By Alex Christodoulides
Call it a tale of two cemeteries — one in Fresh Meadows involved in an ownership dispute and the other in Forest Hills about to become even more of a place of rest.
The longtime tenants of Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows, many of them among Queens' founders, are no strangers to controversy, as they have been embroiled in an eight-year dispute about the ownership of the land on 182nd Street between 63rd and 73rd avenues.
The community and Queens Historical Society have sought since at least 2000 to landmark the 85-by-110-foot spot where some 77 Queens founders were buried, but the owner of the plot of land wants to house the living there in houses he would like to build on the site.
Gerald Chiarello, the attorney for the Brinckerhoff Cemetery's owner, did not return a call for comment by press time Tuesday.
In Forest Hills, the question is how to make Remsen Cemetery, the resting place of Revolutionary War hero Col. Jeromus Remsen and his family, also a welcoming park for the living to rest their feet a moment. The small plot of land near the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue is to get new fencing and perhaps some benches and a pathway near the graves, City Councilwoman Melinda Katz's (D-Forest Hills) office said.
The councilwoman's office said Katz allocated money for the improvements at least four years ago, but the property has been sold to the city — which will then turn the land over to the Parks Department — by the nearby American Legion post and nothing is happening while all parties wait for the closing.
“It's going to be something we consult the neighborhood about, but there's nothing formally drawn up,” said a Parks Department spokeswoman who confirmed that a sitting area and fencing for the graves are under consideration.
Landmarks Preservation Council spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon said the city voted in 2000 to consider the Brinckerhoff Cemetery for landmarking, but the legal dispute has roadblocked the process from proceeding any further since then.
There are burials dating from 1736 to 1832 of some of Queens' early settlers, making it one of the oldest family cemeteries in the borough, de Bourbon said.
“It is calendared, but because of legal issues we have yet to determine what the next step will be,” she said.
de Bourbon said there are three cemeteries in the city older than the Brinckerhoff, and 10 landmarked stand-alone cemeteries citywide, meaning those not affiliated with churches.
Five of the 10 are in Queens: the Moore-Jackson Cemetery in Woodside, which dates back to 1733; Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, whose oldest grave is marked 1668; Remsen Cemetery in Forest Hills, which dates to 1790; and the 176-year-old Lawrence Family Cemetery in Bayside; the Richard Cornell Graveyard in Far Rockaway, which dates to the 1700s and was used by the family into the 1900s. Grace Episcopal Church on Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, whose cemetery boasts gravestones from 1734, dates back to 1702; both the church and its graveyard are landmarked, she said.