New York City’s Grave Problem

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted March 25, 2019

It's a common belief that land is the one thing "they're not making any more of," which is why apartments and homes in high-demand areas such as New York City are so costly.

But now the booming real-estate market has reached beyond this life into the next. If you're a New Yorker and haven't purchased a final resting place yet, get ready to pay big to sleep anywhere near your former digs, The New York Times reports.

According to the newspaper account, "The best deals can be found on Staten Island, where a grave site can be had for less than $3,000, but an increasingly rare final resting place in Manhattan can go for $1 million." In the five boroughs that comprise New York City—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island—prices for a "basic" plot range from $4,500 to $19,000. (One famous Manhattanite, Mayor Ed Koch, plunked down $20,000 for his gravesite years ago, a price then considered shocking.)

Double-decker graves?

Typical for a city where people live on top of each other in multistory apartment buildings, many cemeteries offer "double-depth" graves where two caskets can be stacked atop each other; some graves are even deep enough to hold three caskets.

At the other end of the spectrum is a new series of crypts at the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Greenwich Village that dates from 1815. Unable to sell six of the crypts to a single family at a hoped-for $7 million, the burial spaces are now offered at $1 million per crypt, and, yes, there's interest from potential buyers.

Part of the reason for the high prices is the fact that as far back as 1800, officials in Manhattan began restricting burials on the island. New cemeteries in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens would fill the need for generations to come, they reasoned. Today, the number of dead people buried in Queens alone—over five million—"outnumber the living by more than two to one," the New York Times report indicates.

And while there's some more space in the outer boroughs, those spots are fast filling up, leading individual cemeteries to build mausoleums and niches that can house cremated remains.

Retired hotel worker John Crawford, who currently resides in Manhattan, has looked into his future and decided he won't be buried in the city. Instead, Mr. Crawford paid $1,650 for a burial space at a cemetery in Rhinebeck, New York, some 98 miles to the north of the city. He offered a rationale that almost any working New Yorker, past or present, can easily understand.

“I may not have a country home,” he told the newspaper. “But at least I could get buried out there in the country.”

What Happens Beyond the Grave?

It's interesting, isn't it?, that some of our friends and neighbors are more concerned about where their remains will be housed than, it seems, they are about where they will spend eternity.

The Bible is clear: Either one is saved and spends eternity with God and Jesus, or one is lost, and you perish in the lake of fire. There's no eternal torment, no "purgatory" to work through on your way to heaven, no "second chance." In Hebrews 9:27, there's a succinct summary: "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."

As longtime readers of this blog will know, there's a lot of misinformation out there about what does and doesn't happen after death. The notion that those who die are immediately transported to paradise or the opposite, for example, is one belief for which there is no support in Scripture.

In the book of Job, we read, "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands" (Job 14:14, 15). These words can only mean that the dead will rest in their graves until their "change comes," when God "shall call" and they "will answer."

But wait, some might say, didn't Paul talk about being "present with the Lord" when one is "absent from the body"? (2 Corinthians 5:1–8). Amazing Facts' first speaker, Joe Crews, gives a complete answer to the question in our free online book Absent from the Body; what you learn there may surprise you!

And in his video presentation Are the Dead Really Dead?, Pastor Doug Batchelor answers a number of questions such as, "What happens when you die? Does your spirit live beyond your body in a conscious form? Is the soul immortal?" Again, you'll find some facts that go against what's been taught for generations. But the truth isn't "out there," as a popular TV series once claimed—it's in your Bible!

The good news is that wherever our bodies are buried—in a pricey Manhattan crypt or a less-expensive country gravesite—the opportunity exists for each of us now living to find God, have a relationship with Jesus, His Son, and share eternity in a paradise where there is no rent or mortgage. It's way better than a million-dollar resting place!

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