Brinckerhoff Cemetery given landmark status


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

Photo Courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission
Photo Courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

A historic colonial-era burial ground in Fresh Meadows has been given official landmark status, according to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

The 18th century Brinckerhoff Cemetery will be preserved and protected from development after LPC leaders voted unanimously to designate it as a landmark on August 14, pointing to its archeological importance as a major factor in their decision.

“This cemetery, despite all of the changes that have occurred around it, remains one of a handful of sites that directly ties New York City to its earliest days as a Dutch settlement,” said LPC Chair Robert Tierney.

The 182nd Street site is the final resting place for roughly 80 of the borough’s earliest and most prominent settlers. But since the land bears no visible markers or gravestones, and is now peppered with scattered trees and shrubs, critics had raised regulatory questions about the possible designation.

LPC leaders, however, ultimately decided there is no evidence the historic graves and markers were removed and agreed the site’s subsurface conditions should not be disturbed.

“There is a hope that buried underneath are headstones and that in the future this site in the right hands could be restored or re-created to a certain extent to the cemetery that it is,” said LPC General Counsel Mark Silberman.

The designation drew praise — and archaic shouts — from dozens of elected officials, civic leaders and preservationists in the neighborhood who pushed to save the cemetery for more than a decade.

“As colonial-era Queens settlers were known [to] exclaim upon hearing great news, it is apropos that we shout huzzah on this day,” Councilmember James Gennaro said. “This designation has been a long time coming. [The cemetery] is a crown jewel in the pantheon of Queens’ rich historical treasures.”

If the City Council votes to approve the designation, Gennaro said the next step would be to find a nonprofit group capable of purchasing and maintaining the property.

Linda’s CAI Trading, which purchased the land in 2010, could not be reached.

Thirteen total cemeteries in the city have been designated as individual landmarks, the LPC said, including seven in Queens.