State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) have strong disagreements over the future of the Brinckerhoff Cemetery in Fresh Meadows.
On Dec. 1, Avella held a press conference with the “Friends of Brinckerhoff,” an organization assembled by community leaders who are hoping to purchase and maintain the landmarked property, which belonged to several prominent Dutch families, including the Brinckerhoffs, and dates back to the 18th century.
According to Avella, the state provided the Friends of Brinckerhoff with a $180,000 grant to purchase the property from the current owner, Linda’s Cai Trading, and restore and maintain it. But before any deal to sell the property was finalized, Avella alleges, Lancman allotted a higher sum of money for the city’s Parks Department to purchase and maintain the property in the capital budget—around $300,000. Now, Avella accuses Lancman of “political meddling,” undercutting his grant with an unnecessarily higher portion of taxpayer money that tempted the owner to pull out of negotiations with the Friends of Brinckerhoff.
“I’m furious at the city because, meanwhile, the property is in disrepair, overgrown, it’s a health hazard, it’s a safety hazard,” Avella said.
Requests to city agencies to clean up the property have been rebuffed since the city is in negotiations for the site. Avella added that if Lancman wants to use additional taxpayer money in a political move, then the money “should come out of his own damn wallet.”
Yolanda dela Cruz Gallagher, president of the Friends of Brinckerhoff, said that when the group approached the Parks Department about purchasing the property before Avella’s grant, the department appeared uninterested.
Lancman responded to the claims by accusing Avella of living in “a fantasy world.”