A preservation group is trying to save a colonial-era burial ground in Fresh Meadows from fading away.
The Brinckerhoff Cemetery was designated a landmark in 2012 by the city. But the small plot of land is privately owned by Linda Cai.
“If we didn’t fight for the cemetery this could have been developed and the grounds desecrated,” said Yolanda Dela Cruz-Gallagher, president of Friends of the Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery. “And we could have lost the historical essence of our forefather.”
Dela Cruz-Gallagher and her preservation organization are raising money to buy the property. The current owner is asking for $150,000.
“We have no money,” Dela Cruz-Gallagher said. “And so we’re asking the public for support.”
Dela Cruz-Gallagher and other Queens historical groups believe there are over 70 tombstones in the cemetery, but none of them are visible due to the overgrowth of weeds and a lack of maintenance.
Surveys of the area are prohibited since the cemetery is private property, so no one is certain about the conditions of the tombstones and other historical artifacts. The 18th-century graveyard is named after a prominent immigrant family from Holland that settled in Fresh Meadows.
“I believe that the property would be in better hands with the Friends of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery than the current owner,” said Mitchell Grubler, chair of the Queens Preservation Council. “It’s a property that’s had a lot of invasive growth, vegetation. Over the course of time, that needs to be managed.”
The Queens Preservation Council doesn’t have any plans to financially support Friends of the Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery. But Grubler said that doesn’t mean they won’t help in the future.
In 2012, when the site was designated as a historical landmark, former City Councilman James Gennaro lobbied hard to win the site’s landmark status, according to earlier reports.
Gennaro also said that a nonprofit group with the financial ability should buy the property. While Dela Cruz-Gallagher’s preservation group is a nonprofit, they aren’t close to the $150,000 needed to buy the property.
“These are the people who fought side by side with George Washington. It has a lot of historical significance,” Dela Cruz-Gallagher said. “We need to get this property as soon as possible before everything there is lost.”