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Lancman, BP Katz allocate $450,000 to buy Brinckerhoff cemetery

By Madina Toure

The city is in the process of buying the Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery in Fresh Meadows from its current owner.

The city is trying to buy the cemetery from the property owner, Le Dan Cai of Linda’s Cai Trading, for $150,000. City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said he allocated $300,000 from his capital budget provided through the City Council for the cemetery, while Queens Borough President Melinda Katz put in $150,000.

He noted that the combined funds are “way more than necessary” to purchase the property, but that the money would cover upkeep needed for the property once the city becomes the owner.

“It’s moving forward,” Lancman said.

The cemetery, home to prominent Dutch families such as the Brinckerhoffs, the Adriances, the Hooglands and the Ryersons, was used from 1730 to 1872, according to a 1919 survey that identified 77 gravestones and markers.

In February, the Brinckerhoff Memorial Committee, a group created in 2012 to maintain the cemetery, spoke to the City Council about purchasing the property. The city Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the property landmark status in August 2012 and the City Council sanctioned it in December 2012.

Yolanda Gallagher, president of Friends of Brinckerhoff, a non-profit, said she is happy that the city has stepped in to help out, although she was not aware of the city’s participation until she saw it mentioned in published reports and social media.

“Thank you for your attention,” Gallagher said. “Thank you for providing the money. We hope to be able to buy it back from Le Dan Cai.”

She said that the condition of the cemetery property has worsened recently, noting that there are overgrown weeds, shrubs and trees, and called it a “wilderness.”

Gallagher said nothing can be done to remedy the situation until it is reported to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“You cannot even enter,” Gallagher said. “It’s wild weeds. The weeds have grown into the cracks, so no more sidewalks.”

The Queens County Farm Museum will be responsible for maintenance of the property if the city acquires it, Lancman said.

A Parks Department spokeswoman said the agency is preparing a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure application and related environmental review.

Once that is complete, the city will then be able to authorize the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to negotiate the purchase of the property, the spokeswonan said.

A City Planning spokesman said that if the city acquires the site from the landowner, it would have to go through an acquisition application at City Planning and appear before Community Board 8 as part of the ULURP process.

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

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