Historic Brinckerhoff Cemetery Awaits Final Fate
And now, it seems, the cemetery’s final fate is at hand. Located on 182nd Street between 69th and 73rd Avenues in Fresh Meadows, the property, overgrown with grass, ivy and trees was the burial ground for more than 70 members of the Brinckerhoff family one of the earliest settlers in Queens dating back to 1730.
Since the 1950s, historic preservation advocates have been fighting for landmark status when the cemetery was purchased from the city by Joseph DeDomenico who later gave it to his son Ralph. The younger DeDomenico planned to develop the land for the building of two houses.
In 2000, the Queens Historical Society (QHS) attempted to acquire the land and even went to court to block development.
This attempt failed after the QHS could not raise the $100,000 purchase price.
Although the argument for historic preservation is strong, so is the counter-argument. While there is no dispute on the fact that the property is the Brinckerhoff Cemetery, attorneys for the owners argue that there are no markers left and since 18th century burial techniques involved wooden caskets and no embalming resulting in no human remains, the reason for preservation is futile.
Numerous photographs made during the past several decades revealed that the original headstones began disappearing year by year. Some believe the markers fell victim to vandals who had easy access to the cemetery, which does not even feature a protective fence. Others believe the stones might have sunk into the ground.
At a rally held on May 13 by the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association in front of the cemetery grounds, once part of vast open farmland, which now sits in between rows of private homes, Councilmember Jim Gennaro was joined by Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic President Jim Gallagher, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association President Kevin Forrestal,
Peter Vallone Jr., preservation advocate Tammy Osherov, Central Queens Historical Association President Jeff Gottlieb, state Senator Toby Stavisky, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Democratic District Leader Martha Taylor.
“There are no objects of landmark value like headstones that could meet the commission’s criteria,” Gennaro said. “You need something to landmark. This is such a historic site.”
A city survey from 1919 detailed at least 77 graves on the site dating between 1730 and 1872. The property now has a new owner and is slated for a hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission in Manhattan on May 15.