DEATH NEVER CHANGES, HOW WE DEAL WITH IT DOES
Life in New York City requires ingenuity and adaptability — death here is no different.
About 60,000 New Yorkers die every year. Dwindling space in cemeteries and the exorbitant cost of burial plots are making it hard for the city to lay these bodies to rest.
Many cemeteries in the city have stopped selling burial plots because they have run out of underground space. When they do hawk graves, prices can reach the five-figure range — the cheapest plot at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery costs $17,837.
Cremation solves the problem of space and is cheaper than burial. It’s also increasingly popular: half the country currently chooses incineration. Fifty years ago that figure was just 4 percent.
But turning a body into ash requires two hours of 1,500-degree heat — about the same amount of energy it takes to power an average American home for a whole month. Environmentalists, and an urban population increasingly worried about carbon emissions, see cremation as an unacceptable solution to the body disposal problem.
That’s why New Yorkers are developing some crafty ways to respectfully dispose of the bodies of their loved ones. Some new solutions are not always pretty — scientists are trying to create body-chomping microbes — but others can be — a park filled with glowing tributes to the departed that’s powered by that same microbial feast.
New Yorkers are developing some crafty ways to respectfully dispose of the bodies of their loved ones. Some new solutions are not always pretty — scientists are trying to create body-chomping microbes — but others can be — a park filled with glowing tributes to the departed that’s powered by that same microbial feast.
Average Life Expectancy
Average cost of burial plot
Scientists worldwide are wrestling with this issue and have started tinkering with body processing alternatives like flameless cremation, potato-starch based coffins and cryogenic shattering.
But for the New Yorkers who can barely afford a place to put their bodies while they’re alive, these solutions may sound out of reach. More practical options, like donating one’s body to science, cut costs and contribute to society.
While the city’s poor fills out their organ donation forms, wealthy residents are treating funerals with the same extravagance as weddings. This has given birth to a new profession: the funeral planner.
The city also has to find final resting places for homeless people who can’t afford to make any final arrangements and who have no family. The city has a pragmatic solution in Hart Island, an abandoned spit of land between the Bronx and Queens where the unclaimed have been buried since 1869.
But death is as much about those who are left behind as those who have passed.
New York’s diverse religious population brings with it hundreds of cultural death traditions. For the city’s secular, groups like the “Death Cafe” meet monthly to discuss the philosophical and intellectual aspects of death.
Even city dwellers who are grieving the death of their pets can attend art therapy pet-loss workshops led by a licensed psychotherapist.
New York City never sleeps, but eventually its residents must. How that happens, and what happens next, is like all New York stories: messy, diverse, gritty and, sometimes, beautiful. — Anthony Izaguirre
Welcome to The End.
Cemeteries in New York City
There are 35 cemeteries in the city that are rapidly running out of space
What is Killing New Yorkers?
New Yorkers, on average, are living longer than ever before – and longer than other American populations. Life expectancy in New York City exceeds 80 years, with the most resourced New Yorkers fending off the Grim Reaper the longest. But for every New Yorker, the party does someday end. Here’s how and why New Yorkers eventually bite the dust.
Heart disease, cancer, the flu and pneumonia, and diabetes are among the leading causes of mortality in New York City. Accidents, as well as accidental poisonings, or death by psychoactive substance use are also among the top ten killers of New Yorkers, according to the most recent data from the New York City Department of Health.
Accidents, which outnumbered homicides, suicides, and other fatal incidents in 2014, include unintentional drug overdoses, falls, motor vehicle accidents, death due to smoke, fire and/or flame exposure suffocation, and drowning and submersion. New Yorkers have even died from extreme heat events; older adults in particular are most at risk when temperatures hit 95 degrees; the threshold for an extreme heat event. Read more
Top Five Causes of Death in NYC
- 1. Diseases of the Heart
- 2. Malignant Neoplasms
- 3. Influenza and Pneumonia
- 4. Diabetes Mellitus
- 5. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
Life Expectancy by Neighborhood
Data reveal that New Yorkers’ life spans differ by zip code
Last Wishes Are as Diverse as the Population
Ashes squished into a diamond Ring, Dr. Seuss and a Trump Wall of the Dead
Alejandra O’ Connell