No matter who owns it, Canarsie Cemetery must be reincarnated to reflect the stature it rightly deserves, Community Board 18 urged this week.
The public graveyard, whose dead date back to the Civil War, is up for sale and the city is currently seeking a qualified operator.
“When you go to Green-Wood Cemetery, it has a sense of dignity. I would like to see Canarsie Cemetery have that same sense of dignity,” saidCommunity Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano.
A request for proposals (RFP) for the cemetery, located at 1370 Remsen Avenue, was issued last year. The deadline for submissions was June 15.
The non-sectarian cemetery is currently operated by the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).
“The city did nothing to make it look presentable,” Turano said. “There is debris in the cemetery and mounds of junk. The streets and the sidewalks around the cemetery are a disgrace.”
Turano attended a June 3 meeting with city officials and potential RFP respondents. She urged the city to ensure that a new owner maintain the character of the cemetery’s walkways and grave site area. The building of a crematorium must also be disallowed, she said.
DCAS said it would address the board’s concerns as soon as possible, Turano noted.
“The Canarsie Cemetery is the last cemetery the city has control over,” DCAS spokesperson Mark Daly told this paper in November. “It’s an exception to the rule, an odd leftover in the city’s history.”
If the city hands over control of the cemetery, the DCAS is expected to save $153,000 in maintenance expenses in 2010, as well as an additional $370,000 a year. The cemetery consists of 13 acres, of which four and a half are without grave sites, according to the RFP.
Turano said representatives from Washington, Green-Wood, and Rockville cemeteries attended the meeting. Cypress Hills Cemetery recently called the board to inquire about the RFP, Turano added. “They are interested in a crematorium,” she said, reiterating that such an addition would be unacceptable to the community.
Last year, the RFP was previously evaluated by a committee of Canarsie community leaders that includes former Assemblymember Frank Seddio, City Councilmember Lew Fidler and others, but the “community board was not included in that discussion,” Turano noted.
The Town of Flatlands acquired the cemetery in 1888 from the estate of John Remsen. The town later merged with Brooklyn — then a city — and ultimately, New York City.