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Queens Chronicle

Group forms to buy historic site

Members want to purchase historic Brinckerhoff Cemetery

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Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:30 am

The historic Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows was saved from development almost a year ago when the city landmarked it and now a private group of individuals would like to buy it to give the site further protection.

Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, led the drive for landmarking, which was finally granted last August. Now, he has organized Friends of the Brinckerhoff Colonial Cemetery to raise funds for the project.

“The property’s owners are now willing to sell,” Gallagher said, “but they haven’t given a price.”

The site, located on 182nd Street, near 73rd Avenue, is 45 feet by 120 feet in size with no visible gravestones. It was bought in 2010 by Le Dan Cai, who wanted to build two houses there. Last year, the owner asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make a decision on landmarking.

The property had been eyed by the LPC for 12 years, but no action had been taken. The burial ground, which dates back to 1730, was sold illegally by the city in 1961 after being erroneously condemned for nonpayment of taxes.

The original owner admitted that in the 1980s he buried the remaining stones to hide them as a way to promote development. But no one was interested, except the Queens Historical Society, which led an unsuccessful campaign to buy the property 13 years ago.

In February, Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), a supporter of the landmarking, announced that he was willing to use some of his discretionary funds to help purchase the site. But Gallagher said last week that city agencies, such as the Parks Department, were not interested in maintaining the location.

“We will meet with the councilman on how to proceed,” Gallagher said. “We are trying to be optimistic and will reach out to Brinckerhoff descendents and politicians for contributions.”

Cai paid $105,000 for the property and Gennaro said following the landmarking last year that the owner “will want to cut his losses since the property has zero development value” and that the price would be set accordingly.

The Brinckerhoffs were prosperous Dutch farmers, who had large land holdings in the borough. The last interment at the burial ground was made in 1872 and a 1919 city survey of the site found 77 graves, recorded the inscriptions and pinpointed their locations.

Two Brinckerhoff descendents, Matthew Brinckerhoff of Brooklyn and William Manger Jr. of Manhattan, want the headstones recovered and put back and if some are missing, for each grave to be marked.

Matthew Brinckerhoff discovered that his grandmother, six times removed, whose name was Aeltie, was the first to be buried at the site and hers was the only gravestone writen in Dutch. The last known photograph of Aeltie’s gravestone was taken in 1935.

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