A Parks Department spokesperson confirmed that the agency is finalizing the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process) application to formally file it with the Department of City Planning.
Once filed, the application will be reviewed by Community Board 8, the borough president and City Planning Commission, before a final vote by the City Council. The whole process, once started, takes approximately six months.
The spokesperson said the Parks Department was allocated money for the purchase from the Borough President's office and Councilman Rory Lancman. While they would not specify amounts, past published reports put the amounts at $150,000 from Borough President Melinda Katz and $300,000 from Councilman Rory Lancman.
That's considerably more than the $180,000 grant the Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery received from State Senator Tony Avella through the state in 2015 to purchase the property.
According to the nonprofit's president, Yoland Delacruz Gallagher, the group had a deal with the owner to purchase the property, and even sent a contract to their attorney, only to have the owner suddenly pull out.
Group members and Avella believe the owner stopped negotiating when they learned that the city was interested, and potentially willing to offer more money.
“In my opinion, that helped to destroy the negotiation,” said Avella. “That last we heard is that the owner is not interested in selling.”
Le Dan Cai purchased the property on 182nd Street near 73rd Avenue in 2010 for $105,000 and planned to make improvements, but the site received landmark status in 2012.
It is the final resting place for some 70 members of several prominent Dutch families who first colonized Queens, including the Brinckerhoffs. The property, was used as a burial ground from the early 1730s until just after the Civil War.
The property was transferred from the city to the DeDomenico family in the late 1960s, who in turn sold it to Cai. Culter said when he moved to the neighborhood 30 years ago, it was a pleasant spot.
“There was a little cement pond,” he said. “There was even a bridge that went over it that you could walk on.”
Since it received landmark status and lost its investment potential, the site has become overgrown and full of trash. The sidewalk is in serious disrepair, and residents say the neglected property has become a blight on the neighborhood.
“The thing that really bothers me is that we have a nice community here, and this is an eyesore like I've never seen,” said Dennis Cutler, who lives across the street. “It's going to start costing people money if it's not taken care of.”
The Friends of Brinckerhoff Cemetery was formed primarily to have a nonprofit through which government money could be funneled to purchase the property.
Avella and nonprofit members are worried that now that their deal appears dead, it will take years for the city to finalize the ULURP application, go through the review process, and actually purchase the property and begin to maintain it.
“We had a deal, it would have been done by now,” said Avella. “Shame on anybody who interfered in this process and stopped the community from purchasing this property.”
In addition, Avella says the owner now stands to make up to a 400 percent profit, when the nonprofit appeared to have a deal in place to acquire it for $180,000.
“The owner will get a huge windfall from the City of New York,” said Avella. “I find it unconscionable that the city would pay this property owner, who has neglected this property, $300,000 to $400,000. Those are taxpayer dollars.”