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Cleanup Organized For Abandoned Jackson Heights Cemetery

By Katie Honan | March 14, 2014 10:21am
 Gardeners and volunteers are helping spruce up Leverich Cemetery and other spots all spring.
Gardeners and volunteers are helping spruce up Leverich Cemetery and other spots all spring.
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Rodrigo Salazar

JACKSON HEIGHTS — A neighborhood group is organizing a cleanup of an abandoned cemetery this weekend that activists would like to one day turn into a park.

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group will clean up the Leverich Cemetery, a long-abandoned burial ground on land that was owned by settlers that date back to the 1600s, on Saturday. The effort is part of a local spring cleanup project that includes schools and street corners and runs through May.

Volunteers can expect to remove trash and debris from the plot of land on Leverich Street near 35th Avenue, which has been neglected for years, said Len Maniace, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group.

"One of the problems is it is sort of this hidden place, so that because it's hidden it can be subject to dumping and other things that are not good," he said. "The fact that it's hidden and it's this quirky secret cemetery, this hidden place in historic Jackson Heights, kind of makes it interesting as well."

The burial ground was part of the home of William Leverich, who lived in the area when it was called Train's Meadow in the late 1600s, according to a historian studying the city's cemeteries.

There were plans to eventually place a community park or garden on the land, but Maniace said for now they are focused on the cleanup.

There's currently no owner of the land, he said.

"I think what people would like to do is see it cleaned up, have some plantings there to make it attractive and serve some kind of purpose," he said.

Saturday's cleanup begins at 10 a.m. and runs through 1 p.m., according to organizer Nuala O'Doherty.

"We are gardeners, so we work rain or shine," she said.

People who'd like to join can meet in the alley behind Legends Bar at 35th Avenue, where organizers will have balloons set up for the meeting.