Friday, January 20, 2017
Is it time for Newtown Playground to be recognized as a burial ground?
From the Queens Chronicle:
Lifelong Elmhurst resident Marialena Giampino grew up hearing stories about the neighborhood’s settlers and how they are buried underneath Newtown Playground at the intersection of 56th Avenue and 92nd Street.
She thinks it’s about time the city and community officially recognize the history below the slides and climbing equipment.
“The goal is to get some type of memorial or plaque commemorating the people buried there,” Giampino said. “To the normal person who maybe isn’t from Elmhurst, they don’t know what’s there.”
According to a 1932 city report on cemeteries, provided to the Chronicle by Giampino, at least 86 people were buried at what was called Old Newtown Cemetery.
The first funeral took place in 1729, about 75 years after the neighborhood was founded and more than four decades prior to the American Revolution.
Some of the neighborhood’s most prominent residents were buried there, with entire families interred alongside each other on the site.
Eventually, the cemetery served as a potter’s field — the final resting place for unknown or indigent residents — until about 1880, with the Parks Department taking over the location in 1917.
A decade later, the surviving headstones were all laid flat and covered with soil so playground equipment and a drinking fountain could be installed.
Giampino brought up the site’s history to Community Board 4, of which she is a member, last week, saying now would be the perfect time to memorialize those who are buried there.