A community group is working with local politicians to purchase a land marked colonial cemetery dating back to the 1730s. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report.
If you walk by the Brinckerhoff Cemetery on 182nd Street just off 73rd Avenue in Fresh Meadows, there's no indication that it's older than the United States.
"The whole area was farmland and it was inhabited by the Dutch people and that's what they used as their burial ground," said Joan Hausmann, the secretary for the Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery.
The cemetery dates back to the 1730s and is the final resting place for some of the borough's earliest farming families. A 1919 survey shows there were once almost 80 tombstones on the property but none are visible today. Although the site was land marked in 2012, residents say it's not being taken care of.
"The property is in very decrepit state, with a broken sidewalk, it's a dumping ground," said Yolanda de la Cruz Gallagher, the president of the Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery.
Now, the Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery are working with State Senator Tony Avella to change that. Avella is giving the group a $180,000 grant to purchase and maintain the cemetery. He says the land was first mistakenly sold in a city auction and then purchased by a private buyer.
"You're not supposed to sell a cemetery to an individual private owner, it can really only be owned by a non-profit," said Avella.
Avella says the current property owner bought the site in 2010 with intentions of building homes here
"They paid $105,000 for the property. We're offering $150,000. We feel that's a fair enough profit for a piece of property they cannot build on," said Avella.
Bill Zou, an attorney for the property owner tells NY1 while his client appreciates the Senator's efforts, they have not seen a "solid offer." He says his client tries her best to maintain the property without any income from the site and has spent thousands on vermin control and landscaping.
Zou says they hope to keep an open line of communication.
As for the Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery, they just want to preserve the borough's history before it’s too late.