Brooklyn Neighborhood Fights Against Cemetery Buying into Residental Block


washington-cemetery-brooklynA Midwood cemetery has become a battleground with residents pitted against graveyard officials seeking to add land to the cemetery by buying a neighboring house.

Founded in 1861, Washington Cemetery on Bay Parkway is almost filled to capacity, but neighbors oppose the proposed expansion into the residential block.

“It will lead to a domino effect,” said retired teacher Jane Plaut, 63. “They’re going to try to buy the whole block.”

Without more land to sell graves, officials at the Jewish cemetery say they won’t have money to maintain the final resting place of more than 100,000 people buried there.

“We’re at a desperate point,” said manager Marisa Tarantino. “We’re basically sold out.”

The seasonal groundskeeper crew has been trimmed from 20 workers to 10 in recent years because of declining revenue, Tarantino said.

“We’re cutting back more and more every year,” she said.

A state Division of Cemeteries spokeswoman said this would be the first expansion by a city cemetery since at least 1948, which is as far back as the agency’s records go.

Washington Cemetery officials looked for land to build an annex in Coney Island and Brighton Beach but haven’t found a suitable site.

When the single-family house at 4832 Bay Parkway went on the market a few years ago, cemetery officials saw the chance to demolish it and sell 200 to 300 more tombs for about $15,000 each.

They nearly struck a deal with the homeowner for the adjacent property in March.

But using the land for burials requires the City Council’s approval and residents complained that a bigger cemetery would lower property values and destroy the neighborhood’s appearance.

“Right now, I have a view of a nice house with a lawn,” said Brian Mollica, 33, a firefighter. “I don’t want to see more of that,” he said, pointing down the street toward the crowded tombstones inside the cemetery.

Neighbors groused that the cemetery doesn’t pick up litter on its sidewalks. At night, the area becomes desolate.

The complaints led to a meeting with Washington Cemetery officials and Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park) on March 31.

Greenfield signaled he’ll try to block Washington Cemetery in the City Council if the sale goes ahead because cemetery officials didn’t have good responses to residents’ questions about the expansion and upkeep.

“When you turn something into a cemetery, there’s no going back. It’s a permanent change,” said Greenfield. “It’s a wonderful cemetery, but I won’t support the plans until these questions are answered.”

{NY Daily News/ Newscenter}


  1. The solution is not to sell them more land. The person who lives adjacent to the house that’s to be converted into a graveyard didn’t purchase a property adjacent to a cemetery. He has property rights too.