Sunday, November 9, 2014

Developer digging up the Van Alsts

From the NY Times:

More people are buried in Queens than are living there now. This is a story of some of the departed.

Precisely how many will not be known, though, until a bulldozer breaks ground early next year for a 42-story apartment tower in Long Island City, on the site of what was once a cemetery, owned by a family that settled there 350 years ago.

The Van Alst family cemetery was rediscovered only a little more than a decade ago, after the city decided to rezone the mostly industrial tract for residential, retail and office development.

After two developers, H & R Real Estate Investment Trust and Tishman Speyer, announced in June that they would build on the site, they were required by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which issues guidelines for archaeological work, to make a good-faith effort to find any descendants of the last known member of the family, Harry Van Alst, who lived in Queens in 1925.

As part of the proposed rezoning of the development site in Long Island City by the City Planning Commission, an archaeological consulting firm, Historical Perspectives, was hired in 2000 to research the environmental impact.

The consultant found that in 1925, Harry Van Alst, a Queens lawyer who lived in Long Island City, received an anonymous telephone call informing him that workers expanding the West Disinfecting Company’s complex had unearthed bones and remnants of caskets, roughly at Jackson Avenue and Orchard Street. He had them moved to Cypress Hills Cemetery and reburied.

But the consultant was unable to determine how many family members had been buried in the family plot originally, how many had been removed earlier and how many were reinterred in 1925 in Cypress Hills, and concluded: “There is still the possibility that undisturbed burials exist within the potential development site.”

The Queens Gazette has a list of other long lost borough cemeteries.


Anonymous said...

Queens has too many cemeteries. Is it really such a problem if we get rid if some of them?

Scott68 said...

Like everything else that gets in the way of developers, it gets complicated, usually with the help of city agencies and political pull, and it goes away.

Good legal counsel, connections far and wide do what they're paid for. Make some blip go away.

Things have got to the point where humanistic things are irrelevant.

There are few venues where these topics come up. Thank you Queens Crap!

Unfortunately, so few people care, apathy is becoming a virtue, if there's no money or fame in outing all the CRAP, the majority just shrugs.

Anonymous said...

" never know how many friends the dead have until you try to move them" - quote generally attributed to either Woodrow Wilson or Calvin Coolidge

Anonymous said...

The only thing that will slow down development in that area is if they find the remains of at least one African slave. Watch what happens then!

Anonymous said...

Anon no. 1: And if it was a member of your family?

Anonymous said...

I find it odd how many old Dutch families like the Van Alst, Rapelje, Suydam, etc held properties in Queens for nearly 300 years but by the 1920s, they all sold out to developers and fled from Queens.

Not a single Van Alst, Rapelje or Suydam lives in Queens today and their descendants don't even knwo where their ancestros are buried were it not for an intrepid NY Times reporter and a developer seeking to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Only in Queens is saying "May they rest in peace" a genuine aspiration and not merely a platitude.