Avella asks owner to sell Brinckerhoff Cemetery

Avella asks owner to sell Brinckerhoff Cemetery
Photo by Gina Martinez
By Gina Martinez

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and members of Friends of Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery called on the owner of the neglected landmark to sell the land to the neighborhood preservation group.

The colonial burial ground, located at 182nd Street and 73rd Avenue in Fresh Meadows, has 77 graves, with the last person buried there in 1872. The owner originally paid $105,000 in 2010 and planned on building two houses on the property, but after it was landmarked in 2012 she was not able to.

After a successful bid to get the cemetery landmarked, Avella and Friends of Brinckerhoff said they approached the Parks Department about buying the land, but the city agency refused. In 2015, after efforts from Avella and the preservation group, Borough President Katz allocated $180,000 to buy the land back from owner Le Dan Cai of Linda’s Cai Trading.

Despite everything being in order, the owner pulled out at the last minute. Avella claims it was because the city reversed its initial decision and interfered by offering $400,000 for the land.

Avella said the city’s interference was disrespectful to Friends of Brinckerhoff, a nonprofit, which worked hard to negotiate the fair price of $180,000.

“I think the owner got wind of city wanting to obtain the property,” he said. “Instead of selling it at 70 percent profit — remember they only paid $105,000 for the land — they’re going to get a huge windfall from the city of New York. This was the opposite of what we were told would happen. In my opinion the city helped destroy negotiations. Three years later we’re still trying to get this done.”

Avella said ultimately he just wants the property to be handled as quickly as possible. The land is not currently maintained, with overgrown plants and garbage. Neighbors call it an eyesore and just want it to be taken care of.

“We need to have this piece of property obtained by either the city or the non-profit so it can be turned into the great landmark that it is,” Avella said. “I find it unconscionable that the city would wind up paying the property owner, who obviously neglected this property for years, a huge windfall of maybe 300 to 400 percent. That should not be allowed, that’s taxpayer dollars, so we need to resolve this.”

Avella said he believes because the city is planning on buying it, City Hall is avoiding issuing violations. He said the property owner has to be maintain the property just like every property owner in the city

“They’re just looking the other way.” he said.

Avella said the city has just delayed progress with its interference and forced neighbors to live with an unkempt lot with no end in sight.

“Shame on anybody who interfered with the process and stopped the community ftom purchasing this property at a reasonable rate as opposed to years down the line,” he said. “All of this could have been done by now.”

In a statement the city said it was in the process of finalizing an application from The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to purchase the property.

“We have received funding allocations from Council Member Lancman and the borough president towards the acquisition of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery Site,” the statement said. “Parks is currently finalizing the ULURP application to formally file it with the Department of City Planning to commence the ULURP public review process and obtain approval for the city to negotiate the purchase of the property.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.