Abandoned Jackson Heights cemetery may become park

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

They’re looking to turn it from a final resting place to a place where children play.

Hidden away from the public, Leverich Cemetery in Jackson Heights was once part of a family-owned farm land passed down through generations. But at one point the farm was bequeathed with the cemetery plot no longer included.

The 17th century cemetery presently has no owner. It remains on 35th Avenue near Leverich Street. Through the years, homes and stores have sprung up around the site, which today bears no grave markings.

To make use of the abandoned land, Edwin Westley, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, has come up with the idea of turning the cemetery into a small park.

According to Jackson Heights historian Daniel Karatzas, most residents have no idea the cemetery exists and it has become a dumping ground with no one looking after it.

“I think it [a park] would be a great asset to the community,” said Karatzas.

Yet, due to the land’s hard-to-reach location behind stores, Councilmember Daniel Dromm is concerned with security because of a lack of immediate police surveillance.

“It does not really intend itself to that purpose,” said Dromm. “It is an interesting idea but there are several concerns that I do have with it. One of them is that the cemetery is a cemetery and you can’t have people tramping over dead bodies.”

Instead, Dromm said he wants to see the plot, now covered in garbage, including an old washing machine, half a motorcycle and full of stray cats, cleaned.

Fearing it poses a health hazard, Dromm plans to organize a community cleanup.

“We are definitely going to clean it up, because no one wants to take responsibility for it,” said Dromm.