Image source: sakraft1 on Flickr – Mt. Zion Cemetery in Maspeth
Narratively, publisher of fascinating stories, has for us the story of demographer Moses Gates and his adventures visiting all 2,167 census tracts in NYC. A census tract is “a geographic creation of the United States Census Bureau, designed to break the country up into bite-sized chunks of about 4,000 people each.” Demographers love them because it’s an small enough area to analyze effectively (compared to zip codes, which can contain a huge number of people).
He also considered this in making the decision to split up NYC by census tract:
And there’s another quirk: every neighborhood, every block, every building, every tree, every geographical point in the city has to belong to some Census tract or another. So on my quest to visit all 2,217 tracts in New York, I traveled into a few areas with little or no population—where everyday city life isn’t really part of the equation.
In Queens, he discovered that the borough is full of cemeteries (we’ve talked about cemeteries in Queens before), so there are some census tracts – nine of them – that are entirely, or almost entirely, made of cemeteries. 3% of the land in Queens is devoted to cemeteries, much of it along the “Cemetery Belt,” which stretches from Sunnyside to Glendale. He points out that Calvary Cemetery in Maspeth and Woodside is the final resting place to 3 million persons, which is more than the population of Queens and Staten Island together.
He notes that there are plenty of famous people buried in Queens cemeteries; and that some cemeteries are well-kept and some are in need of serious upkeep. His most interesting experience at these cemeteries – which he said all seem to look the same after a time of walking through them one after another – was at the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Montefiore Cemetery in Laurelton (GMAP) in eastern Queens. But he has enjoyed these rather peaceful walks over the years.
We also found this to be particularly interesting:
For a short period of history—in between the time when New York was still small enough that there was plenty of natural open space within walking distance, and the time when landscaped parks were developed—the only place people could go for a small respite from the crowded conditions of the urban environment was the nearest cemetery. In fact, it was this phenomenon of more and more people gathering in cemeteries that first convinced the city that a public park was needed—hence the development of Central Park, and the beginning of parkland’s debut as a necessary component of a proper city.