01/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Death And The Downturn: How The Recession Is Affecting Funerals

Real estate has always been pricey in New York, but living six feet under just got more expensive.

Across Brooklyn, funeral homes are losing money because many families cannot afford what they might have once paid to bury their relatives. While the economic downturn does not affect the death rate, many families are choosing to cremate instead of bury, saving between $2,000 and $4,000. And that's not their only concession.

From handmade funeral programs to shopping around online for the lowest prices, Brooklynites are economizing, often times changing their original plans and opting for a more frugal funeral.

Lamar Brown is a third-generation funeral director at Robeson and Brown Funeral Home in Bedford-Stuyvesant. For the past 70 years his father and grandfather have offered traditional services as a family funeral home on Gates Avenue. Today, "we've become more like a bid," says Brown. "It's not traditional anymore -- it's not 'we took care of your family for years' -- it's all about expense. Nobody cares about the quality."

Cremation costs between $1,000 and $3,500. Out of the 200 services a year handled by the Davis-Armstrong Funeral Home in Flatbush, 25 percent are cremations, with the number increasing yearly. "Cremations are an inexpensive way of disposing a person," according to manager William Armstrong.

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