Green-Wood Cemetery Is Losing Its Protected Landmark Preservation Status
By Kristin Iversen
Just a few minutes ago, we received an email from our Food Editor, Sarah Zorn, which read, in part: “did u hear that Greenwood Cemetery is under threat of losing its landmark status?” We read it and thought to ourselves, What? How could historic, well-over-one-hundred-years-old Green-Wood Cemetery—final resting place of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and Boss Tweed among others—lose its landmark status? This must be a mistake. But, reader, it turns out the mistake was ours (as it so, so, SO often is). Because not only is Green-Wood Cemetery losing its current protected status, but it had never even achieved landmark status to begin with.
Via DNAinfo, we learned that Green-Wood—along with almost 100 other notable New York spots, like the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City and Union Square Park—will be losing the protected status they enjoyed while being considered for landmark status: “The Landmarks Preservation Commission plans to remove almost 100 sites and two historic districts from consideration for landmark status without formal public input, despite most being on the agenda for decades.” As mentioned in the quote, many of the places removed from the list had been there for decades, including Green-Wood, which was first placed under consideration in 1981. The reasons that these spots never achieved official landmark status are varied, but—you guessed it—many of them were politically based, and thus they have long remained in limbo.
But these buildings are no longer the equivalent of unbaptized babies now, floating around like wraiths in a mist-gray ether (what? those years of Sunday school left certain indelible impressions on my still-forming consciousness), and are now capable of being nominated by their communities for landmark status again—or to face the wrath of New York City’s official spirit animal: the developer’s bulldozer.
Of course, a place like Green-Wood is probably not in too much danger of being torn asunder, but the fate of other no-longer-potential landmarks is far more tenuous. And it remains especially troubling that the meeting at which all these spots will be officially removed from landmark consideration will be held without public input. Click here for a full list and map of all the sites due to be flung from the limbo list and straight into the pits of real estate hell, or something like that. This city, man. Even the dead can’t find peace here.