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Queens Chronicle

Remsen Cemetery A Step Closer To Becoming An Official City Park

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Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2004 12:00 am

A little-known Forest Hills landmark is one step closer to being designated an official New York City park.

Remsen Cemetery, which for centuries has served as the final resting place for a family of Revolutionary War heroes, was transferred last month from the control of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to the Parks Department.

Transferring the site’s ownership serves dual purposes, according to Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association, who lobbied heavily for the change.

First, the triangular-shaped property at Alderton Street and Metropolitan Avenue, will now receive regular cleaning and maintenance, which DCAS was not obligated to provide.

Stuchinski said she has records of complaints about the cemetery being used as a dumping ground dating back to the 1920s. More recently, the burial ground has been used as a dog walk by local residents.

“People dump their trash bags and leave their lunches there,” she said. “It’s total desecration.”

In addition to a regular sanitation schedule, Stuchinski wants the city to put up an iron fence around the cemetery and work to preserve the site’s original headstones, which date back to the 1700s.

The change of ownership is also essential in that it solves half of the problems associated with transforming Remsen—which was made an official city landmark in 1981—into a recognized city park.

The other two-thirds of the property is owned and cared for by American Legion’s Continental Post 1424 in Forest Hills. The World War II and Vietnam veterans group purchased the land more than a decade ago, but have had difficulty maintaining the property in recent years and are eager to sell.

City officials, including Councilmembers Melinda Katz and Dennis Gallagher, are currently working to allocate approximately $60,000 from their respective budgets to purchase the land from the American Legion. The property would then be turned over to the Parks Department.

“We want to bring this up on the city’s radar screen,” said Katz, who would also like to see a more appropriate memorial built on the land. “Even though so much time has passed, these (Revolutionary War) veterans deserve our utmost respect.”

According to local historians, the Remsen family founded a homestead at the property in 1699. The family patriarch, Jeromus Remsen Sr., fought in the French and Indian War—where he became a colonel—and later commanded the Seventh New York Regiment in the Revolutionary War.

When Remsen died in 1781, his farm went to his son, Jeromus Jr. The house was located next to the cemetery and extended across to what is now Alderton Street.

The younger Remsen died in 1798 and his wife, Anna, remained on the property until 1816. Large portions of the farm were sold during the 19th century and only the family cemetery—containing the graves of Anna and Jeromus Remsen, their children and possibly two cousins who also fought in the Revolutionary War—was retained. However, in 1925, the house was torn down to make room for residential housing.

Decades later, the Continental Post purchased the property with the intention of building its legion hall. However, construction was halted because of the grave sites. The legion, along with volunteers from the now defunct Remsen Park Coalition, were ultimately left with the responsibility of managing the land.

“The legion has carried the water for too long,” Katz said. “It’s not fair. They need help from the city.”

At last month’s Forest Hills Community and Civic meeting Stuchinski prodded Mayor Bloomberg about expediting the designation process, handing him a booklet describing the history of Remsen Cemetery. The civic leader has high hopes that Bloomberg will come through for the community.

“I would love to see the mayor make a major announcement on Memorial Day that Remsen Cemetery is now an official city park,” Stuchinski said. “That would be great.”

Welcome to the discussion.