Markets in grave sites

A fascinating article on the business of burial in NYC:

And in the parts of town where a burial plot is still available, the cost has in some cases more than tripled in less than a decade; aboveground mausoleums can fetch upward of $3 million. Cemeteries are scrambling to create more space, and as plot prices have soared, the number of cremations has also risen, with a quarter of New Yorkers choosing the less expensive alternative.

The largest Jewish graveyard in Brooklyn, Washington Cemetery, ran out of land in the winter after tearing up roads and pathways to utilize every cubic inch of ground.

More than 50 years have passed since a major cemetery was established within the city, and no new burial grounds are planned. But New Yorkers continue to die, some 60,000 a year.

“We have people who would like to disinter Mom and Dad and sell the graves back to make some money,” said Richard Fishman, the director of the New York State Division of Cemeteries.

There are state laws limiting the profits on resold graves, but the fact that people would be willing to go to such lengths, Mr. Fishman said, illustrates just how valuable burial plots have become.

London allows people to be buried upright, while cemeteries in Singapore and Sydney, among others, offer “limited tenure,” cemetery-speak for digging up bodies after a certain amount of time so that the plot can be reused.

New York City is not now contemplating graveyard evictions, although the state did pass a law several years ago that allows cemeteries to take over empty plots bought more than 75 years ago if the owner cannot be reached. Maple Grove in Queens has already reclaimed more than 150 graves, and many other cemeteries are taking similar action, state officials said.

The cemetery has made a bid on an adjacent house. Even though the owner is asking a hefty sum — $1.4 million, down from $1.8 million — for a small house that sits on less than an acre of land, it makes economic sense for the cemetery to buy it.

First, by law, cemeteries in New York State must be nonprofit institutions. There are 35 privately owned cemeteries in the city and several dozen with religious affiliations. The closer to Manhattan and major transportation, the more crowded and expensive a burial ground will be. Farther away, particularly in Staten Island and parts of the Bronx, space is available. The indigent of New York City are buried on Hart Island in Long Island Sound.

Prices vary from cemetery to cemetery. At land-rich Woodlawn, a single-depth grave for one starts at $6,995. A double-depth plot begins at $7,995, and a family plot ranges from $64,995 to $1.575 million.

At Trinity’s graveyard in Washington Heights, in-ground plots are sold only in extraordinary circumstances, as when former Mayor Edward I. Koch asked that a special Jewish enclave be created in the Episcopal cemetery so that he could be laid to rest in the heart of the city he once ran. He paid $20,000 for the privilege.

Like other cemeteries short on space, Trinity has resorted to aboveground crypts, which start at $9,000.

The graveyard charges admission for guided tours, giving people a chance to saunter through time among the tombstones of the notable and the notorious. The hope is that it will become much like Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, a magnet for tourists.

Being buried under a tree is more desirable than being out in the open. A plot that is easy to get to can be more valuable than one in the back 40. A neighborhood of ornate Victorian marble can cost more than an avenue of flat, mowable markers. And then there are the specific needs and wants of different cultural groups.

For instance, many Asians prefer to be buried on hilltops.

City Cemeteries Face Gridlock

It is very nice to be able to visit grave sites easily. Having recently visited my grandfathers gave for the first time since the funeral, I’m glad it wasn’t too far away. But if it were close enough to take the subway to, I might have visited earlier. That would be a very special gift for the surviving family members, to have an accessible gave site at which to celebrate the deceased.

The Horwitz Challenge

Steve Horwitz writes:

The next time you’re engaged in a political discussion with someone who has very strong views different from your own, ask them if they can name two famous thinkers or politicians whose politics are opposed to theirs who they also think are very smart and genuinely concerned with making the world a better place. If they can’t, it’s not clear they are able to grant the good faith such discussions should have.

HT Bryan Caplan

The philosophers Peter Singer and John Rawls are my picks. I don’t agree with them but I think they are (or were) brilliant and wanted to make the world a better place. If I have to pick some politicians, I’d be hard pressed. The old pope JP II, the Dali Lama and Nelson Madella seem like solid choices as people who I think are smart and I’m prepared to believe want to make the world a better place, but are pretty liberal politically. In the case of JP II, the things he is conservative about I’m liberal on, so I think that still counts.

Sad if true

According to The Korea Times, the Obama administration has blocked efforts by the South Korean government to sell over a  hundred thousand surplus M1 Garand and Carbine rifles into the United States market. These self-loading were rifles introduced in 1926 and 1941. As rifles, they are especially well-suited to community defense in an emergency, as in the cases of community defense following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Along with AR-15 type rifles, the M1 rifles are the quintessential firearms of responsible citizenship, precisely the type of firearms which civic responsibility organizations such as the Appleseed Project teach people how to use.

Legally, it is indisputable that the guns are importable. Being over 50 years old, the rifles are automatically “Curios and Relics” according to federal law. 27 CFR section 478.11. Accordingly, they are by statutory definition importable. 18 USC section 925 (e)(1). Notwithstanding the law, the Obama administration has the ability to pressure the South Korean government to block the sale of the guns.

President Obama was elected on the promise that he supported individual Second Amendment rights. His administration’s thwarting of the import of these American-made rifles is not consistent with that promise.

Obama bans over 100,000 rifles by David Kopel

Imagine if the Obama administration wanted to prevent the importation of a hundred thousand books on controversial subjects like abortion, drug manufacturing, civil disobedience, bestiality, and others related to planing and executing crimes. I suspect there would be outrage.