(An open letter to Landmarks Preservation Committee Chairman Robert Tierney)
I am writing regarding the Brinckerhoff Cemetery, heard by the Commission on May 15. The people of Fresh Meadows, elected officials, preservationists and historians have been requesting a hearing for the last 12 years.
There is no doubt that this property is a cemetery. In 1919 the city surveyed the site and counted 77 graves with headstones, dating back to the mid-18th century. Photographs taken in the 1920s show a number of headstones that were clearly standing at the location.
Unfortunately, the city sold the cemetery illegally around 1960. Over the years, the property was neglected by its owner, while local residents periodically took care of it. The actions taken by the Fresh Meadows community show the commitment its people have to preserving history.
Brinckerhoff is not an abandoned lot and should not be treated as such. The Brinckerhoff family settled in Queens in the early 17th century, and this property should be preserved and recognized for its significance. Furthermore, there is a strong possibility that remnants of the tombstones that once stood there are currently underneath the land.
As a former high school history teacher, I believe it is important for young people to respect their past. Students should be able to see an example of an early Dutch settlement. I urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review the facts, the historical records and the documentation provided. As someone who has worked on this issue with the community for the last decade, I encourage the LPC to landmark the Brinckerhoff Cemetery as a cemetery.