remsen.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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