By Gina Martinez
An abandoned Fresh Meadows cemetery has finally been sold after years of neglect.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and nonprofit Friends of Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery announced a contract for sale to acquire the landmarked cemetery for $180,000 last Friday.
Friends of Brinckerhoff will close on the purchase within the next 90 days and finally take possession of the abandoned property, according to Avella. The group said it plans to work with the city Department of Parks and Recreation on a long-range plan for the cemetery and its continued maintenance. The neglected land was an eyesore for neighbors for about 20 years, with weeds and garbage overflowing into the surrounding sidewalks.
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. Owner Le Dan Cai originally paid $105,000 in 2010 and planned on building two houses on the property, but after it was landmarked in 2012, she was unable to do so.
After a successful bid to get the cemetery landmarked, Avella and Friends of Brinckerhoff said they approached the city Parks Department about buying the land, but the agency refused. In 2015, after continued efforts from Avella and the preservation group, Borough President Katz allocated $180,000 to buy the land back from the owner.
Despite everything being in order, the owner pulled out of the sale at the last minute. Avella claims it was because the city reversed its initial decision and interfered by offering $400,000 for the land.
Despite the back and forth, Avella said he is happy the nonprofit will acquire the land and restore the cemetery to its original state of dignity after years of neglect.
“It is a great credit to Friends of Brinckeroff and the community for their years of effort to landmark and now acquire and preserve this important landmark for future generations,” he said. “They deserve all the accolades. I also want to acknowledge the help of the owner, Le Dan Cai, and her attorney, William X. Zou for their assistance.”
Yolanda Gallagher, president of Friends of Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery, said it has been a very long road for the group, but they are proud their efforts to restore the abandoned cemetery finally worked out.
Ashook Ramsaran, past president of Queens Civic Congress, thanked Avella for his advocacy.
“This has been an incredibly long process but thankfully Sen. Avella was there to encourage us along the way and finally these graves will be resting in peace,” he said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart