Dancing among the graves on a full moon night in Brooklyn: “It’s so alive”

Nearly 600,000 people reside – permanently – in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and on Wednesday evening a crowd of around 800 joined them – temporarily – as revelers at a gala -profit organized among the graves.

In the moonlit darkness among the graves, as serenaded musicians strolled among the gravestones, the grief of a town where so many have died since the start of the pandemic felt both pervasive and distant.

“I don’t think about death when I’m here, I feel so alive,” said Gina Farcas, 52, an accountant from Fort Lee, NJ, as she turned to a band playing Brazilian music at side of a mausoleum. “We need this for the city.

“Do you feel like you’re in a cemetery?” Her boyfriend, Carmine Fischetti, 66, asked her.

“No,” Ms. Farcas replied. “Except for the graves.

The gala was a fundraiser for the 478-acre cemetery, a national historic monument that opened in 1838. It is the resting place of luminaries like Leonard Bernstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as disreputable figures. as William Magear Tweed, better known as Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall.

Parties have never been unusual here, among and even within the crypts of Green-Wood. At the time of its inception, Green-Wood was one of the state’s most visited tourist attractions, according to cemetery historians: 19th-century Americans picnicked and marveled at its statuary.

The Cemetery has hosted a fundraising gala for the past 14 years, usually a sit-down dinner, but has moved the event, called “Moonrise,” to an outdoor, performance-studded walk through its grounds. last year when the pandemic started, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Buried in Green-Wood is a man you might call Dr. Anthony Fauci of his day, Dr. William Hallock Park, a 19th-century New York City Department of Health bacteriologist. Dr Park was tasked with helping to mass produce an antitoxin that made a breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of diphtheria, a disease that has killed many young children and others who share his cemetery.

Few people sipping mezcal and ume plum liqueur in a cocktail called ‘penicillin’ knew the bacteriologist was there, lying idle in Section 13, Lot 9314. Or that Dr. Park was also trying to find one. remedy for influenza during the 1918 epidemic, which killed more than 20,000 New Yorkers. He failed. The coronavirus has killed nearly 35,000 New Yorkers. Guests presented their vaccination cards to attend the event on Wednesday.

“While people have always come to Green-Wood and walked around and maybe didn’t feel so connected to those who were buried there, now I think there is a more direct understanding or appreciation.” said Lisa W. Alpert, vice president of the cemetery. development and programming.

Among the tombstones and ornate memorials covering the cemetery hills, nearly a dozen performances took place.

An instrumental duo performed in a catacomb. In a ring of tombstones, a disembodied voice told ghost stories. Near a Victorian-era monument dedicated to a teenage girl who died in a car crash, an acrobat spun from a rope tied to the bun in her hair.

In a shady crevice, a red-nosed clown was strumming a banjo in the dark.

Taylor Mali, 56, a poet from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, held court in front of a Neo-Egyptian-style above-ground sepulcher. Nearby, a DJ was pulsing beats from a glowing booth surrounded by gravestones. Mr. Mali greeted visitors as if he was entertaining in his family home. In a way, he was: his great-great-great-grandfather is buried inside.

He opened the door with a six-inch golden key, revealing several still empty burial places (and a significant number of centipedes); one of them could be a berth for Mr. Mali, if he wishes.

A few years ago, his wife, Rachel Kahan, 46, had located the ancestral burial place, which was only known in family traditions. “I love cemeteries,” she says. “And exclusive real estate.”

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