By Gina Martinez
Brinckerhoff Cemetery is one step closer to being refurbished.
Last week the Department of City Planning formally certified the Parks Department’s application to acquire Brinckerhoff Cemetery, a critical step required for the city to officially purchase and renovate the historic burial ground. The project will now enter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, where it will be reviewed by the community board and Borough President Melinda Katz, then formally approved by the City Council.
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 last 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. The cemetery has been an eyesore for Fresh Meadows residents. The unkempt grounds have contributed to quality-of-life concerns while neighbors have complained about the damaged sidewalks, overgrown foliage and garbage dumping.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and Borough President Katz allocated $450,000 in the fall 2016 budget specifically for the city to purchase Brinckerhoff Cemetery and make essential repairs to the neglected property.
Lancman said that refurbishing Brinckerhoff Cemetery is one of his top priorities.
“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,” he said.
In December, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a press conference pressuring the city to take action on the land. He was joined by non-profit group Friends of Brinckerhoff, which was instrumental in getting the cemetery landmarked.
The group said when they approached the Parks Department about buying the land, 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. Then 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, which worked hard to negotiate the fair price of $180,000.
Martha Taylor, chairwoman of Community Board 8, said entering the ULURP is an important step forward to making the refurbishment of the property a reality.
“Our community has worked tirelessly with public officials to renovate Brinckerhoff Cemetery, and improve quality of life for residents of 182nd Street,” she said. “The city’s eventual purchase of Brinckerhoff Cemetery will allow us to turn the page on the property’s disrepair, and begin fixing this space.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart