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City in negotiation to buy back Fresh Meadows cemetery – QNS.com

City in negotiation to buy back Fresh Meadows cemetery

By Madina Toure

Although the city has committed to figuring out a way to buy back the Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery in Fresh Meadows, the Friends of Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery is continuing to raise funds to cover incidental expenses.

Yolanda Gallagher, president of Friends of Brinckerhoff, a non-profit, said the organization is submitting city grant applications to get the city to buy back the cemetery from the property owner, Le Dan Cai of Linda’s Cai Trading, for $150,000.

She said the city is currently in negotiations with the property owner.

“Right now, I’m particularly interested in getting at the city level,” Gallagher said.

For now, the organization is continuing its efforts to raise money to cover the cost of refurbishing the property, which would include installing a new fence, cleaning up the site and dealing with the overgrown weeds.

“You have to clean that,” Gallagher said. “You have to put the fence.”

In December, City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said he was willing to use capital funds to buy the property at a reasonable price and that the city would choose a new owner and custodian once it receives feedback from residents who live in the area, Friends of Brinckerhoff and the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

Sharon Lee, a spokeswoman for Borough President Melinda Katz, said the city is currently studying options for buying back the property.

Katz, Lancman and the city Parks Department “are aggressively pursuing the feasibility of the city acquiring the Brinckerhoff Cemetery, although no decisions on this issue have yet been made,” Lee said.

In February, the Brinckerhoff Memorial Committee, a group formed in 2012 to preserve the cemetery, spoke to the City Council about buying back the property. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission granted the property landmark status in August 2012 and the City Council sanctioned it in December 2012.

Former City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) wanted to use discretionary funds to buy the cemetery but was concerned about getting approval and whether Linda’s Cai Trading would actually give up the property.

Although the property owner, Le Dan Cai, claimed she did not know the property was a cemetery, a Fresh Meadows civic board member told the TimesLedger in 2012 she knew it was a cemetery when she reviewed the title report before closing on the property.

Gallagher said it is unclear how much it will cost the city to buy back the property.

“I do not know what the lawyers will negotiate with her,” she said. “It all depends on what is going to be negotiated there. It could go down.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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