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Queens Chronicle

A call for parks to trim the hedges

Activist says Old Towne of Flushing Burial Ground overrun by shrubs

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu Jul 11, 2013.

The Old Towne of Flushing Burial Ground is in the thick of it — literally.

The historic cemetery on 46th Avenue between 164th and 165th Streets in Flushing was in desperate need of a botanical trim when the Queens Chronicle visited last Friday.

Shrubs and bushes seeped past barriers, both within the ground’s interior path and at its entrance gate. The grassy field alongside the burial ground’s commemorative plaque has turned yellow, so thick with uncut grass it gave ample cushioning underfoot to a small group of visitors.

The conditions were first brought to the Chronicle’s attention by local activist and long-time defender of the cemetery, Mandingo Tshaka.

“All those bushes around the fence? It’s absolutely overgrown,” he said.

The Parks Department said there was a brief pause in the burial ground’s maintenance due to a staff changeover and an equipment issue, but that things are back to normal and the gardener is back to maintaining the area.

It’s part of a larger problem with the Parks Department, and more broadly speaking the city, neglecting historic cemeteries around the city, Tshaka added.

The state of the burial ground is made all the more apparent by its juxtaposition to Flushing Cemetery, which is regularly manicured.

The Old Towne of Flushing Burial Ground was initially known as Martin’s Field, and is the resting place of 500 to 1,000 blacks and Native Americans who didn’t survive an oubreak of smallpox and cholera. The graveyard dates back to the 19th century.

Tshaka pointed to now-famous parks that served as former burial grounds, sharing a similar history with their Flushing counterpart, including Bryant Park and Washington Square Park.

“All of our burial grounds have been turned into parks,” he said. “It’s a site of pain. They need to make sure the place remains sacred.”

The shoddy state of the park’s botany is just the beginning for Tshaka.

The Burial Ground itself does not lend itself to a sense of sanctity, he said, with a sign at the entrance that nearly blends into the black fence and overgrown shrubbery.

“Nothing catches your attention,” he said. “It doesn’t look like what it is.”

Welcome to the discussion.