Volume 75, Number 13 | August 17 - 23, 2005

Cemetery could benefit from some glee at concert

By Albert Amateau

The New York City Marble Cemetery, where the bodies of 19th-century social luminaries have been resting since 1831, has a problem with the collapsing wall that separates it from the backyards of neighbors to the north.

So, since it is summer, The Crickets will come to the rescue and sing a benefit concert next week in the burial ground on E. Second St. between Second and First Aves., which will be open to the public.

The Crickets are 16 men who continue to sing at summer benefits when the larger 150-member University Glee Club of New York City takes the summer off. The Crickets, who are also members of the University Glee Club, will sing a program including works by Duke Ellington and George Gershwin on Thurs., Aug. 25.

“They will be the first members of a glee club to sing in the cemetery in 116 years, since the Swedish Glee Club of Brooklyn sang at the funeral of the famous inventor John Ericsson in 1889,” said Colleen Iverson, executive director of the cemetery.

Ericsson, the developer of the ironclad Monitor for the Union Navy in the Civil War and inventor of the marine screw propeller, was interred in the cemetery on E. Second St. for one year before his body was sent back to his native Sweden.

The cemetery, where six Roosevelts, seven Bleeckers and all of the Kips of Kips Bay are resting in the Tuckahoe marble vaults below the grassy surface, has also been a temporary resting place for other distinguished city residents. James Monroe, who lived in the city after his presidency, was one of the first people buried in the cemetery in 1831. It was his resting place until his body was moved in 1858 to his native Virginia for final interment in Richmond.

James Roosevelt, the founder of Roosevelt Hospital, was interred in the cemetery, then moved to the grounds of Roosevelt Hospital and moved back to the E. Second St. grounds. Another temporary guest was General Jose Antonio Paez, who fought with Simon Bolivar and served three times as president of Venezuela. He died in exile in New York and was buried in the cemetery in 1873. His remains were returned to Venezuela in great pomp in 1888.

Considering all that history, The New York City Marble Cemetery was designated a landmark in 1966, a year after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission was organized. The 175th anniversary of the founding of the cemetery is coming next year and the endowment barely covers ordinary maintenance, Iverson said.

“The overriding need to raise money is the current wall repair, which is estimated to cost more than $100,000 — and this doesn’t include the necessary maintenance program on the rest of the wall to prevent the need for future costly repairs,” she added.

The main problem is near the eastern end of the long wall on the north side of the cemetery, which also has walls on the east and west sides.

Tickets for the benefit concert, which begins at 6:30 p.m., are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. There will be some seats, but guests are advised to bring their own cushions to sit on the grass.

More information on the concert and the cemetery is online at www.nycmc.org.

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