City moves one step closer to buying neglected cemetery with rich history in Fresh Meadows

Photo courtesy of Lancman's office

Plans to renovate a neglected, landmarked cemetery in Fresh Meadows are moving closer to becoming reality, a local lawmaker announced on Monday.

The Department of City Planning has certified the city Parks Department’s application to acquire the historic Brinckerhoff Cemetery, located along 182nd Street north of 73rd Avenue, according to Councilman Rory Lancman. The project now enters the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), where Community Board 8, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the New York City Council will formally approve the plans.

The Brinckerhoff Cemetery survives as one of the oldest, colonial-era burial grounds in Queens. It was the burial site for prominent land-owning Dutch families, such as the Brinckerhoffs, Hooglands and Montforts, in the area originally known as “Black Stump.”

The cemetery was granted official landmark status by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2012. There are currently no visible gravestones or markers at the site; however, based on archived records, the commission estimates 77 people are buried at the site.

Years ago, the property was purchased by its current owner, who sought to develop the plot. However, since the site was landmarked, the owner was unable to go through with the plans.

The land has been neglected since, posing a number of quality-of-life concerns, including damaged sidewalks, overgrown foliage and garbage dumping, to nearby residents. Martha Taylor, chair of Community Board 8, said the city’s move to purchase and renovate the plot “will allow [residents] to turn the page on the property’s disrepair.”

Photo via Google Maps/An image of the property in October 2017
Photo via Google Maps/An image of the property in October 2017

Lancman and Katz have already allocated $450,000 in the 2016 fiscal year budget to purchase the cemetery and make the needed repairs. The councilman called the refurbishment a “top priority.”

“The cemetery has been a source of much frustration for community members, understandably outraged by its poor conditions, and this project will enable the city to properly care for and maintain the property,” Lancman said. “I look forward to working with the Community Board, Borough President Katz, and my colleagues in the City Council as the Brinckerhoff Cemetery project makes its way through the ULURP.”

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the agency is “very happy to move forward on the acquisition of Brinckerhoff Cemetery so that it may be preserved as open space and made accessible to the community.”

“We are grateful to Council member Lancman and Borough President Katz for their ongoing support of this project,” she said.

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