For sale: a slice of New York with room for 3,000 new tenants, provided they're dead.
The 13-acre (5.3 ha) Canarsie cemetery in New York's borough of Brooklyn, boasting space for us many as 3,000 more graves, is the latest and most unusual item on the city's real estate inventory.
But these are hard times for property sales in the United States, even in this specialized and undersupplied sector.
"We have sent mail to 40 cemetery operators. Ten people visited last week, and four are interested," Mark Daly, director of New York's department of administrative services, told AFP.
He declined to say how much money the city, which is the owner of Canarsie, was asking.
Unlike Canarsie, most cemeteries in New York are owned by churches, synagogues or private associations and are not run as businesses.
The only other city-owned cemetery is on Hart Island, the last resting place for paupers, prisoners and the unclaimed.
Daly said that now "the city wants to shed property that no longer fits our mission. Our mission is to support the city agencies that can be used."
New York won't let just anyone snap up a graveyard. Prospective buyers must be specialized in the field and agree to run the site under considerable business restrictions.
Though remaining places can be sold, prices for graves averages at 5,000 dollars but can top 8,000 dollars, the owner has no other revenue and is required to pay maintenance costs even after the whole graveyard is full.
Daly said the cemetery is non-sectarian. A cross and a Star of David adorn the gates.
Many tombstones are inscribed with the names of Italian immigrants. "May our parents rest in peace," reads one inscription written in Italian on the headstone of a woman who died at 76 in 1953.
Bids close end of June and a decision will be announced in the autumn after approval by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city council and a judge.
One potential buyer is Richard Moylen, 54. He began his career in the business by cleaning graves 37 years ago and rose through the ranks to become chairman of Green-Wood cemetery, one of the biggest in New York, with 600,000 interred.
"Very few cemeteries have a lot of available space. I already tried to buy Canarsie 25 years ago, but the city did not do its job properly," he said. "There is no more space in Green-Wood, and Canarsie is interesting because there are acres unexploited."
However, even the quietest tenants need caring for and Canarsie may not be problem free, he added.
"There are problems with the high water table, with stories about wrong burial, bodies floating, etcetera, and one part of the cemetery was a construction dump site 15 years ago."
"They gave us samples and we are making tests, the place is nice and if we buy it we could make it more attractive," he said.
"We can have several thousand places, two to three thousand, but we will try not to crowd them in. We could build also a small mausoleum community."