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With Space Running Out, New Project Looks At Cemeteries Of The Future

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Halloween can conjure up images of ghosts and graveyards, but traditional burial sites could soon become a thing of the past.

Researchers in New York are developing futuristic suspended cemeteries.

More than half a million people are buried in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, but it's reaching its capacity.

Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery (Credit: CBS2)

"Five years ago I said five years, but now we are really there. Down to the last three to five years," cemetery president Richard Moylan said.

Researchers at Columbia University are literally thinking outside the box.

They're trying to come up with burial alternatives. Karla Rothstein is founder of the school's "Deathlab."

She envisions placing remains in reusable glowing vessels, creating a "constellation park."

Columbia University's concept for a futuristic cemetery. (Credit: CBS2)

Rothstein says natural chemical reactions from decomposing remains create energy, powering the glow for up to a year.

"The light will slowly brighten and dim at the conclusion of the disposition process. At which point there will be a small amount of inorganic remains. Those remains can be collected and given to the family."

After the light fades, Rothstein says the vessel will stay in place and be reused. The idea is to install these tributes in light in parks and other public places.

Cemeteries are also a logical space for displaying the glowing vessels, something Moylan says he would consider at Green-Wood.

"There are a lot of innovative options coming along and most of them would be probably welcome," Moylan said.

The Deathlab has funding behind its project, but admits it could be years before a working prototype is built.

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