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Canarsie’s dead — or at least the place where they are housed — could rise again.
Two famous Brooklyn burial grounds have expressed an interest in taking over the city-owned Canarsie Cemetery, even as the administration seems to be sitting on its hands to get the deal done.
The owners of Green-Wood Cemetery and Cypress Hills Cemetery — which have been home to Brooklyn’s dead since the mid-1800s — are amoung those who have answered the city’s call for new ownership.
Patrick Russo, office manager for Cypress Hills, said that his cemetery has had a good experience working with the city, and that he was awaiting the result of the process.
“The city is deciding now how they are going to approach this,” he noted. “Everything is negotiable, so negotiations are ongoing. Our attorneys are handling that.”
On the other hand, Ken Taylor, the vice president of operations for Green-Wood Cemetery, said that there were flaws in the city’s proposal.
“They don’t want to stand behind the errors they made,” he said. “They don’t even know where the burials are.”
In addition, Taylor said that there is “construction debris buried in a portion of the cemetery.”
Under the right circumstances, Taylor said Green-Wood is still interested in acquiring Canarsie Cemetery. But, he explained that the city would have to make the 4.5 acres of the 13-acre burial ground that are undeveloped — and could be utilized for gravesites — usable.
“Under New York State law,” he stressed, “you are not allowed to make burials in that type of land.”
Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18, which has advocated repeatedly for the city to clean up its act inside and around the historic cemetery, said the poor condition of the propery may be to blame for the city’s inability to unload it. She blamed dilapidated streets and fencing around its perimeter.
“It’s in such disrepair, and the city refuses to take notice of it,” Turano said.
On top of that, cemetery, as presently operated, does not bring in a great deal of money – approximately $45,000, in 2008, according to the RFP.
Another potential roadblock in the RFP is that a minimum of $500,000 must be placed into a permanent maintenance fund at the closing of the deal.
Creating such a permanent maintenance fund is “not easy,” acknowledged Taylor.
Nonetheless, the city expects to conclude a deal on the cemetery, said Citywide Administrative Service’s spokesman Mark Daly.
“We’re making progress,” he said. “It’s not a dead RFP. We hope to conclude a transfer soon.”
Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1838, is a national historic landmark. The burial ground, which is located between Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, is characterized by rolling hills (including Battle Hill, a Revolutionary War site) and a park-like mien.
Cypress Hills Cemetery, on the Brooklyn-Queens border, dates from 1848. One area, like Canarsie Cemetery, includes the graves of Civil War soldiers.
Canarsie Cemetery is bounded by Remsen Avenue, Avenue K, Church Lane and East 86th Street.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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