THE NEGLECTED DEAD

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Hundreds of older cemeteries throughout the New York City area are “dying of neglect” and have become weed-infested scenes of dumped trash and even junked cars. Because these particular resting places are relatively smaller they’ve become, over the years, filled to capacity and unprofitable. “When burials stop, that’s when the problems arise because there’s no more revenue to earmark for anything in the future,” said Mark Russo, president of the group Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries. Most of these cemeteries are privately owned; hence, they don’t qualify for municipal assistance.

An average burial plot costs $4,000 today; whereas the prices for many of the plots in these abandoned cemeteries were a fraction of that amount when they were bought. The “perpetual care” that people purchased for the continued maintenance of their loved ones’ graves apparently fell short of perpetuity.  “I had to literally wade through a sea of weeds that were chest high,” complained John Lucker after a visit to his grandparents’ grave at Bayside Cemetery in Queens. A court hearing on Bayside Cemetery is set for June 29.

On the other hand, Fountain Staten Island Cemetery, abandoned 60 years ago, raised $100,000 through the generosity and determination of volunteers to resurrect that cemetery from the junkyard of neglect. Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries has been rescuing and rehabbing graveyards for 28 years; indeed, only through the efforts of such organizations will our history be preserved and our dead not forgotten.

Source: Kirstin Cole, 2HDTV

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