City Makes Cemetery A Landmark
By Joe Marvilli
|The City has approved landmark status for Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows. Some hope the decision will lead to the cemetery, which is overgrown and in disrepair, to be fixed.
Photo by Joe Marvilli
Brinckerhoff Cemetery’s status as a City landmark has been approved by City Council, clearing the way for restoration efforts.
The City Council voted on Dec. 10 in favor of giving city landmark status to Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows with a vote of 45 to 1 and four members of the panel excused. The movement represented the next step in a battle that civic groups and City officials had been waging to stop developers from building over the land. The City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to preserve the cemetery on Aug. 14.
The cemetery, located on 182nd Street near 73rd Avenue, is the final resting place to many members of the Brinckerhoff family, one of the first European settlers to arrive in Queens, back in 1642. A survey in 1919 revealed that 77 headstones with dates going from 1730 to 1872 were located within the graveyard.
“With the landmarking of the Brinckerhoff cemetery, an irreplaceable part of Queens’ history will be preserved in perpetuity. After more than a decade-long legal struggle, this hallowed ground, which was used as a cemetery for more than 200 years, is preserved,” Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said in a statement. “I am grateful that the City Council, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and local community activists and historians persevered through endless legal wrangling to get this satisfying result.”
Gennaro thanked Council members Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) for their support on this matter.
Other Queens councilmembers who voted in favor of the bill were Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Ruben Wills (D-South Ozone Park).
The only councilman who went against the measure was Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island).
The Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association played a large role in drumming up support in their community to give Brinckerhoff landmark status.
“We thank all our Federal, State, and City elected officials who made this possible. It was a 12 year struggle for us,” FMHCA President James Gallagher Jr. said.
Many of the elected officials who voted in favor of the landmark status were pleased with the result.
“Queens is rich with historical treasures dating back to the Dutch era, from the Flushing Remonstrance and the Bowne House to Brinckerhoff Cemetery,” Halloran said. “It’s important to preserve the historical legacy of the Borough and I’m proud of the bipartisan effort to protect the Brinckerhoff Cemetery.”
“Council member James Gennaro and I have worked for many years to preserve the Brinckerhoff Cemetery as a part of the history of Queens,” Weprin said. “It is wonderful to know that it will now be recognized as a City landmark.”
However, some believe that the landmark status is just another step in a larger battle to get the currently overgrown cemetery restored.
“It’s wonderful that the property has been designated an official NYC landmark, but until the elected officials representing the area allocate funding toward the purchase of the property and the City buys it back, the site cannot be considered ‘saved,’” Christina Wilkinson, President of the Newtown Historical Society, said.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.