Brooklyn’s Green-Wood cemetery struggles to keep up with coronavirus’ toll

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by Thomas Urbain

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood cemetery has seen cremations more than double and five times more burials than usual, as the coronavirus claims New Yorkers’ lives by the thousands.

The city’s largest cemetery — beloved for its meandering hills, glacial ponds and vibrant flora — began preparing for an influx years ago, during the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic that ultimately left the United States largely unscathed.

But last month, the COVID-19 wave struck the picturesque Green-Wood, a nearly 500-acre space founded in 1838 where famous inhabitants including the composer Leonard Bernstein and the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat lie among serpentine paths and cobblestone lanes.

Normally, the cemetery carries out 60 cremations a week — but lately, between 130 and 140 have become the norm.

And it’s not just at Green-Wood, said Eric Barna, the site’s vice president of operations.

“Every cemetery in the city is under the same burden, trying to keep up and trying to keep their staff safe,” said Barna, a board member of the Metropolitan Cemetery Association that includes sites throughout the New York region.

“I even heard that there were some funeral directors actually looking out of state because we’re booking so far in advance for the crematories,” he told AFP.

“It’s getting to that point where the system can’t handle this amount in such a short amount of time.”

Cremation — which runs approximately $370 — is less costly compared to burials. In this cemetery nearing capacity, a three-casket plot goes for some $19,000.

In the past two weeks, interments have spiked, Barna said, with as many as 16 daily versus the average two to three. (AFP)

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