July 31, 2015 By Michael Florio
A local group is looking to clean up a historic 17th century burial ground so it can use it as a community space.
Hibridos Collective, a collective group of local artists, is looking to clean up the Leverick Cemetery, located at 71st Street and 35th Ave, and use it as a space for community events.
Carlos Martinez, the co-founder of Hibridos Collective, said that Jackson Heights lacks green space, and that there is a need to take advantage of space like the cemetery.
Martinez plans to use the space to host weekly events, beginning this Saturday with a potluck lunch from 11 am to 1 pm. These events will, in part, be dedicated to beautifying the grounds.
“We can put up temporary art work and plants to make it look nice,” he said.
Hibridos Collective has already been looking after the space, which Martinez claims is now abandoned, for the past two years. The group teamed up recently with the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and pulled out weeds and cleaned up the site.
“Every month or so a group of our volunteers come and take care of the space,” he said. “It used to be really bad.”
The space was originally owned by the Leverich family, one of the first families to live in Jackson Heights after immigrating to North America in 1633.
The land then became a burial ground from the late 1700s through to the mid-1800s. There were 33 tombstones on the site before they were removed, according to Martinez, who is unsure what happened to them.
Despite its former use, Martinez sees potential for the green space and is hoping the potluck will bring out the community and get people discussing potential ideas for the location.
“Anything is possible at this space and we welcome all suggestions,” he said. “We always involve the community.”
Food, such as empanadas, will be provided at the potluck, Martinez said. The event is free to attend.
Martinez said volunteers will clean up the space Friday, so that it is appealing for those who attend Saturday’s potluck.
What legal system,document declared it abandoned?
It is a cemetery, sacred grounds.
A place that nobody takes any interest in/maintains IS abandoned, the legality issue aside.
this should be brought up to the attention of your counselman Danny and if that does not work the newspapers — that will work just fine — and who gave them authorization to claim this for themselves —
I lived in Jackson Heights for 30 years before moving. Is someone that still lives there able to bring this to the attention of a counselman or the Historical Society? I still can’t believe a group of people can declare this cemetery abandoned.
There is no respect for History, whether it be for our beloved Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Woodside or our country, and there lies the problem. How can someone come, declare this historical burial ground is abandoned and claim it for themselves? Is that even legal? Where is the historical society? It is very sad that a piece of history can being taken away from our beloved Jackson Heights because someone decides it is abandoned.
Who would know where the stones have been taken? Are they destroyed or salvageable?
that should be up to your counselman Danny to find out and the historical society to find out —
This was the burial place for the family of Rev. William Leverich, our 2nd pastor, from 1662- 1677 at what is now The First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, in present Elmhurst. (I am the historian). At that time it was a Puritan church, not yet Presbyterian. He had been friendly with, and preached to the Indians in Sandwich, MA and in Oyster Bay & Huntington Long Island, before coming to western Queens, then under Dutch rule. (The area was called Middleburgh then, renamed Newtown). It became English during his pastorate. The town could not pay him enough money so gave him land, in present Elmhurst and also in Trains Meadow, which I believe was the old name of the area where this cemetery was. His theological records are bound with the town records of Newtown, owned by NYC. His death was mourned by the whole village… Greenery is fine, and I’m glad the area has been cleaned up. Within reason, events could be held there. But are his descendents now to be removed from their resting place forever? Is there so little regard for the history of your area? History once lost, is gone forever. Soon no one will even remember the history of this spot- unless people take action.
So do you know what happened to the headstones? Or do you have records on who was buried where? If not, you’ve helped lose the history.
It is a sacred burial ground. I understand revitalizing it and taking care of it BUT using it for social gatherings is not O.K.