As part of an ongoing initiative headed by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery and other cultural groups and sites across the borough will receive capital support to fund projects and operations. The DCLA announced yesterday the historic cemetery will be granted $4.5 million in capital funding to construct a new 20,000-square-foot Welcome and Education Center located directly opposite the main entrance of the nearly 500-acre site.
The latest investment comes from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, with $2 million contributed by Mayor Eric Adams and an additional $2.5 million from the City Council. It augments the project’s total investment, which now summates to $13 million. The money is part of Mayor Adams’ historic $127 million investment to support cultural capital projects across all five boroughs.
Green-Wood Cemetery was established in 1838 as one of the first rural cemeteries in America. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and houses a number of historic structures including iconic, Gothic revival-style brownstone entry gates at 5th Avenue and 25th Street (1861) and Beaux-Arts limestone chapel (1913). Located directly across 5th Avenue from the main gates is the Weir Greenhouse (1895), a former florist shop acquired by Green-Wood in 2012. All are recognized by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC). The site has a rich, and lengthy, cultural, historical, and architectural heritage and is the final resting place of over 570,000; among the notable buried are Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and architects James Renwick Jr. and Richard Upjohn (who designed the main cemetery gates).
The Green-Wood Cemetery continues to serve the Brooklyn community as an active cemetery, as well as a park-like space, and location for cultural programming, tours, and classes. The construction of the Welcome and Education Center adjacent to the Weir Greenhouse will allow the cemetery to expand these offerings.
“We thank Mayor Eric Adams and Commissioner Laurie Cumbo for this incredible investment in in Green-Wood,” said Green-Wood Cemetery President Richard J. Moylan. “This critical funding will allow us to better serve our Brooklyn and New York communities. We’ll be able to extend our educational and cultural programming to a year-round schedule and provide first-rate visitor orientation to over 450,000 visitors annually. It’s a key step in strengthening Green-Wood’s role as one of this city’s key cultural institutions and a destination for tourists as well.”
Proposed designs for the new facility underwent several iterations. A 2015 proposal by Page Ayres Cowley Architects was buried following a rejection by the LPC. The latest design, by Architecture Research Office (ARO), proposes constructing a two-story, L-shaped building around the landmarked (and hopefully fully restored) Weir Greenhouse, and would house exhibition galleries, classrooms, and offices. A multipurpose room would be outfitted within the historic greenhouse, which is the only remaining example of Victorian-era commercial greenhouse architecture in the city. According to ARO, the new building takes cues from the greenhouse design. It will feature an aluminum curtain wall covered by glazed terra cotta and is targeting LEED Gold certification.
Renderings show the updated landscape surrounding the Weir Greenhouse, with new pavers and fresh plantings joining large place-making signage, designed by Pentagram, hung across the buildings and gates.
Due to the new building’s proximity to the historic greenhouse, the proposal was subject to a LPC review in October 2021; the LPC approved the planned design to erect a building behind the greenhouse and to add fencing, a new entrance courtyard and paths, and update the signage.
According to the DCLA, the Green-Wood project is now ready to move forward and will break ground later this year thanks to the just-announced influx of capital funding. Other Brooklyn-based projects and organizations receiving funding from the city include Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Music School, Pioneer Works Art Foundation, and the New York Aquarium.