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Opinions & Observations: How National Historic Landmark Green-Wood can serve as an oasis in current NYC crisis

May 5, 2020 Richard J. Moylan, President of The Green-Wood Cemetery

At no time in recent history has New York City faced a crisis of the proportion that COVID-19 has presented. Cemeteries, including Green-Wood, are nearing the breaking point. The sheer number of deaths we deal with every day has physically and emotionally overwhelmed our dedicated staff who work around the clock to ensure that every family affected by a COVID-19 death is treated with the utmost respect and dignity in their time of deep sorrow.

Yet, even as I look out my window and see the grieving mourners, I am also reminded that Green-Wood is a very special place — one that offers a quiet oasis where everyone is welcomed to find peace amidst the uncertainty and fear of the day.

A little more than a month ago, we decided to open all four of our entrances until 7:00 p.m. every day of the week. Thousands of you came to visit. We’ve been delighted to welcome you. But, when you come to visit us, please remember that, first and foremost, Green-Wood is an active cemetery. Our families are here, every day, to visit the graves of their loved ones.

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Green-Wood is not a public park. It is not a place of recreation. There is no jogging allowed. No bike riding. No dog walking. No picnicking. No sunbathing. No tree climbing. Children must be under a guardian’s supervision at all times. Our rules are clear on what is allowed and what is not. Rule breaking may force us to close our gates completely.

We are very fortunate to have an army of Green-Wood Ambassadors — many of whom have volunteered since the pandemic began. These are people who deeply care about this National Historic Landmark and who are on hand to make sure that our visitors are respectful and abide by the rules and critical social distancing protocols. If you would like to join the group, please click here.

I need to ask you one more favor. Traditionally, Mother’s Day is the single busiest day for family visitation at Green-Wood. It is a sad day for many of our lot owners, including me, who come to pay tribute to their mothers and grandmothers. They should be allowed to pay their respects in peace and solitude.

So, we are asking that members of the general public NOT visit on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10th. Stop by on Saturday, May 9th — or any weekday instead — to explore our 478 acres and discover our extraordinary natural landscape, historic monuments, and stunning architecture, and to learn about our permanent residents who helped make this city and nation great.

Even if you’re not able to stop by, you can visit Green-Wood from the comfort of your home. We have recently unveiled “Zooming in on History,” an exciting slate of new virtual tours that recreate some of Green-Wood’s most popular and interesting trolley tours. The tours offer up- close and in-depth looks at some of Green-Wood’s history and permanent residents.

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The next on tap is “Carve it in Stone” — a virtual tour of the spectacular memorials created by Karin Sprague and Tracy Mahaffey with mallet and chisel, across Green-Wood’s grounds. The Zoom program takes place on May 13th, 5:00 p.m. Green-Wood also invites you to join our Director of Public Programs and Special Projects Harry J. Weil every Tuesday and Thursday on Instagram and Facebook for “Green-Wood from Home” — short and entertaining videos that explore some of Green-Wood’s great monuments and the stories behind them. Tens of thousands of you have already enjoyed these video excursions!

Green-Wood is a sacred, tranquil and welcoming respite from the turmoil swirling all around us. And with your help and cooperation, we can keep it that way. See you on the grounds!

See photography by Tom Hilton, who recently focused his camera lens on the spring blooms at Green-Wood.


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